Shiny S. Patel
General Sections Editor
Gossip Girl is a fictional television show that explores the lives of people living amongst the elites in society in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Throughout the show, various characters and scenarios discuss the problems of those who are not members of the elite yet find themselves engulfed in a society in which they are not welcomed in.
This show does an interesting job at trying to bring light to the problems that the wealthy young adults “endured.” At the same time, it tries to bring light to the issue of the difficulty to integrate the middle class youth into the education system of the upper class. The importance of this existed in the fact that if it is hard for non-elites to join the education system of the elites, then the difficulty of entering the elite circle at all is inevitable in American society. We can connect the disparities between the social classes in American society with how it is portrayed in American popular culture by using Gossip Girl as an example.
The rags-to-riches story is an aspect of the American Dream that may have existed at one point in time, or may occur once in a blue moon for a few hard-working, lucky individuals, but it does not apply to most. Pop culture like Gossip Girl tries to make it seem as though once you become an elite, you are the same person you were before the money — just this time with the money.
However, if Gossip Girl is dissected, it can be seen that it is not the case. When Rufus Humphrey, a single father working diligently to send his two teenage children to prep school, married Lily Bass, an elite woman, he had to attend galas and dress in tuxedos which was all out of his comfort zone.
This show represents class in the 21st century because it glamorizes the lives of the wealthy so much so to the point where the poor are ignored. Though this show had a plethora of charity galas, they seemed to be doing it for the social perks, such as respect. It did not seem as though these wealthy people were doing charity work to help others, but instead to increase their social capital and to build up positive publicity.
Nate Archibald, a member of the elite class, calls out Dan Humphrey- Rufus Humphrey’s son- on using the “chip on the shoulder” excuse to get through life. This ultimately proves that the media tries to trivialize the realities of the hardships that face non-elites. Inequality is increasing year by year and yet the rich do little to alleviate these economic tensions.
Our understanding of class stems from how the media portrays the different classes. Gossip Girl is notorious for making the simple problems of the wealthy seem so strenuous. Media tries to make it seem like the problems of the wealthy play a larger role in society than the problems of the poor, when in reality that is not true at all. Blair Waldorf, the “Queen Bee” of her school, blatantly expresses her disgust towards those below her social status and uses her ascribed status to get through life. The show frames reality and how the working class is “shunned” whereas the elites are emulated.
Gossip Girl has a character named Vanessa who gets into video journalism. She tries to expose the lives of the elites, leading to the dismantlement of the norm. They are not happy with this negative exposure and in the end, Vanessa is coerced out of the group that young elites have formed and she stops filming. When the wealthy have a good thing going, they see no need to change the system, but when it is changed, “class-related animosities” are stirred up. Our understanding of class can be modified over time if journalists decide to expose the realities of the elites, like Vanessa attempted to do.
Gossip Girl has a happy ending for all the characters. It ultimately proved the conception that most people have: the idea that everything works out in the end if you have money or if you start out with it.
At the same time, the few characters in the show that did not start out wealthy ended up successful too. This helped shape the notion that social mobility is possible. However, it emphasized that connections will help one reach their end destination. In the end, this proves that hard work may not necessarily play an effective role in helping one enter the elite circle.
Our ideals of society are that everyone should be able to reach the American Dream but everyone’s ways of reaching it are different. We need to change these ideals because if the inequality gap continues to grow, the American Dream will no longer be feasible for anyone except for the 1%, solely because they are old money.
More people need to care about helping others; providing equal opportunity needs to become an ideal. That way, the story of the Humphreys from Gossip Girl making it into the elite circle can be extended into reality in America.
XOXO Gossip Girl