Spotted — Gossip Girl, your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite, back to keep the kids of the upper east side on their toes.
“Gossip Girl” is back for the first time since its series finale in 2012. Switching from the CW to an HBO Max exclusive, it now has a new home. The reboot features an entirely new cast of characters in addition to a twist on the original’s plotline.
2021’s reboot tries to function the same way as its predecessor: a group of privileged teenagers stirring up trouble and “Gossip Girl”-worthy news. While the original focuses on the old money residents of the Upper East Side, the latest version is very current — featuring a world filled with influencers, cancel culture and an accurate portrayal of LGBTQ+ youth.
Both installments arguably serve as time pieces for different decades in the 21st century.
The original is colorful, pronounced, and everything, including the characters, is over the top. The latest version is a bit more muted, sleek and modern — almost drab. Both get their unique aesthetics through their fashion, technology and take on current issues — just a few of the reasons for their time piece feel.
The premise is similar for both series — rich and manipulative teenagers causing trouble in New York City and an ensemble cast doing so. 2021’s version lacks the energy that the original cast held, which might just be because of their rising star power at the time of the show’s airing.
The latest installment’s cast is definitely wider and more diverse, rightfully so, featuring characters of different races, classes, backgrounds and sexualities — many issues in which the original barely brushed upon.
2021’s “Gossip Girl” follows the rich and powerful (in high school) Julien, who is the daughter of a famous musician. Other than causing chaos for her classmates and her so-called job being an Instagram influencer, Julien’s main focus seems to be standing her ground without getting cancelled.
Weaving the cast together by their secret romances and elaborate plans similar to the original are Julien’s friends, which consist of Luna, Monet, Obi, Aki, Audrey, Max and Zoya, Julien’s estranged half-sister. Zoya transfers to Julien’s school in an attempt to reconnect with her sister, but the reunion only causes “Gossip Girl”-worthy drama.
Through glamorous events, unique character interactions, and teachers’ strange involvements in students’ lives (to put it simply without spoiling) “Gossip Girl” builds its world pretty well.
Something that does feel off though about this year’s version is how hard it seems to be trying. It’s almost like it’s trying too hard to include social media, pop culture and slang references, which is something that the original just did so seamlessly.
2021’s reboot definitely takes a more “politically-correct” approach to be a current television show, which can be sort of annoying at points, but it does pay off — especially their take on LGTBQ+ topics and culture. The series features a transgender female character, Luna. Something refreshing about her character and storyline is that her gender role or transition are not her entire character or arc. It’s just who she is.
Also, 2007’s version included Eric van der Woodsen, Serena van der Woodsen’s younger brother, who was part of the LGBTQ+ community as a gay cis-gender male. He was the only main character in the LGBTQ+ community.
The only other recurring LGBTQ+ character was Damien Dalgaard, but he was only pretending to be gay to cover up what was really going on — drugs. Damien only appeared in 10 episodes, but he doesn’t count because he’s a fake anyway. 2021’s “Gossip Girl’s” take on social issues is one of its highlights — but only one of the few.
Other than that, “Gossip Girl” still just lacks. Whether it is its bold attempts to be relevant in a time of social media or cancel culture, or its lackluster and homage-wannabe characters, the series is already a let down, even though it’s only ran for six episodes.
That’s all for now, Upper East Siders. You know you love me.
This will be Lydia Urice’s second year on ECHO staff. Last year, she was podcast editor, and this year she is junior editor.
This will be Jackson Parks’ first year on ECHO staff, but he made several contributions while taking journalism class his sophomore year.