We don’t remember who was the one to say that comparison is the thief of joy, but when you are making a reboot that draws on the popularity of its original series, a comparison is inevitable to judge whether it has lived up to the standard of the parent show. Please understand that we are not discussing an original product; we are discussing a reiteration of what has been done before, which has attracted its initial audience by referencing their love for the original. In the decade between the end of “Gossip Girl” and the start of this reboot, the show has become a bit of a guilty pleasure. Watching a bunch of rich, privileged teenagers act as if the weight of the world rested on their shoulders was hilarious, but it was also aspirational in an artsy, unattainable way that had us vying for more of the story. The show was not without its drawbacks. There was little to no representation, and a character like Chuck would get canceled within no time instead of becoming the fan favorite that he was. But these drawbacks are from the perspective of today. Don’t get us wrong, we fully abide by them, and that is why we feel guilty about how much we like the original “Gossip Girl.”
When the reboot was announced, it was a chance for us to discover a similar series that we could like without the guilt. We knew that the reboot of “Gossip Girl” would be a lot more progressive and politically correct than its predecessor, but in an effort to do that, the series just ended up losing its oomph. We blame the writing for this. The wordplays and one-liners were on-point, but the plots faltered so badly. The series tried to stick to some of the strongest recurring themes of the original, which were the rivalry between Serena and Blair and the love story of Chuck and Blair. Notice how the common denominator is Blair. Well, shouldn’t her casting have been given priority over everything else, then?
In the first season, it looked like Zoya was going to be a contender for it, but it was more built up by dialogue than actual circumstances. As for her relationship with Obie, couldn’t the makers have cast together people with better chemistry? In the original series, it wasn’t just the romantic partners who looked effortless on screen; it was everyone. Serena and Blair were so believable as friends who constantly fought with each other.
Something we need to realize is that two women fighting is not just a misogynistic myth. Serena and Blair were not fighting over boys or determining who was the more “valuable woman.” They were fighting because of their diametrically opposite personalities and unhealthy communication skills. Their conflict was also about the charm of effortlessness versus the real-world value of effort. While hustle culture has always existed, it is only in the last decade or so that it has been discussed so publicly, with a deep dive into its merits and demerits as well as the nuances of it. When this discussion wasn’t as much a part of our consciousness in 2006, Serena was everything we wanted as naive teenagers, not understanding that this was a world within a world that wouldn’t have any actual social currency. We felt like Blair was the villain, though it took time for us to understand her for the strong person she was. Even today, it is her that we idolize instead of Serena simply because we have grown up and seen reason. Who were we supposed to idolize in the reboot?
Was it Zoya, with her principles that were idealistic to a fault but had no relevance to the petty high school dramas? Or was it Monet who publicly feuded with Julien over the title of “best influencer”? Or finally, was it Audrey who did not want to deal with any more of Julien’s antics? Who was it? We believe it was all of them. Zoya had absolutely nothing to do in Season 2, but in Season 1, didn’t the half-sisters start fighting due to Obie, which just escalated into a bit of a class conflict before getting resolved by itself? It was one of the blandest fights we ever saw. The supposed magnitude of their disagreements made sense only to them. And when they got past it all, there was Monet. Each and every one of her fights with Julien, including the way she executed them, were so caricaturish. Blair would never.
Finally, we had Audrey, who actually had a valid point for being against Julien. In fact, she was the closest thing to Blair in the series, with her confidence, manners, and goals. Why not use her from the beginning instead of dividing it between the three women? Also, if we are being honest, Emily Alyn Lind was one of the two or three actors in the series who had a strong charm of their own. The other was Thomas Doherty, who played Max Wolfe. We have called him Chuck Bass 2.0 plenty of times in our reviews of the episodes. We stand by that, but we cannot deny that he still brought something of himself to the role: an honesty and a dignified vulnerability that really endeared him to us. Even though it might have felt rather close to a repetition, giving Audrey and Max more relevance to the overall plot would have ensured we liked the reboot more.
Julien has started every season with a conflict between her and some subplot’s current Blair Waldorf. She feuded with Zoya in the first season, and Monet and Audrey in the second. The third season, if it ever happened, would have been with Luna. By breaking down Blair Waldorf, one of the most iconic characters ever, into bits and pieces, the makers gave us nothing to aspire to or emulate. The focus was on Julien too much, and the reboot’s Serena van der Woodsen is one of the most annoying characters ever, who really can’t see beyond her own nose, whatever her intentions. We must remember that Serena was only interesting because she was the antithesis of Blair, whom we loved to hate in the beginning. Once the hate turned to love, Serena wasn’t what anybody wanted to be. A Blair Waldorf 2.0 should have been the center of this series, not a Serena who doesn’t even have her fashion game on point. The lack of a good fashion moment in two seasons is unforgivable.
At the end of the day, the “Gossip Girl” reboot is nothing original, and it is accordingly self-aware. But it failed to use that knowledge to its advantage, which is why we don’t mourn the loss of a third season. Now excuse us while we go back to watching some of our favorite character’s epic takedowns of the people around her.