Gossip Girl season 2: Biphobic and Reductive

Rating: 1 out of 5.

The second season of HBO Max’s Gossip Girl opens in the second semester of junior year, with all the Constance and St Jude students returning to the city after the holidays. Gossip Girl is apparently determined to leave no stone unturned this season while understanding just what her audience wants. The official plot synopsis released by HBO Max state that things will be heating up between Julien Calloway (Jordan Alexander) and Monet de Haan (Savannah Lee Smith) as well as how Gossip Girl can make her impact more catastrophic than it was before, even if it means lying to do it. During this semester, only one queen can rule over Constance and St Jude’s and threatens that by the end of the school year, everyone will know where the bodies are buried. 

It is almost impossible to avoid a comparison of this Gossip Girl series to the original. With a second series of a reboot and spin-off, you would assume the new series would finally find its footing and stand on its own. In some ways, it does, but for all the wrong reasons. The first season opens up with a debutant ball, focusing on Julien and Monet’s debut into society, a rite of passage shown through the original series though unlike the original series, HBO Max’s Gossip Girl uses this to perpetuate young women trying to bring each other down with a physical smack down that leaves much to be desired. Unfortunately, the debutant ball is not where the attempts at copying the original series end. Chuck Bass’s lost weekend of season one has been rebranded as a boy’s getaway, though not much is shown of the copy. Perhaps the writers knew that the attempt to copy the drama of the debutant balls of the original series failed spectacularly, so avoided a similar disaster of attempting to copy Chuck Bass’s lost weekend. Sadly, the new batch of writers for season two had not learned the harsh lessons of their first season. With low and mixed ratings for the first season, hiring new or inexperienced writers were not the best choices to make.

One of the main problems with this series is that it barely tries to recapture what made the original series such a success. From trying to manufacture a leader out of Monet by having the character compare herself to Blair Waldorf, the terrible writing almost makes it feel as if it’s an insult to the very person Monet aspired to be. In the original series, Blair and Serena did not need to literally force people to bow or force a dress code (headbands aside) to assert their power within the school and even some corners of New York’s elite society. In this new world of Gossip Girl, it all feels small, confined to a phone screen instead of society itself. The only hint of the same clever sabotage that the original series had is short-lived, though is orchestrated by a character with little screentime.

The only glimmer of hope for a somewhat interesting character is Luna La (Zion Moreno). While, like the rest of the cast, her acting needs a lot of improvement, the character is the only one who shows any true cunning that made a lot of people love watching Blair Waldorf in the original series. Luna is still stuck in the serving role while other characters like Julien and Monet try to lead but don’t seem to grasp what it takes to lead a school and eventually, elite society. The writers should have given more screen time and agency to Luna and even Max Wolfe (Thomas Doherty) to a certain extent. It would be nice if Max’s main agenda weren’t just to have sex and do drugs, but anything other than two-dimensional characters seems a little out of the writer’s wheelhouse.

There was so much promise for this reboot to be more inclusive with their story lines and they had the opportunity to tell more queer stories, as the creator and executive producer promised. Yes, there are more queer stories, but the second season does not shy away from derogatory comments on the bisexual and asexual community. From minor characters almost coercing another to have sex with them otherwise they will tell the new Gossip Girl “they have gone ace” to another saying a bisexual character isn’t truly bisexual and that bisexuality does not it exist, it simply had a “good publicist” is not only extremely wrong and offensive to those within the LGBTQ+ community, but it’s dangerous that it is coming from a show that is apparently celebrating being inclusive of a queer community. If it was all about being inclusive, I don’t think this is how Gossip Girl or Safran should go about these things.

This new season of Gossip Girl is lost. It hasn’t found its footing, but it has found its biphobia and weak writing identity. Rather than expanding on characters and plot lines, it’s clear that this new season is confused as to who to focus on and lacks the outsider view that Dan brought in the original series. Each episode feels repetitive, with things that are too easily resolved or put to bed; even the return of Georgina Sparks (Michelle Trachtenberg) can’t save this show. The original series celebrated New York, using the iconic city as part of its plot and characters. There seems to be no such thing as the New York Elite Society within this world. Now, it is just focused on Instagram screen shots that it all feels lost and repetitive.

Luna La takes the title of MVC, she is the only character that has any hint of agency outside of Instagram is one of the only characters that are truly a friend to others. It may have been better to expand on Luna than the messy relationships of the teachers going after the students.

Episodes 1-5 were given for review.

The second season of the Max Original GOSSIP GIRL debuts THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1.


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