For “Gossip Girl” and “Sex and the City” reboots to work, they must learn from the mistakes of the past
If the resurgence of popular fashion trends of the ’90s and 2000s hasn’t made it clear that this is the era of nostalgia, look no further than the much-publicized reboots of HBO’s “Sex and the City”. , which ran from 1998 to 2004, and The CW’s “Gossip Girl” from 2007 to 2013.
The “Gossip Girl” reboot is set to air next month, while the “Sex and the City” sequel series, titled “And Just Like That,” has yet to receive a release date. Both shows will pick up years after their original iterations ceased, although unlike “And Just Like That,” the new “Gossip Girl” will feature a whole new cast of actors and characters, attending the shows. same elite Upper East Côté private schools as their predecessors.
As two of New York’s most iconic TV franchises, the two reboots could be among the most anticipated new shows this year. But as they relaunch themselves in a political and cultural environment transformed since their first broadcast, the two shows have their work cut out for them not to make the same mistakes on race, class and other issues related to society. identity.
For those who haven’t watched the original “Gossip Girl,” which starred lead actors Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Penn Badgley, Chace Crawford and others, I’ll leave the series summary, from the time the show was on Netflix, speaks for itself: “Rich and unreasonably attractive students in private schools do horrible and outrageous things to each other. Over and over.” The reboot of “Gossip Girl” takes place these days, 13 years after the show was first broadcast, with a distribution of new faces, particularly more diversified face the elusive Gossip Girl in the age of social media.
As for the original “Sex and the City,” the classic HBO series followed the unfiltered love lives of four best friends in their 30s living in New York City, each with personalities so distinct that more than 20 years after the show was first broadcast, women around the world still identify as “Carries”, “Samanthas”, “Charlottes” or “Mirandas”. “And Just Like That” follows the shared friendship of women now that they are in their 50s – minus Samantha (Kim Cattrall), who hasn’t been so secretly in conflict with Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays Carrie, for years.
What worked 15 to 20 years ago, however, won’t necessarily work now – it means that it will be crucial for both reboots to reconsider how they previously portrayed issues of class, race, gender. and sexuality, and adapt to where we are today. Here are Salon’s hopes on how these shows can tailor reboots to our modern sensibilities.
Solve their class privilege issues
If either reboot is to succeed in an era of increasingly – and justified – anti-capitalist sentiment, resulting from massive and growing economic inequalities, they will need to thoroughly re-examine their class representations against their versions. original. The original “Gossip Girl” oddly functioned as both a scathing criticism and a perpetuation of class privilege, somehow mocking and condemning the exorbitant wealth of teens, while also calling the audience to sympathize with them. The whole premise of “Gossip Girl” is to give ordinary people a glimpse into the lives of problematic, ultra-wealthy young people, and it sure is. But there are a few issues the reboot should avoid – namely, portraying the rich doing horrible things and getting away with it as something we should be encouraging. Think: Serena van der Woodsen’s mother (Lively) avoids jail for lying that a boarding school raped Serena in season 4, or Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) dodging accountability for his creepy and predatory treatment of women and girls – whenever the main characters have used wealth, privilege, and connection to sidestep responsibility, this has been treated as something fans should celebrate.
Another glaring blind spot of the original “Gossip Girl” is the portrayal of the Humphrey family as poor and comparable, despite Dan (Badgley) and Jenny (Taylor Momsen) being the children of a former rockstar who can afford. a giant loft in Brooklyn. Hopefully the new “Gossip Girl” A) won’t glorify how economic privilege allows the ultra-rich to perpetually escape consequences, and B) accurately portray its symbolic middle-class figures as, in fact, class. average.
While “Sex and the City” wasn’t openly about class privilege, the show’s premise certainly wouldn’t be possible without it. Charlotte (Kristin Davis) comes from enormous generational wealth, while Carrie (Parker) simply has an unrealistic amount of money for a sex columnist in a weekly newspaper with some pretty silly shots. Carrie is sort of able to afford hundreds of designer shoes by writing one article a week. Hopefully “And Just Like That” will be more honest about the economic realities of working in the media and the infamous cost of living in New York City.
We need stories that meaningfully address racial identity
When it comes to race and representation, both shows are almost entirely white, a setup that is no longer tolerated in 2021. Although both reboots heralded the casting of several people of color, it will be crucial that the racial identities of these characters are explored in meaningful ways beyond just being best friends. For example, in “Gossip Girl,” Chuck and Nate (Crawford) both have relationships with Raina (Tika Sumpter), a black woman, but the implications of her identity in a predominantly white social scene are never even addressed. Likewise, Vanessa (Jessica Szohr), a main character in the early seasons, is biracial, and her racial identity in a world of white wealth is never explored either.
In “Sex and the City”, it’s simple: the show talks rich white women with rich white women problems. The few times the show does go for it are all scary – especially in Season 3, when Samantha says, “I don’t see color. I see conquests,” of a black man who interests her.
As Netflix’s adaptation of “Bridgerton” showed, putting more color characters onscreen doesn’t just happen in a vacuum, and how the series deals with race is also crucial to better portrayal. .
We need queer representation – and less problematic relationships, in general
On gender and sexuality, both original series are full of their own issues that they should be careful to avoid on reboots. “Sex and the City,” in particular, was repeatedly biphobic, with Carrie rejecting a male partner for being bisexual and dismissing bisexuality as a new trend among young people. Later, the women are shocked and disapprove of Samantha’s relationship with a woman, and even initially dismiss her as a ploy to get attention. In a Season 3 episode, Samantha mistreats and treats a group of black trans women in the neighborhood in a particularly excruciating way, supposedly for comedic effect. Meanwhile, the show’s only queer supporting characters are two wealthy white men who are essentially caricatures of ’90s and 2000s stereotypes about gay men.
To its credit, “Gossip Girl” portrays an openly gay main support character (Connor Paolo) who is fully embraced and supported by those around him, and has several normal and healthy romantic relationships. But to be fully up to the task at hand, the reboot of “Gossip Girl” would have to feature a weird identity and relationships beyond the Tangent – something its writers already promise to deliver. And, speaking of romance and relationships, I hope the reboot no longer romanticizes adult men and even teachers who are dating or dating high school kids this time around.
“Gossip Girl” and “Sex and the City” are two of the best-known and beloved shows of the late 90s and 2000s, synonymous with fashion, glamor and biting, witty dialogue. But both shows are also products of their time – an era of little or no quality portrayal of people of color and LGBTQ people. But today, amid increasingly murderous wealth inequalities, an uprising for racial justice, and a rapid proliferation of anti-trans laws, these franchises cannot afford to make the same mistakes. in their highly anticipated reboots.
“Gossip Girl” will begin airing on HBO Max on July 8. HBO has yet to announce a release date for “And Just Like That”.