A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gossip Girl is a reboot of the popular 2007-2012 teen drama series. None of the original characters appears in this version, but it is set in the same elite private schools and follows a group of wealthy teens whose exploits are gossiped about online. Since it's now on HBO instead of network TV, the iffy content is ratcheted up a notch: There's more sex and skin, more language, and more substance (ab)use. Characters vape, drink heavily at clubs, and pop pills; one apparently takes prescription drugs frequently, mixing stimulants and depressants to cope with school. In one scene, teens take pills at a club, passing them to each other by kissing. Characters have sex with sounds and movements; a typical scene shows a teen girl pulling up her dress and pushing her boyfriend down to give her oral sex (there's no nudity, but the camera is on her face as she moans and gasps). Cursing includes "f--k" and "s--t," and many characters talk insultingly about those with less money, calling them "sad" and bringing attention to their non-designer clothing. Speaking of which, brands are everywhere, as are luxury goods, logos, and labels: Uber, Louis Vuitton, Net-a-Porter, the list goes on. The cast is more diverse here than in the original, with representation in terms of both race and sexual identity, but all of the characters are rich and privileged, and they're often very mean and flawed.
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The show has not limited the character develop... Continue reading
What's the story?
Almost a decade after its predecessor finished its tale of NYC private school kids gone wrong, GOSSIP GIRL is back with a brand new passel of students, and a new secret source chronicling their doings for a rapt online audience. Julien (Jordan Alexander) is the undisputed queen of her elite all-girl school, with a popular social media stream and designers begging her to walk in their fashion shows and wear their wares for her audience. But her reputation takes a tumble when Zoya (Whitney Peak) enrolls. Though they share a (now deceased) mother, the half-sisters are transformed from fledgling friends to rivals when a group of vengeful school insiders begin spreading gossip about them online. Now the game is on: Who can cause more damage and emerge as the leader of the Upper East Side school pack?
Is it any good?
It strains for the blithe tone of the 2007 original, but it feels as if it's trying to be simultaneously socially conscious and tawdry, and there's a great big logical hole that mars the effort. Specifically, the identity of Gossip Girl, which in the original was a closely-held secret, eventually revealed to be (spoiler-free) a student at one of the pair of elite private schools in which the original was set. This time, viewers see the genesis of the new Gossip Girl right in the first episode, when a group of disgruntled teachers band together to teach these rotten rich kids a lesson. Teachers so over-involved with their students' lives that they follow them around seeking specific bits of tittle-tattle? It feels unethical and creepy, at times bordering on criminal, like when a male teacher lurks outside a student's apartment to watch two teens taking off their rain-wet clothing, snapping pictures that are soon published on social media (on Twitter this time instead of a blog; see? Relevance!). If that's not illegal, it certainly should be.
So the Gossip Girl device is weirdly weighted from the start, but it might have been forgivable if the rest of the show was solid. It's not. The group of popular kids anchored by influencer Julien feels colorless, tropey, full of types rather than fleshed-out characters: Julien's woke boyfriend Obie (Eli Brown) volunteers prominently for an anti-gentrification non-profit; Julien's main courtiers, Luna (Zión Moreno) and Monet (Savannah Lee Smith) do nothing but roll their eyes and emit put-downs; Julien herself is oddly blank for the supposed queen of her school. Only one of the in-crowd, pansexual pill-popping bad boy Max (Thomas Doherty), gins up the right amount of seamy heat, despite the many (many!) scenes of wealthy teens partying in sleek spaces. It's all a bit toothless, where the original grabbed attention and didn't let go, right from the start. There are more involving portraits of rich kids behaving badly; viewers may want to stick with an alternative instead.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the behavior portrayed in teen soaps like this. Parents, watch with your teens, and ask them if their friends are doing what these kids are. Do these teens seem realistic? Are they supposed to?
Families can also talk about stereotyping. What instances of stereotyping exist in Gossip Girl? Do the characters reflect the groups you see among your peers? To what degree is stereotyping necessary for the drama to be effective?
Is it OK to show teen sex, drinking, and drug use on television? Do shows like Gossip Girl present a realistic view of teen life, or is anything exaggerated for entertainment? What would the real-life consequences of the characters' behavior be?
For kids who love teen drama
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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