Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Possibly Resistible Pleasures of Gossip Girl

Gossip Girl. It’s all new to me. I just finished Disk 4 of the first season, and I’m hooked.

I should know better. I’m not a sixteen-year-girl, for God’s sake.

These Upper East Side kids give each other $10,000 birthday gifts—and fly to Dubai at the drop of a Kangol hat. Everything I detest. Even the poor, struggling Humphrey family in Brooklyn live lives I can only envy. These are teens who look down on L.L. Bean and drink martinis.

Gossip Girl is what’s wrong with this country. And, in spite of the current economic crisis, I’m addicted.

The boys (Penn Badgley and Chace Crawford) pulled me in. They are boys in every sense of the word, not men—not in this series, anyway. Pretty pouty lips and wisecracks—how’s a quickly withering gay guy to resist?

I expected to get a quick fix and be out of there in a three count—four episodes,max, I had thought, but I just finished episode 16. I have to find out how Serena van der Woodsen is going to shed herself of her bête noire Georgina Sparks, who just outed Serena’s brother and re-insinuated herself into Serena’s life … via blackmail. I just bet that bitch Blair Waldorf has a hand in Georgina’s eventual comeuppance!

Christ, I’m so full of self-loathing right now. I’m 56 years old. I teach Joseph Conrad. This can’t be happening.

The plot is pure daytime drama, but with better cliffhangers. How can I justify the joy this series brings me? Here’s how:

The show is reasonably well acted. By its principal cast, anyway. Some of the supporting cast are hit and miss, but what ensemble cast has no weak links?

Leighton Meester (as Blair) knows her way around a sneer … and I have to love her for it. Like love her forever and ever. She’s got two or three shriveling looks I wish I could master—and before long I may be studying those looks in earnest and practicing them at my bathroom mirror. Watch out for me, world, is all I’m saying.

Badgley and Blake Lively (who plays Serena) have the thankless job of being the sweetness-and-light ingénues, though Serena is a girl with a past … quite a dark past apparently … and yet manages to look like Sandra Dee by way of Kate Hudson. Still, Badgley and Lively pull off the incredible feat of making their goody-two-shoes characters not only virtuous but bearable as well.

Crawford (as poor little rich boy Nate Archibald) has the face of a twelve year old pasted on a man’s body designed by Lladró. His face looks like it’s made of marzipan … with aquamarine eyes. His voice, though, is disconcertingly (and leadenly) butch. He has one expression, but it’s lovely. In some lights he does nothing for me at all, but two out of every five shots of him make me want to pounce and ride his bones till they’re jelly.

But mostly my crush is on Badgley, who looks like the big brother I never had … if it were possible for me to have a big brother 33 years younger than I am. Let’s just say he’s a Tony Dow for the 21st century.

Also, the series is well written. The twists, however implausible, come fast. Usually the twist is exactly what you thought was going to happen in the last episode, but you were distracted and lulled into expecting something even more improbable, only to find out that what you thought would happen, then thought could not possibly happen, does happen.

I like the show’s quips and wisecracks too. They’re practically Wycherley good sometimes—though they have a ways to go before becoming even close to Wilde. The cast deliver even the most humdrum pun as if it's Voltaire, so even when the writers nod, the actors manage to sell it. But how can one not be charmed by lines like “I came to you because I wanted to do something besides feel sorry for myself, but all it's been has been sleazy platitudes and you staring at my boobs”?

Mainly I like the show because it features teenagers having sex—romantically and uninhibitedly, even if sometimes improbably. Gossip Girl is no afternoon special. Still, it deals with the anxieties of young lust—the painful self-consciousness, the ever-present gaze of peers (here technologized by cellphone cameras, which capture every slightly scandalous squeeze and compromising drugstore purchase for the ubiquitous yet mysterious “Gossip Girl,” whose blog on Upper East Side teen life provides the story frame for the series).

Gossip Girl the series, though clever, very clever indeed, breaks no real new ground—this stuff has been dealt with in Cruel Intentions, Mean Girls, Ugly Betty, and Party of Five—but GG has its own sort of charm—and manages to be several notches above the usual TV series aimed at subverting the moral fiber of America’s youth.

And mainly, I guess, I like Gossip Girl because, of all the shows undermining our youth's moral fiber, it has the greatest chance of succeeding … and, IMHO, the current American youth’s fiber re sexual matters is excessive, lots of flatulence and bloating, with few to no tasty carbs.

Gossip Girl is all empty calories ... delicious, satisfying, addictive empty calories.

1 comment:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...