African-American, female leads in HBO Max’s reboot of Gossip Girl feel like a public relations move to drive stories and online chatter. I see you — creative team — you know that African-Americans are culture and as a group that has been systematically stolen from, pushing these women for maximum optics seems very, very American.
Not taking anything away from the original Gossip Girl because that bold series opened the doors for shows like Elite (Netflix), Generation (HBO Max), and Euphoria (HBO Max), the latter being one of the best television series that I’ve ever seen on addiction.
But back to the unrealistic world of the revamped Gossip Girl, where two, young women of color are used as visual props with much of the same creative team for the original series returning, including showrunner Joshua Safran and original series co-creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage. The journey might feel familiar since Gossip Girl takes us back to Constance Billard, where privileged students (mostly, White) are rigorously trained to follow their parents as titans of industry with enough wealth and juicy gossip to earn a story in Vanity Fair and frequent items dropped in Page Six.
Every high school story about bullies needs a rising star and this school’s Queen Bee is Julien (Jordan Alexander, https://www.instagram.com/thejordanalexander/?hl=en), a stunning, bi-racial Instagram superstar and daughter of a music industry mogul (Luke Kirby,). Julien is locked in a love relationship with an uber-wealthy young man, Obie (Eli Brown) who appears to be “woke” with an honest-to-goodness conscience.
Oh, he’s White, FYI, their crew includes Monet (Savannah Smith, @ssavannahsmith ) who is African-American, Luna (Zion Moreno)
Audrey (Emily Alyn Lind), who’s in a rather boring but loving, monogamous relationship with Aki (Evan Mock), and pansexual Max Wolfe (Thomas Doherty).
A high school is a prime place for drama and it begins with the arrival of Zoya (Whitney Peak, @WhitneyPeak), the African-American new girl from Buffalo. Spoiler alert, Julien and Zoya are half-sisters. So, the question looms, will the two get along, or will they ignite WWIII that will, eventually, tear the community into tiny, bite-sized pieces?
In the original series, the magic that kept the series afloat was the question, “Who Is Gossip Girl?” Fast-forward to the 2021 reboot and the question is — “What Is Gossip Girl?”
Set in a world where social media plays a tool to social contact and is the gateway to money and a kind of fame, you find yourself wishing that they had the answers, which they don’t. But maybe they don’t want that kind of responsibility, after all, they live in a world built by New York intelligentsia where pop culture is like gas for a moving car.
It’s an interesting choice to set the reboot in a post-COVID world just as the kids are returning to in-person schooling after a year of virtual classrooms. They skirt diving into how the isolation impacted their world. The writing is smart and although most of the key characters are still under 18, there are enough bit and love triangles to keep 20 and 30-year-olds engaged. There is the required eye candy in the casting and it’s very much up to CW standards.
“Gossip Girl” — the original—set the tone for a sexy experience full of gossip, bullies, and more. As for the rebooted HBO Max’s “Gossip Girl,” with three African-American girls in the mix, I do have hope that the series will dare to go deeper.