Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Homogenization of Gossip Girl

I was watching Gossip Girl last night and trying to figure out why, even though I like the TV version, it bothered me. It's not the glitzy lifestyle, and the constant references to clothes or the teenage sex. No, what bothered me and what I liked about the series was the variety in the characters, which has sadly been homogenized into pretty people doing bad things.

In the Gossip Girl book series the Humphrey's lived on the Upper West Side on West End Avenue in a rambling rent controlled apartment that had seen better days. Dad was a middle-aged hippie with a graying ponytail. Dan was intense and high strung, and Jenny was a short, busty curly haired brunette who didn't fit in no matter how hard she tried.

In the TV series, the Humphrey family aren't that different from the other families on this show. The dad Rufus, is much younger and hotter than in the books, a former rock star who once had a thing with Serena's mother. Jenny is a pretty blonde who wants to be a Blair clone and a fashion designer, and Dan is only slighly intense and high strung. They also live in a really cool loft in Brooklyn and Dad owns an art gallery.

Also in the books, Vanessa was practically bald, wore combat boots and was a budding film-maker who pretty much lived by herself in Greenpoint while her sister was off with her rock band (imagine Sinead O'Connor in high school). She and Dan have an intense relationship which he keeps screwing up by going off with other women. The Vanessa in the series is a pretty brunette who works for Rufus and who spent the entire summer putting in a coffee bar in his art gallery.

There's no real sense of the class distinctions between the characters anymore, that Vanessa, Dan and Jenny were really different from Blair, Chuck, Serena and Nate. Now everyone seems pretty much the same. Pretty people with problems. In the series Serena and Chuck are now step-brother and sister, whereas in the book Blair's mother is the one who remarries and her husband's son is a crunchy granola guy Aaron who was a vegan and was the total opposite of Blair.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the series, I think it's fun and light and fluffy but I miss the complexity of the books. But hey the books still live on the shelves and will probably continue to do so as the TV show goes on, so I can always dip back in when I feel the urge.

6 comments:

Amanda McCabe said...

LOL! I actually far prefer the show to the books--I so disliked the books (that omniscient POV was annoying, and the characters struck me as very cardboard, despite their superficial differences--maybe because we only heard them described and never really got into their heads. Plus Dan was whiny), that I only reluctantly gave the show a try. Now I love it, in an escapist way. :)

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

The IT Girl series which features Jenny Humphrey at boarding school is a much better than Gossip Girl IMHO, but I liked Jenny and Vanessa better in the books, particularly Vanessa who was somewhat normal. Yeah, Dan was kind of whiny in the books and Blair's Audrey Hepburn obsession got on my nerves. And what was the deal with Nate in the books bouncing between Blair and Serena and smoking so much pot?

Wait a minute, maybe I do like the TV series better.

Amanda McCabe said...

Wait a minute, maybe I do like the TV series better.

Tee hee! I haven't read the IT books, will have to check those out. I was astonished that Nate-in-the-books could even stand up straight (let alone have sex with Blair AND Serena AND other girls) after spending every minute toking up in the park. In the show he is still something of a tool, but not quite that dumb. :)

I agree that the parents in the books are better than the show parents, who are kind of boring (like pale imitations of their kids)

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I was hoping that the parents in the Gossip Girl series would be as interesting as the ones in the OC. How I miss Peter Gallagher's eyebrows and the trampy Julie Cooper. And the whole Duchess Beeton thing, did anyone research proper titles on this show?

Yeah, Nate was baked constantly in the books. I never understood what either Serena or Blair saw in him.

Amanda McCabe said...

"And the whole Duchess Beeton thing, did anyone research proper titles on this show?"

Oh, don't get me started on that! I was yelling at the screen every time they did that. Plus why would an English duke and duchess spend the entire summer in the Hamptons?

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I didn't get that either. I mean its one thing for Hugh Grant to spend time in the Hamptons, but I know of no English aristocrat who has a Hamptons house, particularly since England is so lovely in the summer. Wouldn't they be on one of their many estates? I'm going to guess that since Duchess Beeton is American, it was her idea to summer in the Hamptons.