When I was 13 years old, I was completely obsessed with everything related to the fashion world and New York City. If someone asked me what my dream job was, I’d confidently say that I wanted to be a fashion designer, even though I couldn’t (and still can’t) draw, and that I hoped to move to the city when I was older, far away from the suburban Florida town I was growing up in. So, when I first came across screencaps of Gossip Girl’s spoiled Manhattan socialites sitting on the steps of the MET on Tumblr, I immediately binged the series from start to finish. Gossip Girl fed into all of my outrageous dreams—I ate it all up, and continue to unashamedly do so. As a teen who couldn’t afford luxury goods or impromptu trips to Paris, the series was escapism at its absolute finest. It served as a portal for countless young adults to live vicariously through the filthy rich characters who arrived at school in private limos and wore Chanel and Dior as if it were something as basic and accessible as H&M.
Gossip Girl took the world by storm 15 years ago this month, running on The CW from 2007 to 2012. It followed the chaotic and glamorous lives of a group of elite Upper East Siders attending prep school, and the anonymous gossip blogger (perfectly voiced by Kristen Bell) who sought to report on and expose their every little move. At the center of it all were frenemies Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester) and Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively), lonely boy Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley) and his innocent younger sister Jenny (Taylor Momsen), charming asshole Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick), and dreamboat Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford).
One of the first shows I remember being deeply invested in, it was impossible not to get sucked into Gossip Girl’s opulent fantasy world that offered everything you could possibly want in a television show. For six glorious seasons, its core characters schemed, backstabbed, and got involved in countless scandals, from teacher-student relationships to Blair’s doomed marriage to a prince. There were juicy, unhinged plot lines like Chuck’s dad faking his death in Season 2 only to end up falling off a roof and dying in the final season, or Serena thinking she killed a man when they did cocaine. There were iconic holiday episodes, like Season 3’s “The Treasure of Serena Madre” that set a pivotal Thanksgiving gathering to Jason Derulo’s “Whatcha Say.” Featuring tracks from the likes of Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Paramore, and The Kills, the soundtrack was arguably its strongest element, and it blessed us with live performances from Lady Gaga and Florence + the Machine. Gossip Girl was also never lacking in the guest star department, with Hilary Duff, Sebastian Stan, and Armie Hammer all having multi-episode arcs.
Based on the wildly popular YA series by Cecily von Ziegsar, Gossip Girl was, in a way, the East Coast sibling to creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage’s equally beloved series The OC, which ended the same year Gossip Girl arrived. It defined the CW during its infancy, establishing the network as a hub for teen television and making it possible for shows like The Vampire Diaries and Riverdale to thrive. It may have struggled with viewership ratings toward the start, but it didn’t take long for Gossip Girl to emerge as one of the most influential and unique teen series of the 2000s and early 2010s. I’m not trying to be dramatic, but every show that has attempted to emulate its essence has drastically fallen short. Gossip Girl managed to capture an extremely specific period of time but continues to be just as culturally relevant today, and it remains one of the last of its kind before teen TV shifted towards a more socially conscious perspective (think: The Fosters).
The series turned us into devoted shippers who absorbed fan fiction and Instagram edits regardless of how imperfect and downright unhealthy some couples were (I remain a Chuck and Blair shipper despite their well-documented toxicity). But its greatest relationship was the one between on-and-off besties Serena and Blair, who had genuinely sweet and supportive moments when they weren’t too busy sabotaging each other. All the drama aside, Gossip Girl was fully anchored by the friendship at its core, and every viewer wanted to have the S to their B (or vice versa).
The characters in Gossip Girl were nearly adults in everything but age: they were jet setters with closets equipped with stylish suits, stunning couture pieces, and drool-worthy designer bags as opposed to the basic jeans and sneakers teens typically wore in shows like Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill. While its fashion hasn’t aged the best, it convinced an entire generation of girls that headbands were the greatest accessory; if true trendsetter Blair Waldorf was wearing something, you had to own it too.
Part of what made Gossip Girl such a great show was that it was fully self-aware at how out of touch it was with reality. It never attempted to hide the fact that it was about outrageously wealthy people and the equally outrageous experiences they encountered as they floated through their privileged lives. It was so detached from reality that the Humphreys, who lived in a spacious Brooklyn loft, were considered poor. Nearly everything about Gossip Girl was superficial on the surface, but it also managed to excel at covering issues like suicide and substance abuse in a somewhat nuanced way that provided a window of relatability for more of its audience, and that’s what made it stand apart from the other teen shows that dominated television at the time.
Gossip Girl pushed boundaries—it was a fun and provocative soap full of explicit (but still PG-13) sex scenes, and the teens drank and did drugs just as much as the adults who came in and out of their lives. Rather than give into the controversy surrounding it from parents and critics, the series took advantage of the belief that children were being corrupted and refused to hold back. In 2008, New York City was famously plastered with raunchy ads featuring quotes from bad reviews that described the series as “A nasty piece of work,” “Every parent’s nightmare,” and “Very bad for you.” Gossip Girl’s strategy was to take the critiques of its first season and use them to push Gossip Girl as the most irresistible guilty pleasure possible, and it was a total success.
The show’s cultural impact cannot be overstated. According to New York Magazine, Gossip Girl is “The Most Important Show of Our Time”. A decade ago, then-mayor Michael Bloomberg made his greatest contribution when he named January 26 “Gossip Girl Day” in NYC. The Gossip Girl fan base continues to thrive and displays no signs of ever letting its legacy die, with the Gossip Girl hashtag having 7.3 billion views on TikTok at the time of writing, with videos ranging from fan edits to outfit inspiration to people attempting to capture the old money GG aesthetic.
From the moment Serena was first spotted setting foot in Grand Central Station during the pilot episode’s opening scene set to Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks,” Gossip Girl solidified itself as a pop culture touchstone for the books (as long as we can disregard the disappointing reveal of GG’s identity in the series finale). Though HBO Max may have rebooted the series last year with a fresh ensemble, I’m confident that there will never be another show as monumental as Gossip Girl.
You know you love it, XOXO.
Jihane Bousfiha is an entertainment writer based in Florida. When she’s not watching or writing about TV and films, you can find her tweeting about all-things pop culture on Twitter @jihanebousfiha__.
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