First of all, while I don’t always like to admit it, I’ve watched Gossip Girl from the beginning. I’ve taken comfort in the absurdity, and been reminded of watching All My Children and General Hospital with my mom when I stayed home sick from school as a kid. So this critique does not come from someone who doesn’t understand the appeal of the show, or consider herself too good to enjoy trashy television.
That said, the end of the Gossip Girl saga — the series finale aired Monday night — hasn’t come a moment too soon. There’s a certain degree to which us plebs can get a vicarious thrill from watching the over-the-top opulence of the absurdly wealthy cast of melodramatic teens.
But beyond that point, the comparison to our own job market struggles and student loan debt just becomes infuriating. When Gossip Girl premiered in 2007, we didn’t know yet that the economy was about to explode, and it was perfectly reasonable to display aspirational decadence about which teenagers (and adults) could fantasize.
But as the reality of the country’s economic situation set in — that this wasn’t just going to be a little bump in the road on the way back to normal and beyond, to wealth — the show started to feel less like a fun fantasy and more like mean taunting. Frankly, I’m amazed a show about how hard it is to be absurdly rich survived this long in this economy.
It’s no surprise that shows like Girls and Two Broke Girls have become so popular with this generation of destitute young people. There are no jobs, and many of us are deeply in debt from degrees we got assuming they would help us get the jobs that no longer exist. We’re realizing that adulthood is really nothing like the Reading Rainbow “you can do anything” utopia we were promised as children of the ‘90s. We want shows that help us stay laughing so that we can keep from crying about the absurdity of our reality. We don't want shows that remind us with contrast just how pathetically broke we are.
Although, from a more enlightened perspective, a friend of mine said that Gossip Girl helps her cope with being a broke 20-something. “I’ve found that the rich characters make me feel good about not having enough money to buy a week's worth of bananas and whatnot,” she said. “Because they suck so much.”
I will say that the season finale did finally answer the one question we've all been waiting for. Who is Gossip Girl? None other than Dan.