So, I tuned in to Gossip Girl tonight at about 8.10 pm, right as the food arrived (bless them and the bikes they ride in on), so thus missed the recap of the past few episodes, which I unfortunately had to miss due to “work-related events.”
A few comments:
1) I was relieved to see Blair again with hair in an appropriate bun and wearing color-blocked tights and some sort of Blair-like pastels, until the final scene where Dan takes her to the Met steps so she can feel like a princess “one last time” before she signs the divorce papers with Prince Louis, and she is wearing some hot pink fru-fru number. I understand the impulse towards princessdom, but wouldn’t Blair Waldorf’s take on Princess be more Dior and less Cinderella?
2) HP is clearly doing some heavy product-placement sponsorship. Nate Archibald’s computer at the Spectator had a huge logo, as did Serena’s laptop. No way would either of them be using HP machines. Who uses HP? An integral part of Gossip Girl is the importance that technology plays in distilling information and changing relationships–equivalent to the letter and the post in Victorian novels. There is no way that HP has any involvement in this world. Do they even make computers? I thought they only made bad ink-jet printers with ridiculously expensive ink that no one buys anymore because you can get it recycled on ebay for a fraction of the cost.
3) Chuck Bass’s hair is not as bad as I previously thought.
4) I’ve missed some episodes, but why does Serena appear to be sabotaging Lola? I understand that perhaps she feels threatened by another potential “It” girl, but Serena’s redeeming quality is that she always struggles with difficult decisions (letting go over her past, changing her life, etc.) but ultimately does the right thing. Here, it appears she’s just gone to the dark side.
5) Dan had a line like, “Chuck Bass doesn’t have enough liquid assets?” (or something). I was wondering the same thing. Since when does Chuck Bass not have enough money? Since he paid Blair’s dowry! Of course! Which leads us to 6:
6) Blair’s dowry. In what world would Blair have signed off on a dowry that it is the entire Waldorf fortune? Money–or, more specifically, the privilege that money buys–means way too much to Blair to have ever signed her name to a deal that stupid. This means that Blair was wiling to sacrifice everything she believes for (privilege) for her fairy tale dream (marriage with Prince Louis). Really? This doesn’t seem like the Blair of old. The Blair of old would have made the contract water tight, and to her advantage, and if she didn’t, let’s remember that her stepfather is Cyrus Rose, allegedly one of New York’s top entertainment lawyers. How would any lawyer, much less a legal shark, have let that doozy slip by? Further, I understand that Blair is unhappy in her marriage, but (unless we are forgetting some key plot facts, which is possible, having missed episodes and having missed recaps), wouldn’t Blair have gotten the dowry back if she’d just stayed married for a year? Now, Blair, come on. It’s only a year. The entire Waldorf fortune versus the ability to not date Dan Humphrey in public? Again, this is a no-brainer. Stay inside and shop online–kind of like Lily Bass did when she was serving out her jail sentence from her penthouse with an ankle bracelet.
7) Which leads us to why Chuck Bass paid her dowry: presumably to buy her “freedom.” (When the word “Freedom” enters the dialogue, it’s just a bad scene, although “Freedom” has always been an implicit theme of the show, as it often is of social class drama, but the important thing is to show the real life consequences of this freedom in ways where the characters behave as if they are truly trapped, not as if they are behaving irresponsibly and not taking into consideration consequences, e.g. Blair not waiting a year to divorce, Chuck paying off her dowry, this whole ridiciulous dowry business to begin with).
8) So, the real question we want to know is: how much is the Waldorf fortune worth, and what percentage of Chuck Bass’s wealth is this fortune? That is, how much has Chuck Bass lost, and what is he worth now? We remember (we think) that Lily Bass received 20% of Bass Industries. We don’t remember how much Chuck got, nor do we know how much the Empire is worth (does he still own that?), nor do we know how much liquid assets Chuck has. But there was mention from Chuck’s private investigator–Andrew something (love his occasional appearances, along with lines of Eric’s like, “He has a PI on speed dial”)– that Chuck was Manhattan’s youngest billionaire. But we don’t know how those billions are divided up. (We could really use an Excel sheet of Chuck’s assets to help us out here). Did Chuck paid off the dowry from his “liquid” assets, or did he have to “liquidize” his assets to pay the dowry?
9) Either way, the percentage of wealth is interesting, but not as interesting as the possibility that Chuck might have to work to regain his fortune, because this provides a possible opportunity to resolve The Orphan Plot (so Dickensian!) whereby Chuck has always felt that he has failed his father because he was responsible for his mother’s death (so Oedipal) and hence turned into a Byronic hero (so, umm, Byronic) / aesthetic decadent (note the frequent wearing of Oscar Wilde’s favorite color, purple, with flowers on his silk bathrobes–an amazing detail). If anything, Chuck is nothing but a fabulous compilation of literary cliches, but yet, he is constantly interesting, even as he vacillates between some pretty predictable stereotypes (vulnerability in loving, and shunning that vulnerability by being defensive), which is why we love him, because we never know which way he’s going to turn!
10) So! Does the Chuck’s unliquid (gaseous? hard?–frozen seems like a tired comparison) assets plot mean that he’s going to a)work for his fortune and resolve the Oedipal-Orphan-Dickensian plot by feeling a sense of self-satisfaction? OR b)some plot is happening with Georgina Sparks so that the money will be recovered (as it typically tends to do: when have any of our favorite Upper East Siders ever actually lost their money? It always comes back somehow).
11) The whole point is that the dowry plot is providing some interesting things, but the idea of a dowry in and of itself is so unrealistic that it’s creating some pretty insane spin-off-plots where, again, the characters seem nothing like themselves. Chuck Bass is the main consistency, and for that, we are grateful. Chuck, please, more scenes of you again in your purple silk bathrobes with that awesome flower. Hopefully you have not liquidized that silk to pay for Blair’s dowry.
12) There’s another incest plot brewing…have Serena and Lola figured out that they share a father yet? (again, not fully up on all the episodes). At some point, I’ll have to make a diagram of how everyone who dates each other in Gossip Girl is actually related. Serena-Lola: step-sisters; Nate has dated them both; Chuck is Serena’s step-brother (and therefore Lola’s…?); Chuck and Dan and Jenny and Serena are somehow step-siblings by marriage; (so Nate has dated another step-sibling of Serena’s and Lola’s when he dated Jenny); Chuck has dated Blair, as has Dan, so again, step-brother dating the same person. This is very curious. So far the only person, I think, who is immune is Eric, but that’s only because he’s gay and dates outside the circle. OH WAIT! Jenny’s first fake boyfriend (that Upper West Side guy) who was gay but dated Jenny as a cover-up also dated Eric, and Jenny and Eric are step-siblings by Rufus and Lily’s marriage. And Dan and Serena (who dated) are step-siblings so when Blair dates Dan, she’s also weirdly dating Serena’s step-brother.
13) So, Gossip Girl is also founded upon the (devolving into an?) incest plot, the universal taboo. According to Freud in Totem and Taboo the incest taboo, along with the tribe’s totems (symbolic animals that protect and symbolize the tribe) are the prohibitions that create the original forms of social structure: law, religion, and ethical order because there are only prohibitions on what we want to do (Take it or leave it; that’s just what the man says). If nothing else, Gossip Girl suggests that incest applies biologically and that family, at least in terms of sexual relationships, is socially constructed. Except family in terms of the other sense of loyalty and love, is not very clearly defined. (Gossip Girl’s ambiguous treatment of family is in direct contrast to shows like Breaking Bad, where loyalty to family among major characters is a pivotal motivation defining the major plot points, e.g. Tuco’s and his cousin’s family loyalty in the Mexican cartel; Walter’s determination to do anything to save his family; Marie’s statement, “We’re all family here” after Hank’s shooting–etc. Breaking Bad demonstrates the importance, and serious complications of, loyalty by blood relationships. Family is always complicated, the show seems to suggest, in part because of the loyalty that it seems to demand even if reciprocal loyalty is not warranted, and Breaking Bad does an excellent job of displaying these complications, and, by extension, indirectly critiques other discourses implied by “blood” (what blood means, genetics, relationships between “blood” and “land,” Fascicsm, etc.). If Breaking Bad demonstrates the protection and danger of family as a concept as opposed to people acting as individual agents, Gossip Girl, however, seems to tilt in the other direction: there is not enough complication of the family plot. They could bring back a little bit more of the complication, a little bit less of the constantly drifting cast of characters acting entirely as individual agents as if everyone wasn’t everyone else’s step-something revolving around familiar plot points, yet with the similar characters who have lost their sense of “self” (whatever that means: In The Poetics, Aristotle says it is both defined by their actions and some underlying ethical/moral values, which was what made the early episodes of Gossip Girl so interesting: there were characters who were placed into societal situations whereby their actions and their underlying ethical/moral values were always placed into conflict).
14), Of course, the incest plot is huge, even necessary, in soap operas (bless their rapidly dying souls) with their limited cast of characters and a need for huge drama. But don’t we demand more of Gossip Girl? (yes! yes we do! we love it! we demand more of Blair Waldorf!) But now–what? What is the definition of character in Gossip Girl now? When the action revolves around a dowry which never should have occurred because it goes against the underlying notions of the characters to begin with? Strange. At least Chuck’s hair is better and Blair had at least one killer outfit.