To Know Gossip Girl Is to Love Her

Photo: HBO

Between the years 2007 and 2012, the most discerning minds of a generation had but one question they desperately needed answered: Who the hell is Gossip Girl?! Not knowing the hidden identity of the anonymous blogger plagued not only our favorite Upper East Side teens, but also ourselves, keeping some of us (just me? Maybe?) awake late into the night making Pepe Silvia–style mental charts trying to figure out who was tormenting Manhattan’s elite.

Well, viewers of the latest installment of Gossip Girl — please don’t call it a reboot — won’t face any such torment, as the show tells you exactly who is behind the latest iteration of the muckraking blog within the first half hour of the pilot episode. It’s 2021, so in lieu of a website, Gossip Girl pops up via an Instagram run by (pause for those avoiding spoilers on a new show) the beleaguered teachers at Constance Billard and St. Jude’s, with none other than Tavi Gevinson’s character, Kate Keller, serving as DM master. I’ll hold while you sign up for your AARP membership knowing that former fashion-and-editorial wunderkind Gevinson is old enough to play a teacher on TV.

You see, Kate and her colleagues are tired of the wealthy inmates running the well-appointed prison after the French teacher gets sacked on the first day for not inflating grades, and they want to bring these nasty teen brats to heel. A fellow teacher just happens to have been a student at Constance during the reign of the original GG and brings up the blog’s archive as proof that there just might be a way to intimidate rich kids into good behavior. Logical fallacy aside — if anything, Gossip Girl pushed students into even worse behavior in an effort to destroy their peers — the move is brilliant and sets this continuation up for success.

The first series turned the identity of Gossip Girl into a mystery that dominated six seasons and much discussion around the show: Was it Jenny, the ambitious social climber from (God forbid!!) Williamsburg? Eric, Serena’s sweet and largely absent younger brother? Nate, the human equivalent of a golden retriever, who was revealed to have never sent a tip into Gossip Girl? I, personally, maintained it was Dorota, Blair’s borderline-abused housekeeper, who I thought deserved that moment of revenge.

When the show ended in 2012, though, it was revealed to be (pause for those avoiding spoilers on a decade-old show) … Dan Humphrey?! Actually, originally, it was intended to be Eric, but the writers scrapped that plan after it leaked to the New York Post, and then it was almost Nate before executive producer Joshua Safran left the show, which left the writers’ room to go absolutely nuts and make it Dan.

“I think there would have been holes in anybody being Gossip Girl, and it wasn’t Dan when I left the show [after season five], but I also understand why it is Dan,” Safran recently told the Daily Beast. “With Dan, it makes sense because he wanted to find a way in; but with Nate, it was because he’d never sent anything in to Gossip Girl, and if it had been Nate, it was based on this idea that he’d felt so guilty for sleeping with Serena that he had to create an alter ego to bring us all to it.”

Fans and critics alike were left deeply confused by the decision, which, if you go back and watch older episodes, mostly just makes Dan look like a complete sociopath. It’s pretty clear that wasn’t their plan going into the series, and while it does at least make some sense for Dan’s character — learn the one trick this ultimate outsider used to become the ultimate insider and get the girl! — it was a weird note for the beloved show to end on.

That legacy looms large over the new installment, which means it was inevitable that from the moment the opening credits rolled, viewers would be keeping an eagle eye open to spot the wizard behind the curtain. By making the identity of Gossip Girl secret to everyone except the viewers, it simultaneously clears the roadblock for fans hoping not to get tricked again and raises the stakes for the unfolding drama. To paraphrase Gevinson’s character, it doesn’t matter what the reality of the situation is, only what Gossip Girl says it is. That’s it! That’s the show!

Knowing that Gossip Girl isn’t just reporting on a so-called feud between half-sisters Zoya and Julien but creating it to maintain her own relevance and gain power makes their fights and plotting all the more agonizing. It’s a fascinating take on how people have weaponized the internet to further their own agendas and wield influence, especially when juxtaposed with Julien’s use of social media to control her own image. Who needs a secret blogger to uncover when you have a battle between the two sides of the online-influencer coin waging?

With this twist, the writers have teed up the potential for some truly fascinating drama involving the adults on this show — no disrespect to the drawn out will-they-or-won’t-they Rufus-and-Lily relationship, of course. Having the teachers be behind an anonymous cyberbullying Instagram account brings new meaning to abuse of power, and it’s not hard to see ways in which it could get delightfully messy as the storylines get more tangled up; I’m willing to go on record and predict a brewing romance between Kate Keller and one of the single dads of the show that’s sure to throw a wrench in her plan. There’s something incredibly delightful about a group of millennials being the ones to bring back Gossip Girl. It’s meta! We’re the ones who were addicted to it the first time around, and now it’s back, partially because of us. I’m Gossip Girl, etc., so forth.

Besides, this isn’t a true-crime show. No one is watching Gossip Girl to solve a mystery. Or, like, [checks notes] to have “a gateway for discussion of Michel Foucault and panopticism,” which, if I wanted that, I’d have stuck with grad school.

To Know Gossip Girl Is to Love Her