It should have been no surprise to anyone that the new Gossip Girl reboot would have a focus on updating its social politics. Its predecessor debuted in 2007 to a very different social and political culture. The original had many close-to-the-edge and ethically questionable storylines, the cast was also almost exclusively white and the relationships nearly always heterosexual.
The show’s ‘woke’ rebranding seems to be one of its major selling points, with writer and executive producer Josh Safran tweeting that the main difference between this show and the last is that “the majority of characters [are] diverse and/or queer”’.
This is a welcome change for our high budget teen dramas, which – save a few exceptions – have rarely given us a truly diverse cast. The inclusion of these characters represents progress. It opens up space for more diverse characters to be the centre of the mainstream narrative, as opposed to the white and heterosexual being our main focus.
It also opens up high profile job opportunities for queer actors and actors of colour – and a hit teen shows like Gossip Girl 2021 can launch an actor into stardom – just look at the cast of Riverdale or Euphoria.
The purpose of these ‘woke’ reboots, aside from the obvious cash grab, seems to be an attempt to rehabilitate Hollywood’s image
Gossip Girl 2021 is just one part in a collective of recent ‘woke’ reboots, as Hollywood seems to be in the throes of a reboot culture. The purpose of these ‘woke’ reboots, aside from the obvious cash grab, seems to be an attempt to rehabilitate Hollywood’s image – a way of showing that the mainstream entertainment industry is able to keep up with the changing times.
However, despite the obvious good they do, the sentiment of these reboots is akin to this famously seedy industry slapping a plaster onto a broken leg, in that they’re good start, but nowhere near enough for Hollywood to be let off the hook.
Despite recent social movements such as ‘#MeToo’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’ making both the producer and consumer more aware of how they individually impact social change, awareness plays only a small part in securing the success of these movements.
It can feel unsettling when well-intentioned productions end up filling the pockets of unethical corporations.
Hollywood was made all too aware of the ‘#MeToo’ movement, and a few politically correct TV shows do not change the fact that many prolific abusers (Roman Polanski, Louis CK, Kevin Spacey, etc) are still able to live extremely comfortably due to the protection that the industry’s culture awarded them for many years.
There is also the argument that making something ‘woke’ for the sake of being woke is not progress and is instead the entertainment industry trying to pull the wool over the eyes of it’s consumers, all the while making no structural change. It can feel unsettling when well-intentioned productions end up filling the pockets of unethical corporations.
For example, the film Bombshell (a dramatised version of the sexual abuse scandal at Fox News with Roger Ailes) goes to profit the entertainment industry, arguably the most exposed during the ‘#MeToo’ movement. Specifically, Bombshell profits Lionsgate, and I dare you to google the words ‘Lionsgate Me Too’ and not find a chunk of allegations.
These diverse reboots could be considered the embodiment of two steps forward, one step back
Similarly, representation can stray into tokenism or sometimes feel like the entertainment industry sees diversity as a trend as opposed to an institutional issue. Occasionally, shows that are marketed as progressive end up being offensive or problematic in a different way – see Insatiable or Sierra Burgess is A Loser.
These diverse reboots could be considered the embodiment of two steps forward, one step back. On the one hand, they should be welcomed as the positive change that they are, but on the other, it’s hard to ignore the irony that surrounds them.
In-article images courtesy of @gossipgirl via instagram.com. No changes were made to these images.
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