Racism and the Male Gaze in Gossip Girl
By Madison Kelly, ‘24, Legal Studies Major
The popular series Gossip Girl follows a group of wealthy teenagers living on the upper East side with their families. They attend private school, buy expensive items, and tend to stay within their own tight-knit cliques that have been established through popularity and seniority. The main characters include Blair and Serena, two white women both spoiled by their rich parents, and Chuck, Nate, and Dan, who, likewise, have no trouble with money or issues with privilege considering they’re all white.
Although some may see no issue with a show portraying and following an all white cast, it tends to provide a minimal viewpoint that shows the world in a vastly different way than how a minority would see it. With that being said, it’s also important to note that the show is set in New York City, which has been nicknamed “The Melting Pot” due to the cultural and racial differences among the people who live there. The show fails to promote any other races or ethnicities, which seems quite peculiar considering the show’s setting. Furthermore, the struggles of the cast members scratch the surface level. Most of the issues are involving large sums of money that not many people in their teen years (which is the show’s main demographic that it appeals to) can relate to, along with dramatic relationship issues that few to none would experience at such an extreme level at a young age. This lessens the show’s relatability, and makes it more difficult for minorities and teens in general to feel that they can find similarities within their lives and the show.
Furthermore, the show emphasizes the male gaze. In the pilot episode of Gossip Girl, Chuck is talking to Nate about why he hasn’t “sealed the deal” with Blair yet. Throughout the entire conversation, Chuck insists that he has to, never regarding Blair’s thoughts or feelings regarding intimacy. Chuck then proceeds to say that Nate is “also entitled to tap that ass”, portraying Blair’s “ass” and body as property of Nate. The male gaze is prevalent in this example and also with the entirety of the show revolving around the male perspective. The narrator of the show (who is kept secret from the audience until the finale), is played by a woman’s voice, but the narration and thoughts are actually Dan’s. This means that any remark or explanation throughout the show are without input from a female. The producers also make sure to dress Blair and Serena very well, while highlighting their bodies in every shot taken. The pilot, in particular, introduces Blair to the show with a slow camera pan up her body, and then the camera angle changes to Nate eyeing Blair. The male gaze is present in the show, and it doesn’t allow women to be perceived in a way that doesn’t sexualize their bodies.
The topic of race and sexualizing women by a prominent male gaze are important factors to discuss when talking about a show like Gossip Girl. The show gained popularity and remains one of Netflix’s most popular shows, but it is necessary to discuss the drawbacks from watching a television show that has a blatant lack of diversity among the cast and disregard for the respect of women’s bodies.