Face it, African American people are a culture in the United States. We are cool because we are, so I understand why there are several African American female leads in HBO Max’s reboot of “Gossip Girl.”
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 about the topic of 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, www.instagram.com/thejordanalexander/?hl=en), a stunning, biracial Instagram superstar and daughter of a music industry mogul (Luke Kirby). Julien is locked in a love relationship with an uber-wealthy white young man, Obie (Eli Brown) who appears to be “woke” with an honest-to-goodness conscience.
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?
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 bits 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 HBO Max’s reboot, with three African American girls in the mix, I do have hope that the series will dare to go deeper.