Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

How well does the Gossip Girl premiere reveal work?

Unlike the original CW show, the HBO Max sequel series doesn’t keep the identity of its titular rumormonger a big secret

Image of Zión Moreno, Jordan Alexander, and Savannah Smith in HBO Max's Gossip Girl
Zion Moreno, Jordan Alexander, and Savannah Smith star in Gossip Girl
Photo: Karolina Wojtasik/HBO Max

This post discusses plot points from the Gossip Girl premiere episode, “Just Another Girl On The MTA.”

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Sharpen your proverbial knives, Gossip Girl viewers, because the super-spy of the Upper East Side is back. And this time, it’s not just a student like Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley) messing with their fellow classmates. Unlike the original CW show, which unmasked Gossip Girl after six seasons worth of soapy drama, the HBO Max sequel series doesn’t keep the identity of its titular rumormonger a big secret. The new series—developed by Joshua Safran, an executive producer on the original—reveals who Gossip Girl is in the premiere. Say hello to Kate Keller, played by Tavi Gevinson, the new mastermind behind Gossip Girl, who’s once again dominating the hallways of New York City’s Constance Billard high school.

Kate, who’s an English teacher, is first shown riding the subway in the opening shot of the cheekily titled premiere, “Just Another Girl On The MTA.” She watches Instagram videos of her student, Julien Calloway (Jordan Alexander)—a name that is certainly not inspired by Caroline Calloway, right? Right. Anyway, Julien is a popular influencer on social media, thanks to her father Davis’ (Luke Kirby) multiple Grammy awards. Julien’s two friends, Luna La (Zión Moreno) and Monet de Haan (Savannah Smith) act more like her publicists than trustworthy pals.

The three teens basically run the school, much like Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester) did with the help of her minions. They’re incredibly dismissive of everyone who isn’t part of their friend group, and of their teachers. So they fit seamlessly into the brand of the show. The power dynamics between the teachers and students are quickly established, as it is revealed that most parents take the hands-off approach. They’d rather throw a fit to get a teacher fired for not changing a grade than talk to their own children about studying. Kate and some of her co-workers are legitimately afraid of losing their jobs on someone else’s whim or grudge. Fed up of being bullied by these privileged brats, the teachers decide to relaunch Gossip Girl (after learning what Gossip Girl was in Serena and Blair’s day) as a way to keep students in check. With this twist, Gossip Girl embarks on a bold but extremely questionable ride.

Teen dramas are rife with teachers meddling in the lives of their students, from Pretty Little Liars to Riverdale, with several of these stories taking a romantic turn. Gossip Girl broached this as well with Dan and Rachel Carr (Laura Breckenridge), and Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively) and Colin Forrester (Sam Page). However, Kate and her crew take it to another extreme. Gossip Girl is literally run by a group of frustrated adults who have the most minor qualms about invading their teen students’ privacy and posting about it anonymously on the internet. Is there anything worse (or sadder) than a bunch of grown-ups stalking teens and posting about their hook-ups, fashion faux pas, or dating woes online? Even Kate’s dubious reasoning that doing this will “improve” their behavior is debatable. If anything, most of these young hellions will be motivated to act out and be popular enough to be featured on Gossip Girl.

Tavi Gevinson in Gossip Girl
Tavi Gevinson in Gossip Girl
Image: Karolina Wojtasik/HBO Max

Upending the original’s premise of a mysterious, all-seeing blogger by unmasking Gossip Girl in the series premiere is a fun idea—it takes away the suspense, yes, but it also gives insight into how the account’s content can possibly be managed, sourced, and consumed. But GG’s identity is controversial, to say the least. At least Dan was an ingenuous teen himself when he started Gossip Girl; he wanted to be an insider instead of an outcast. Why he kept the blog running for years despite seeing the destruction it caused was ultimately a juicy problem and constant source of drama.

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Perhaps it’s a rite of passage for would-be novelists at this cursed school. As noted in “Just Another Girl On The MTA,” Dan turned into a popular author. Kate, who dropped out of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (maybe she was even friends with Girls’ Hannah Horvath?), has similar aspirations. We already know Gossip Girl has a dark way with words. But for Kate, it’s also about taking her power back: Despite being older and technically having authority as a teacher, she’s often pushed around or just ignored by her students. The Constance Billard faculty does already seem at the end of their ropes when the show begins. But does that justify banding together to follow these children around and expose their secrets? On the other hand, Kate did seem genuinely happy that Julien praised her blazer for a change, so maybe these teachers are stuck reliving their high school days.

Gossip Girl—the original series and the reboot—isn’t anyone’s go-to for realistic and hard-hitting stories. It’s frothy entertainment centered on fancy teenagers who think they own the world. And HBO Max’s sequel is chock full of such kids, including pansexual playboy Max Wolfe (Thomas Doherty), apparent power couple Audrey Hope (Emily Alyn Lind) and Akeno Menzies (Evan Mock), and Julien’s boyfriend Obie Bergman IV (Eli Brown). Their little circle gets a jolt when Julien’s half-sister Zoya (Whitney Peak), who grew up in Buffalo, enrolls at Constance Billard after getting an arts scholarship. Zoya, who I’ll remind you is just 14, becomes an instant target for Luna and Monet, as well as Gossip Girl. The latter capitalizes on the drama between Julien and Zoya, hoping a public display of their fraught bond will clamp down on bad manners. Even Nate Archibald would be smart enough to know better.

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