Thursday, July 8, 2021

REVIEW: 'Gossip Girl' - Generations Clash Amongst the Elite in a New York City Private School in 'Just Another Girl on the MTA'

HBO Max's Gossip Girl - Episode 1.01 "Just Another Girl on the MTA"

As the school year begins for New York's elite, a new student at Constance St. Jude's finds herself thrust into the spotlight, while a mysterious presence threatens to shake the status quo.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of HBO Max's Gossip Girl.

"Just Another Girl on the MTA" was written by Joshua Safran and directed by Karena Evans

A group of spiteful, Millennial teachers decide to torment their Gen Z students in order to knock them down a couple pegs and regain the power that should inherently belong to them in the social hierarchy. That's the underlying thesis of this updated version of The CW drama. The original series from Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage was incredibly influential to the teen genre on television. It paid homage to the series that came before it. However, it offered something new that was uniquely its own thing. In turn, it inspired its own set of knockoffs in the genre. It's easy to see the DNA of the original Gossip Girl in other shows on HBO Max - like Generation and Euphoria. However, those examples in this space also set out to do things in their own way. They were influenced by what past creatives did in this realm while wanting to put their own stamp on these stories for a new generation. Those creative teams understood the assignment right away. Here, the show is banking on brand nostalgia without really putting in the effort to reflect on how society and technology has changed human interactions in the last decade. It certainly knows how to treat things with as much seriousness as possible. It doesn't properly give the camp all of this requires to work or the grounded human emotions to detail these characters right away. Instead, it's a bunch of nonsensical plot points barely collected together hoping that it makes sense for those who want to be devoted to this formula once more. The original series had Gossip Girl's identity as a mystery throughout its entire run. This version switches up the formula by revealing straight away who has decided to take up the mantle of this online persona gossiping about the scandalous lives of the privileged high school students in New York City. But again, the rationalization is completely insane. At one point, a teacher does note how creepy it feels to be photographing these kids in compromising positions in order to post about it online. That's the only recognition that all of this is enabling toxic behavior. Everyone comes across as a monstrous personality here. That too may highlight how so many people in the world are fundamentally immature and selfish. Kate just wants these students to appreciate her. She wants compliments from them. She sees how the system is rigged to protect the students no matter what. Whatever they demand, they get. It's no effort whatsoever. As such, their personal lives are much more engaging and meaningful to them. They don't care about school. It's all set in stone for them already. The teachers are completely disposable. Kate and her friends want to regain their power. They hope to shape young minds and create the next generation that is going to change the world. They do so by seeing the benefits of Gossip Girl in the past and hoping to set the same conflict as before. It's convenient that a narrative is already available and ready to be manipulated. But again, the show hardly makes it worthy to invest in how Julien and Zoya interact as half-siblings. That relationship is suppose to be so crucial as it frames how everyone else acts in the narrative. In reality, the upperclassman wouldn't really give that much thought to a new freshman at the school. Zoya has no real power in this environment. She is simply used to fulfill a narrative that helps others implement their agendas. That appropriation is significant because Zoya is also Black. That observation isn't important whatsoever though. Again, this show is obsessed with the idea of people shamelessly telling stories in order to control the narratives of others no matter what. It doesn't recognize the agency people must have over their own lives. That conflict should drive the story forward. But again, the show just figures these pieces are enough for a captivating story to be told with a new set of characters. It doesn't work that way. Nor is it good enough to extend a thought to representation and privilege for a brief moment. The show wants to enjoy things both ways. It wants to be celebrated for its diversity and its searing take on the toxicity of the privileged. It doesn't want to put in the work to actual critique these concepts though. As such, the show is ultimately about nothing. That emptiness is apparent right away. That makes it obvious to the viewer that it's not worth waiting around to see if something more develops. It's a clear swing and a miss. It's as simple as that. The production values are stunning. The streamer clearly spent a lot of money on this show to better depict this world. The casting and writing just fail to provide the narrative with engaging stories with layers. Not enough splashy visuals can cover up that fatal flaw.