Photo: ‘Gossip Girl’/HBO Max
The Revival of the ‘Gossip Girl’ Persona
The biggest question that audiences had when ‘Gossip Girl’ was announcing its return was how exactly the mythical persona would reappear. Keep in mind, the new show takes place nine years after the original Gossip Girl blog was shut down and our favorite socialites moved on with their lives. In Episode 1 of the reboot, ‘Just Another Girl on MTA,’ this mystery is revealed – with an unexpected answer. In essence, Gossip Girl is revived by the teaching staff of Constance St. Jude (the elite high school our main characters attend), in a bid to regain control over their unruly, privileged students who treat them like the dirt beneath their shoes.
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Instead of renewing the Gossip Girl blog, they opt for a more contemporary platform – Instagram – and get to work. Helmed by teacher Kate Keller (Tavi Gevinson), the teachers approach a new school year with confidence, power, and hope. This massive change is something that completely changes the power dynamics of ‘Gossip Girl’, bringing in adults into the fold.
This ultimately brings in a new element of humor and absurdity to the teen show, which feels fresh and contemporary. The new change also begs the question of who will win in this battle between teachers and students. If we know anything about ‘Gossip Girl’, it’s that control over her account never truly stays in one person’s hands. Will the teachers be able to hold onto the new superpower they’ve created?
Episode 2, ‘She’s Having a Maybe,’ expands on these bombshells revealed in the Pilot too – giving us a clearer vision of the new and improved HBO Max ‘Gossip Girl’ reboot.
A Mirroring of the Original Cast
When the reboot cast was announced, there was lots of conversation regarding who would be the next Blair, the next Chuck, or the next Dan. And now that the show’s finally been released – we get to see who has taken those parts! Of course, it’s not a one-to-one, but the new show definitely preserves some of these archetypes, which have become essential to the ‘Gossip Girl’ brand. For one, a newbie to Constance is outsider Zoya Lott (Whitney Peak) – a studious freshman engaged in liberal politics and other “woke” activities. Clearly, she’s the Dan Humphrey of the reboot – trying to survive at a school where she has to work for successes others are merely given.
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Her older sister, an NYC native and celebrity influencer Julien Calloway (Jordan Alexander), is the Blair of the series. She’s the queen on Constance and has worked hard for her brand and accomplishments. Unlike Blair, however, she’s popular because she’s liked, rather than feared. Ultimately, though Zoya resembles Dan in the background, she’s the Serena to Julien’s Blair – with the two being chosen as Gossip Girl’s new victims. As Julien says to Zoya in Episode 1, “there were these two best friends [Gossip Girl] was obsessed with years ago. It’s kind of a badge of honor that she chose us.” Honestly, it’s a great bold choice for the show to center on two sisters that truly want to connect, rather than two best friends as in the original.
Another new character, Max Wolfe (Thomas Doherty), most resembles Chuck Bass from the original series. He’s promiscuous, rich, and very sex-positive and free. However, unlike Chuck, Max is ultimately seen as a mischievous troublemaker, rather than a possible predator or source of discomfort. In the new reboot, consent and political correctness are displayed front and center. Even though Max is a flirty and open character – he’s not as demanding as Chuck, who was sometimes criticized for misogyny, unwanted sexual advances, and toxic masculinity. All in all, it’s interesting how Max is Chuck’s mirror – but in a more positive and contemporary way.
Other members of the new Gossip Girl troupe don’t necessarily have specific “roles” they fit into from the original show. Monet and Luna are seen as Blair’s “minions” – but even these helpers seem to have far more control in the reboot than in the original series. As such, the revived ‘Gossip Girl’ has a great mix of unique characters, and ones that offer a great spin to original ones. And of course, the incredible Kristen Bell herself has returned to reprise her role as Gossip Girl’s omniscient voice.
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What to Expect in Season One
Just in these first two episodes, several juicy through-lines are introduced that will likely be brought to fruition by the end of the season. And keep in mind, the show hasn’t even begun to delve into the personal lives and motivations of Monet and Luna – so more is sure to come.
Some of these possible arcs were teased in Episode 1 – such as the power shift at Constance St. Jude from Julien to Zoya, whether that be through reputation or the boy between them, Obie. As Julien’s ex-boyfriend and Zoya’s new love interest, Obie is sure to cause some drama between the two, even if unintentional. With drama further proliferated and conjured by Gossip Girl between the two sisters, their truces will surely not last long. Ultimately, the question is who’s going to end up on top.
Secondly, crossing romantic attractions are teased in between the characters Audrey (Emily Lind), Akeno, and Max (Evan Mock) – even though Audrey and Akeno have been in a serious relationship for quite some time. Max, the promiscuous flirt of the friend group, is seen repeatedly testing the physical boundaries between the two – especially in Episode 2, when he kisses Akeno and sleeps with Audrey. Secrets are formed, and lips are sealed. However, the outcome of this debacle is unclear, since it’s obvious that both Audrey and Akeno are attracted to Max too. Couple that with the dying flame in their long-term relationship – and some tea is sure to spill.
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Lastly, in Episode 2 it is revealed that Zoya had left her old school in Buffalo due to a mysterious, secret reason – one that can be exposed in a handy video, now in the possession of Gossip Girl. At the end of the episode, teacher Kate Keller remarks how she hopes she “never has to use it” …. But as we already know, these teachers are willing to do whatever it takes to stay in control. In the confines of this small, elite private school, empires will fall and new leaders will take their places. Just like in the OG ‘Gossip Girl,’ it’s going to be a battle for power, reputation, and control. But this time, with the teachers involved, there are more parties at play. Needless to say, the series has gotten off to an exciting start, and we can’t wait to see what tea is going to be spilled.
CAST: Whitney Peak, Jordan Alexander, Evan Mock, Thomas Doherty, Emily Lind, Tavi Gevinson, Eli Brown, Zion Moreno, Savannah Lee Smith, Kristen Bell
CREW: Created by Joshua Safran, Stephanie Savage, and Josh Schwartz
By Lana Nguyen
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Lana Nguyen is a writer and filmmaker currently pursuing a BFA in Film Production at USC. Her love for film stems from the belief that empathetic and humanistic stories can help enact cultural change, and is excited to review such releases in film and media. As a young Vietnamese American and Jon M. Chu scholar at USC, she is passionate about diversity and representation in film and hopes to contribute thoughtful and progressive commentary on these issues, aligning with Hollywood Insider’s mission to provide impactful and meaningful content.