So, Wait, Was ‘Gossip Girl’ Realistic or Not?


Photo: Getty ImagesLook at Eric. Don’t you want to just give his highlighted little head a noogie?

Can you believe it’s really over? Like, you won’t be getting any more Gossip Girl until fall 2008? Why can’t we get this for the next ten months instead of the goddamned election? It would prove the same amount of highs and lows, except without all of the unflattering self-judgment. Lucky for you, we’re still reeling with withdrawal. So to satisfy your (and our) cravings, we’ve gone back through all of our obsessed recaps and broken things down character-by-character. Below, witness our Electoral College–inspired evaluation of the reality and fake-ality of Gossip Girl via its most important characters.

New York: Don’t tease. Only five years after Sarah Jessica Parker said that Manhattan was the fifth lady on Sex and the City, Gossip Girl creator Josh Schwartz explained that New York was the, um, twelfth character on his new show. As far as roles on Gossip Girl go, New York’s was by far the most violated. Brooklyn geography was mauled like a blonde’s left boob on prom night. The Upper East Side’s dimensions were exaggerated like a jock’s staying power the morning after prom night. And the meatpacking district was pushed around like the returns manager who spotted those mysterious stains at a Mr. Tux the day after the morning after prom night. But through it all, the city was honored with luxurious locations shots, glamorous interiors, and ambitious editing that brought Dumbo, Yorkville, and Williamsburg within arm’s reach. Sure, there was that whole Brooklyn real-estate problem. But the producers clearly did their best with Manhattan (arranging shoots at The Box and Marquee? Touché!) , and it was all done with love. Reality Index: 60%.

Blair: Even though she was created out of the primordial soup of high-school movies, and carries recognizable DNA from every high-school bitch that ever existed, Blair Waldorf has more complexity and vulnerability than any other bon-mot–spewing Heather Chandler knockoff we’ve seen. Partly it’s her crooked little smile, her eating disorder, and the fact that her dad left her careerist mom for a Eurotrash male model called Rohmaaaaan. But mostly it’s the fact that even when she’s saying really bitchy things, like calling Dan “low-rent” or telling Serena, “Brown doesn’t major in slut,” you can see this kind of panic in her eyes — she doesn’t seem to want to be saying these things, but she’s compelled to, as if she is afflicted with some kind of Waspy version of Tourette’s. Which is why even though her headbands, white tights, and blazers sometimes remind us of Delta, Blair feels more real to us than almost anything else on the show. Which, of course, isn’t saying a whole lot. Reality Index: 65%

Chuck: In the Gossip Girl books, Chuck minces around the Upper East Side with a pet monkey named Sweetie on his shoulder that abuses people. We know because we asked our hot cousin who is a freshman at UC–Santa Barbara, and she’s read all the books. So Chuck Bass in the context of the CW is pretty realistic. In all other contexts, though, he is about as believable as Cindy Crawford in Fair Game. Chuck lives in a suite at the Palace hotel, where he hides a baseball signed by Babe Ruth in an empty drawer and often has sex with two adult hotel-staffers at a time. And yet he goes all the way down to Chrystie Street to play basketball. He rides in a stretch limo everywhere (what, is it prom night every day?), but he wears turtlenecks. He drops brilliant narcissistic gems like, “Don’t eff with the effer,” but he doesn’t take off his shirt at the beach. And perhaps most quixotically, he is constantly trying to rape people while he is SO OBVIOUSLY GAY. Now, a show like Gossip Girl needs a villain, and they got two for the price of one with Chuck and his creepy-ass dad, Bart. But in the writers’ defense, they made great efforts to make Chuck complicated as a character, if not likable. His demented pursuit of Blair, a lifelong best friend, is pretty interesting, if not exactly believable. And if this world has perfect, handsome little rich boys like Jared Kushner, surely it has spawned the opposite at some point or another? Reality Index: 40%

Dan: Spends Saturday night reading Chaucer, watches art films to learn about sex, and consoles his girlfriend’s best friend when she’s upset, even though she’s always been a bitch to him. He’s a romantic who loves Elliot Smith and candlelight, and sees women not just as sex objects, but as peers. He is pure of heart, high of cheekbones, and tight of buns. And, as much as it pains us to say it, he is a total pipe dream. Seventeen-year-old boys like Dan simply do not exist. Sure, there are guys who are kind, clever, and mature in high school, but those guys are not cute like Dan. They have body odor and bad breath and dandruff and maybe even cystic acne, and they are on the math team. Reality Index: 0%

Dialogue: The dialogue on this show is mostly hackneyed, awkward, trite, and even painful. Which makes it SO COMPLETELY ACCURATE. Who could forget when Serena started flirting with Rich Boy IV over IM? “How u doin?” she asked. We r doing great, thanks for asking! Or when Blair asked Chuck if he liked her, and he responded, “Define ‘like’”? Or when Serena and Vanessa awkwardly and insecurely bonded in the corner at Blair’s birthday party? Or, in this last episode, when Dan told Serena, “Why don’t you tell me what’s on your mind, then it can be on our minds, then our minds can worry what’s on your mind, together?” Think about it: It’s a wonder you ever even survived a moment of high school. You think the Times Sunday crossword is tricky? Try going back to Algebra II. Reality Index: 90%

Jenny: Oh, Jenny. We loved you ever since that night you freed yourself from Eleanor Waldorf’s boutique, escaped the cops, and went all the way to Blair’s house just to tell her that you weren’t sleeping over. Like all great teen-movie heroes, you make your own clothes, and you make your own social fortunes. You have twice the hair of an average human, and you’re twice as wise as both your bimbo father and your self-obsessed brother. But you’re a little too helpful to your older brother, Dan. You help him steal a Christmas tree, you help Serena make his Christmas present, and you generally cover for his funny business. And what’s with your flirtation with Nate? Do you have a crush? Actually, that’s pretty real. See, readers, Jenny is the heart of the show, and, as such, we are going to be forced to watch her succumb to temptation, make mistakes, and get compromised. She’ll join the Plastics and become a bitch, and then feel bad and betray them all (it already started in the last episode). She’ll sleep with Nate, and then, in an emotional scene, give him back to Blair because “he’s never really gotten over her.” And she is totally going to try freebasing crystal meth. Or maybe just diet pills. But, still, the girl’s begun to show weaknesses, and, for that, we’ll give her a Reality Index of 70%.

Lily and Rufus: Let’s be clear: Whether or not this great love is realistic, it’s our favorite plotline on the show. Something about their love (it’s probably actress Kelly Rutherford’s wry unflappability or Matthew Settle’s lovable Botoxed face) really gets us where it counts: in our balls. Let’s take a walk down memory lane. At first, Lily and Rufus were just Serena and Dan’s overly young, oddly attractive parents. But then we quickly realized that the two have history. Love history. The kind that happens between a rock star and the kind of lady who would find herself stuck on the side of the road for fifteen hours with Jane’s Addiction in the early nineties. (In other words, just like your parents.) At first, Rufus kissed her at a party to make her current old-rich-saggy boyfriend jealous. But that quickly rekindled old flames, and soon enough he was walking the 500 miles between Dumbo and the Upper East Side in the snow, only to call her on her cell phone from outside her building and turn away when she doesn’t pick up. In the end, they decided not to pursue their love because of their children. And, by “children,” we of course mean “infinite potential future plotlines.” God bless ‘em. Reality Index: 50%, because, honestly, who can put a number on love?

Nate: Characters like Nate Archibald are a staple of shows and movies about rich kids. They’re the ones who feel persistently guilty about their wealth and privilege but are too weak-willed and weak-minded to do anything productive with these feelings. Instead, they just say things like, “Do you ever feel like our lives are planned out for us?” when they’re stoned. We want to say that there aren’t really guys like this, but so much else about Nate’s character is realistic that we can’t quite discount the possibility. There was his overbearing father, the Captain, who is given to saying things like, “Your mother and I didn’t work this hard just so you could make it up as you go along,” and who pressured him to date the daughter of his business partner. There was the time he went and lost all his money playing poker with sketchy dudes in Queens, then was dumb enough to ask if he could write a check to pay the baddies back. Then there was the time that he didn’t show up to Blair’s birthday party or even bother calling, because he was so wrapped up in wandering the streets and thinking and being self-involved. So, yeah, we’d say that sounds like a real guy. Reality Index: 54%

Vanessa: We hate Vanessa. Even more than we hate Blair’s dad’s fagatronic boyfriend Romaahhhnn. But does that make her fake? She’s just a plot obstacle for Dan and Serena, and her role has never been fully explained. Is she supposed to be good or bad? She doesn’t seem to go to school, she doesn’t seem to have parents, and she doesn’t seem to ever have a problem with frizz in the humidity. She’s a mystery. Which, if she were a real person, would be exactly what she wanted. Except, if she were a real person, she wouldn’t climb through windows in Brooklyn without getting shot, she wouldn’t pay $10,000 a year for a tiny studio, and she sure as hell wouldn’t have let the pregnancy episode go by without a withering cameo. So, we’re sorry; we just can’t reward her with full reality points. Reality Index: 30%

Serena: “You’re Serena van der Woodsen! People expect you to be wild and crazy,” Blair yelled at Serena last night, during their usual mid-show breakup, and, once again, Serena reminded us of Blair’s long-suffering, 90-year-old husband. She just sits there, doing that thing she does with her mouth, taking the abuse. Which, by the way, is totally realistic: Before she went away to “boarding school,” she was a notorious drunk and a slut who slept with Blair’s boyfriend. But residual guilt about boning Nate is not the only thing that makes Serena good. She is also kind to Dan’s gawky sister, Jenny; to Vanessa, who clearly lusts for Serena’s boyfriend; and to her own brother, Eric, who is such a dork that if he were our little brother not a day would go by that he didn’t have his underwear pulled up his crack. She’s even nice, in a weary-seeming way, to her soon-to-be stepbrother, Chuck, despite the fact that he totally tried to rape her. It would seem terribly unrealistic for a 17-year-old girl to be this sunny and sweet, except for one thing: Serena is obviously totally stupid. But she’s sooo pretty and has such long shiny hair! Which is why she’s the most popular girl in school and gets the nicest, cutest guy. So real, it kind of hurts. Reality Index: 34%

Sex and Alcohol: In the beginning, the fact that Gossip Girl was going to piss off the morality police with its flagrant portrayals of underage drinking and soft-core-porn sex scenes (remember the promo, with Serena and Nate writhing, champagne-soaked, on the bar at the Campbell Apartment?) was its greatest allure. But with the exception of Dan and Serena’s snowy lurve-making session on Christmas, as the show has progressed, the sex has begun more awkward and teenage, which we think is even better. Witness the first time Dan tried to seduce Serena, with his Cabbage Patch doll Cedric looking down from the shelf above his bead. And even Chuck and Blair spent ages dry-humping and awkwardly rubbing each other’s legs before actually getting down to (thankfully unseen) business. The drinking, too, is looking a little more realistic. Though we haven’t yet seen anyone do a keg stand or fill up a Vitamin Water bottle with vodka, we were pleased to see that at Kati-the-Asian-sidekick’s birthday, the early-season dirty-martini trend was replaced by shots. Of course, when perfect, teetotaling Dan is around, there’s no alcohol at all. For instance, at last night’s picnic in the park, Dan and Serena uncorked a bottle of … ginger ale. We’re going to have to subtract a few points for that, but overall? A decent Reality Index of 30%

Total: And so. Using our classified, highly scientific formula, we can report to you with 89% accuracy that the first season of Gossip Girl was 42% real, and 234% fake. Will things even out next season, when Jenny and Eric finally do it, Vanessa becomes the home wrecker we know she is, and Rufus’s girlfriend tries to seduce Dan? Will there even be a next season? We don’t know. But we sure hope so.

See you next year! 2 cute 2 B 4 Gotten! UES Forever!

EPISODE 1: ’Gossip Girl,’ The Most Important Show of Our Time
EPISODE 2: O.C. Place
EPISODE 3: There Are Only Eight Colleges in America
EPISODE 4: ’Gossip Girl’ Embraces Friendships, Reality
EPISODE 5: ’Gossip Girl’ Gets Lost in New York
EPISODE 6: ’Gossip Girl’ Makes Us Color Blind
EPISODE 7: ’Gossip Girl’ Exceeds Our Expectations, Again!
EPISODE 8: ’Gossip Girl’ Threatens All of Its Great Loves
EPISODE 9: ’Gossip Girl’ Gives Us the Thanksgiving We’ve Always Deserved
EPISODE 10: ’Gossip Girl’ Says, Granny, Get Your Gun!
EPISODE 11: A Very ‘Gossip Girl’ Christmas
EPISODE 12: ’Gossip Girl’ Takes Us Back to the Future
EPISODE 13: In Which We Say Those Three Little Words to ‘Gossip Girl’

So, Wait, Was ‘Gossip Girl’ Realistic or Not?