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Does the world really need a “woke” Gossip Girl reboot?

The original Gossip Girl debuted 14 years ago and quickly became a cultural phenomenon.

The original Gossip Girl debuted 14 years ago and quickly became a cultural phenomenon.

Now the show is back with a brand new cast and brand new storyline, along with promises of more politically correct storylines. But do we need a new version of the show in 2021? And is it even any good?

To answer these questions, and more, New York City based culture writer Tara Kenny joins the show.

 

Guest: Tara Kenny, culture writer and contributor to The Saturday Paper.

Show Transcript

OSMAN:
Hey there, I'm Osman Faruqi and welcome to The Culture, a weekly show from Schwartz Media, where we take a deep dive into the latest in the world of music, streaming, TV, film and everything in arts and entertainment. Back when I was a teenager, around 16 or 17, this song was my ringtone.

Archival Tape -- Henry Mancini:
“Moon River”

It’s Moon River, and you might recognise it because it famously features in the soundtrack of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Archival Tape -- Henry Mancini:
“Moon River”

OSMAN:
But as much as I appreciate Audrey Hepburn, that’s not actually the reason it was my ringtone. It was actually because that film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s was the favourite film of my favourite TV character at the time… Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf.

Archival Tape -- Henry Mancini:
“Moon River”

OSMAN:
So yeah, you could say I was a little bit obsessed with this show. But it wasn’t just me! The show was a cultural phenomenon, it spanned six seasons and it redefined what teen dramas looked like.

Now the show is back. It’s been rebooted. There’s a brand new cast and a brand new storyline.

But as fun and impactful as the original Gossip Girl was… do we really need a new version in 2021? And maybe more importantly is it actually any good?

To help me answer these questions today on the show is Tara Kenny, a culture writer based in New York City, of course the home of Gossip Girl. Tara, thanks for joining me on *The Culture*.

TARA:
Hi, thanks for having me. Good to be here. 

OSMAN:
Tara you wrote a really smart review of the rebooted Gossip Girl for *The Saturday Paper*. But before we get into the new one, let’s talk about the original. For a generation of millennials including me, and I think you, at the time it was quite influential. Just how significant was it?

TARA:
So the original Gossip Girl was actually based on a YA book series by a woman called Cecily von Ziegesar, I don't know if I'm saying that correctly, but it's a very Gossip Girl name, a very Serena Van Der Woodsen sort of name. So basically, she grew up in the real life version of the Gossip Girl universe; so she is an American woman, but she is from a German noble family and she attended a school in New York called Nightingale Bamford, which she has said, um, was the inspiration for Constance Billard and St Jude’s, which are, they’re fictional, um, schools in Gossip Girl. So basically, these books were New York Times best sellers. They were super popular.

Archival Tape -- Gossip Girl audiobook:
“Hey people, ever wondered what the lives of the chosen ones are really like? Well, I’m going to tell you because I’m one of them.”

TARA:
You know, it's presented there that it is this very sort of like sexy and salacious version of what it's like to be an uber rich teenager in Manhattan. 

Archival Tape -- Gossip Girl audiobook:
“We’re smart, we’ve inherited classic good looks, we wear fantastic clothes, and we know how to party. Our shit still stinks, but you can’t smell it because the bathroom is sprayed hourly by the maid with a refreshing scent made exclusively for us by French perfumeries. It’s a luxe life, but someone’s gotta live it.”

TARA:
So when it became a show, it was kind of similar to shows like Beverly Hills 90210, The O.C. and the British Skins, which also came out in 2007. So it did kind of push the envelope of like what is acceptable to show teenagers doing on TV, and especially because it was on broadcast television, because it was like pre streaming services.

Archival Tape -- Gossip Girl TV series:
“Look Blair, I’m really trying to make an effort here, I thought everything was good between us.”

Archival Tape -- Gossip Girl TV series:
“It was...before I found out you had sex with my boyfriend.”

Archival Tape -- Gossip Girl TV series:
“...how’d you find out.”

TARA:
After the first season aired, there were all these complaints from parent advocacy groups and Christian groups in America that were sort of complaining about how it was inappropriate for teenagers to be watching it in the way that it portrayed teenagers was inappropriate. 

Archival Tape -- Gossip Girl TV series:
“...I just got scared that if things moved too fast, things weren’t going to work out, and I really don’t want that to happen because I’ve waited. I’ve waited a really long time for this.”

Archival Tape -- Gossip Girl TV series:
“Me too.”

TARA:
And I think this is actually like such a stroke of genius. But the Gossip Girl marketing people repurposed those complaints and used them as advertising. So they had like billboards. And Blake Lively, who plays Serena Van Der Woodsen, in her underwear on a billboard and then like emblazoned across it like ‘a parent's worst nightmare’, ‘mind blowingly inappropriate’, ‘very bad for you’. But yeah, I think it's also just like an incredibly fun and watchable show when I felt like, you know, as I rewatched it recently, um, you do really become just like so invested in it, invested in their world quickly. And the main characters are like super compelling. 

Archival Tape -- Gossip Girl TV series:
“Blair, think we could meet tonight?”

Archival Tape -- Gossip Girl TV series:
“I’d love to, but I’m doing something with Nate tonight...”

Archival Tape -- Gossip Girl TV series:
“The Palace, 8 o’clock?”

Archival Tape -- Gossip Girl TV series:
“...Nate will wait.”

Archival Tape -- Gossip Girl TV series:
“...spotted on the steps of the Met, and S and B power struggle…”

TARA:
The show did sort of have this big crossover with fashion and celebrity culture. Apparently by the end of it, fashion houses like Chanel were like sending them clothes because everyone wanted to dress Blair. And there are like a bunch of crazy cameos throughout the show. So people like Jared and Ivanka Kushner, um, which is an interesting choice now. 

Archival Tape -- Gossip Girl TV series:
“Thank you Jared, and thank you Ivanka for marrying Jared and giving someone else a chance to win bachelor this year.”

TARA:
Lady Gaga, Hilary Duff, Alexa Chung, um, Liz Hurley. 

Archival Tape -- Gossip Girl TV series:
“Liz Hurley cameo”

TARA:
And one interesting thing that actually happened in the real world is...so in 2012, when it was towards the end of the show to celebrate 100 episodes. Mike Bloomberg, who was then the Mayor of New York, he went to the set of Gossip Girl and proclaimed that January 26th in New York was now Gossip Girl Day. There's a very like, hilarious, cursed image that I found on the Internet of him wearing this Gossip Girl t-shirt. 

Archival Tape -- Michael R. Bloomberg:
“Now, therefore I, Michael R. Bloomberg, the Mayor of the City of New York, do hereby proclaim Thursday January 26th 2012, in the City of New York, as Gossip Girl Day. Congratulations.”

TARA:
And basically he was just like celebrating the fact that Gossip Girl had boosted tourism to New York City and that he said the economic impact could be felt in like all across the five boroughs. And it was basically this soft power foreign policy tool, which I find fascinating.

Archival Tape -- Michael R. Bloomberg:
“But I am interested in finding out who the real Gossip Girl is - Serena’s cousin maybe? I don’t know. I mean, I just- you know. Enquiring minds want to know. And I just don’t see how Blair can marry Prince Louis, when she’s so clearly in love with Chuck…”

OSMAN:
Yeah it certainly boosted sales of frozen yoghurt near the steps of the Met. I have a lot of embarrassing photos on my Instagram of me recreating some of the, I'm definitely like talking way too much, and revealing way too much about my obsession with the show, but umm...

TARA:
I love it, I love it.

OSMAN:
I want to talk a bit about the context in which the show premiered back in 2007 in terms of TV. It was executive produced by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, who were most well known for doing The O.C.

Archival Tape -- Phantom Planet:
“California here we come, right back where we started from…”

OSMAN:
In a lot of ways Gossip Girl was similar to the O.C., it was a teen drama dealing with high school stress and relationships. But it really took the wealth thing to another level. The O.C. was, obviously, set in Orange County in California. The home of the 1% but when we got to Gossip Girl and the Upper East Side of Manhattan, we’re talking about like the 0.1%. So tell me how a show like that comes about and why we cared about it?

TARA:
Yeah, so I think in pop culture at that time, so gossip blogs like TMZ and Perez Hilton, they were really big. And they covered like you know different celebrity culture, but in particular these young women like this kind of ‘it girl’. So Mischa Barton, who was Marissa in The O.C. and Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, people like that. So they, um, kind of just like followed their escapades. And I guess also really kind of like terrorised those girls in a way. But yeah, I think of that sort of ilk, Paris Hilton, as a celebrity who is just like such a big phenomenon in 2007. I think she is quite, um, an interesting entry point to sort of like examine where the culture was at, at that point. 

OSMAN:
Yeah, and that's interesting. Those parallels you draw between people like her and Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie, you know, even Gossip Girl even goes as far as to having like actual hotel heirs in the show, you know, the children of people who are in a hotel franchises, the children of people who are extremely famous musicians or actors. And it does seem when you put it like that to be, you know, a pretty obvious attempt to lean into that kind of cultural moment, where they were the figures that were dominating our magazines, our gossip blogs, our news stories and I guess...that sort of made sense back in 2007?

TARA:
I think it does reflect… like economically I do feel like obviously there was still a lot of inequality in 2007 it wasn't so much part of the zeitgeist. I don't feel like inequality was necessarily something that was like so much at the forefront of, like, cultural awareness. Yeah I feel like now there's just like such a big divide between like the 1% and the rest of the world. And there's also just much more awareness of that and much more anger directed towards the rich. So, yeah, I think, Gossip Girl then versus now, was going to have to be a bit different. 

OSMAN:
Let's talk about why, because two very significant events occurred in 2007. The first is obviously the debut of the TV show Gossip Girl, and the second is the global financial crisis. Some would say the two pivotal events of 2007. And even though the start of the financial crisis was 2007, it took a few years for the full ramifications of that to be felt. I think for us to really understand how much this was restructuring the economic order and how much worse inequality was going to get, particularly for younger people in America, I think. So, we were able to sort of like still be, I think, voyeuristically into the idea of a show like Gossip Girl, even though the world was sort of collapsing around us. We were kind of able to put that aside for a second. It didn't seem like things were going to get that bad and watch the, you know, 0.1% of Manhattan splash around their money and have a great time, but what is it like looking back on the show now?

TARA:
I was definitely initially watching, um, watching all of it like to the end definitely in a more like, aspirational way and, being like. This is amazing. I would definitely like to swap places with Blair and like be her, but yeah, I feel like watching it now and just general cultural attitude, I feel like now with some. Yeah, there's a lot more like anger towards the uber wealthy, and I feel like it's more maybe considered just embarrassing to have that much money and, you know, I think most people want to like feel like they'll have, like, secure housing for the rest of their life, but not necessarily be able to go into space. You know what I mean?

OSMAN:
After the break we’ll take a look at what exactly the new Gossip Girl is about.

[ADVERTISEMENT]

OSMAN:
So Tara when I first heard about the reboot of Gossip Girl my initial reaction was...kind of like deep scepticism, but even beyond that, just like bewilderment, because I think I was unwilling to accept that I was old enough. Now that show that I watched as a teenager was being rebooted, I thought, this is why we reboot shows from like decades ago. Like, no, actually, Gossip Girl actually came out 14 years ago. Yeah. And so when I put that aside, I thought, OK, well, yeah, even when I had last rewatched Gossip Girl a few years ago, it didn't quite land for me in the same sort of flippant way. I just didn't care about these rich people. I was kind of more mad at them than I was then. How did you feel hearing the news that it was going to be rebooted? And what do you think was actually driving the desire to reboot it?

TARA:
I feel like executives maybe know that they do have a built in audience, like people who grew up watching- who probably will tune in. And then I also sort of feel like if they're, especially with the Gossip Girl since it was- so it was on HBO and in the States that they knew that they would have like a much, much more money thrown at it and much bigger budgets and that they'd be able to just, like, go really large with the production values and kind of just see how big that could go with the world versus the first, the original Gossip Girl didn't have that much money. So I feel like that was probably quite an enticing thing for the people making it.

OSMAN:
Yeah. And in terms of some of the first teasers that we got when the creators started talking about it, they were really emphasising this idea that, like, we made a mistake last time, you know, it was too white, it was too privileged. There wasn't enough like representation of diversity, of cultural or racial diversity, of diverse sexualities. And we're going to change that. Tell me about what we started to hear from them.

TARA:
Yeah, well, I think one of the first things that came out, they were like, teaser photos that came out when they were filming, which was like the new, the new central clique who were like sitting on the steps. So obviously that was like the hang out of Blair and Serena in the original. 

Half of the actors were people of colour and just like the whole aesthetic was much less, much less Upper East Side. So there's like shaved heads in there, there’s like somebody carrying a tote with, like, an activist slogan on it. Balenciaga sneakers, no headbands in sight. Yeah, I feel like it actually has more like downtown New York, sort of East Village, fashion set sort of vibe compared to what the aesthetics of the original were. 

Yeah. And then also, Josh Safran, so he's the creator of the new Gossip Girl. He was doing some interviews before it came out. And he, he, he also sort of emphasised that the new characters would be more aware of their privilege and that they would try and glamorise well, less in the show and that they wouldn't be any slut shaming or cat fights, quote unquote. And I think, yeah, I feel like people responded by being like a question mark, question mark, like the whole premise of the show was like teenagers being mean to each other and teenagers being super disconnected. And obviously, I think it just inherently did glamorise wealth on some level because it's like really beautiful people who are really rich. So, yeah, I feel like people were a bit like what? What else is there?

OSMAN:
Tara, let’s take a minute to lay out the premise of the new series. It’s set in the same universe as the original Gossip Girl, so I guess that makes it more of a sequel than a reboot in that sense?

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl trailer:
“Our group of friends have known each other since we were babies. We have trust and history.”

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl trailer:
“We own this school.”

TARA:
It's set in the same school, so it's a fictional school called Constance Billard and St. Jude's. So it's this prep school on the Upper East Side. And so basically, it's like the next generation of kids at this school. So, the central conflict thus far four episodes in, is a character called Julien. So she's a social media influencer and she sort of the queen bee of the school. And then there's her estranged half sister, Zoya. Basically, um, they they have the same mum who actually passed away in childbirth and they have different dads who hate each other, and the plot thus far is that Zoya was living out of New York City and the girls basically connected online and then like masterminded this plan for Zoya to come to Constance Billard on a scholarship so that they could be like reunited and be a family. And basically very early on, they kind of butt heads. 

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl trailer:
“She is a stranger who has found herself in your friend group.”

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl trailer:
“With your boyfriend?”

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl trailer:
“I promised I would stay away from any drama.”

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl trailer:
“Did you miss me? I know I’ve missed you.”

TARA:
They have a falling out over Obie, who is Julian's boyfriend. Basically, he's like the richest of them, the guilty rich, they call him. So he's like the super rich kid who has like more leftist politics and feels guilty about his wealth and sort of feels like it alienated him from people. So, yeah, they have him talking about how he's like picketed his real estate parents development, and does engage in like different social justice stuff. But I do feel like the show kind of presents him as like, this like, good rich kid character in a way that's like weirdly uncomplicated.

OSMAN:
Mm. And one constant source of tension throughout the first series, the original series was “Who is Gossip Girl?”. It was eventually revealed to be Dan Humphrey’s, one of the main characters in the series. It’s become a bit of a meme that fact makes absolutely no sense. There’s lots of funny video mashups on YouTube of all the scenes that clearly prove there’s no way Dan could have been Gossip Girl. But this time time things are different. We actually know who Gossip Girl is straight away. It’s this group of teachers at the school who are trying to reign in these rich kids. So Tell me about that?

TARA:
Yeah, yeah, I know it's a spoiler, but it's kind of not a spoiler because it's literally like, um, put out there so quickly in the first episode. So, yeah, I feel like the teachers are kind of an interesting device. So basically the dynamic is that, um, these teachers at the school are like quite underpaid and they, like, overworked. They wear chain store clothes like H&M and Zara, and they're basically like very fed up by being bossed around by these kids and also by their parents.

TAPE: TEACHERS OF GOSSIP GIRL MONTAGE

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl:
“Which one of them should I get fired next?”

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl:
“What did you just say?”

--

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl:
“Put it away.”

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl:
“It just looks like she’s texting.”

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl:
“On parent teacher night? That’s even worse. Last time, Alec Baldwin confiscated my phone. I never got it back.”

--

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl:
“People like Nate were scared straight.”

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl:
“How?”

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl:
“Yeah, I’d try anything at this point.”

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl:
“It was this thing that started freshman year. Called itself Gossip Girl.”

--

TARA:
I actually feel like this is quite an interesting dynamic. And, um, I feel like it, it feels believable, like something that teachers at a school like that, where maybe they come from a very different social background to the kids that they're teaching that they maybe would have like this resentment. And, I mean, I feel like it again, like as it didn't make sense for Dan to be Gossip Girl. I don't think it logically makes sense for the teachers to be like these kids, I mean, to us. So let's like stalk them and take photos of them and put it on like this Instagram account. And like that will make them be nice to us. Um, yeah, I feel like maybe the setup kind of makes sense, but I don't feel like the behaviour does make any sense. But for me I think the first Gossip Girl was like extremely chaotic and it is like ultimately quite soap opera-y. So for me, I think it's quite an interesting entry point and entertaining idea and it doesn't really bother me that it's like not super realistic.

OSMAN:
We’ll be back after this quick break.

[ADVERTISEMENT]

OSMAN:
Ok so Tara we’ve sort of been dancing around the main question here… and I know it’s perhaps a bit reductive but… is the new Gossip Girl actually good? Does it work?

TARA:
I didn't hate it, but, yeah, I think I mean, I really wanted it to be, I wanted it to be good so badly. And I do feel like if you have a nostalgia for the first one, I think it's worth watching it. But, yeah, I do feel like people sort of often dismiss, like the sort of soapy, like frothy TV shows like or just being really trashy. But yeah, I do feel like there is a difference between, like, good trash and bad trash. And, um, it's kind of like I think Dolly Parton when she said, it's very expensive to look this cheap. I sort of feel like that's like the vibe of this show, that it's like you might think it would be easy to make this sort of fun light show. Um, but I actually don't think it is. And unfortunately, yeah I don't really feel like this Gossip Girl is the good kind of trash, to me.

OSMAN:
I mean, it's really you mentioned the production values and the fact that HBO is making this one, unlike the CW, uh, in the first iteration. And the money is very obvious, like there's a much bigger cast. Some of the set design and production choices are quite magnificent, like there's some set pieces that are just, you know, very well done. But it all feels a little bit hollow. I think like perhaps the most vicious thing you can say about a show like this is that it can't be boring and it kind of is boring. I don't really care enough about any of the characters and the drama that they get themselves into. It's so low stakes. You think back to the first version of the show...All the characters were absurd, weird kind of caricatures, but they look like Blair Waldorf is a fascinating character. There's depth to her. You know, there's lots of layers to it. Whether you like her or don't like her, there's complexity there. And I think even Serena, the way that she enters that - you watch the pilot of Gossip Girl and you're like, this is actually a master class in how to make television and how to introduce a range of characters. Are you laughing at me? Well, I mean it seriously. It's just, it's just really well done to introduce characters, introduce tension and set up plot lines and devices that will play out over six seasons. And you kind of care about them. I just don't care about these guys. And when they get into drama, I'm bored by it.

TARA:
Yeah, I mean, I agree and I sort of feel like it seems like they don't even care about it seems like they don't even care about it. The characters in this, also don't really care about the drama that they're participating in. And, yeah, I think that makes it hard for the audience to care. You know, between Julian and Zoya, them kind of like tepidly fighting for this mantle of Queen Bee. I think they even explicitly say, when it sort of becomes clear that like there’s romantic interest between, um, Zoya and Obie, Julian's minion - who I actually really like them - Monet and Luna, um, one of them says you've got to do something about this and like stop this from happening. And Julian's like, oh no, I don't do hierarchy's. Um, yeah. And it sort of feels like well what is Gossip Girl without hierarchy. What is high school without hierarchy's?

OSMAN:
You know, it's almost like they're trying to embody or express a kind of politics that is completely antithetical to the purpose of a show like this. 

TARA:
Yeah, yeah. 

OSMAN:
Do you think enough of it is? I think that's the other thing that I feel like the first iteration was at least slightly self-aware, like they knew that some of the things that were doing, some of the plotlines involving people just being killed was very like knowing, in that people would sort of be into it, but also laugh at it. I feel like there's a lack of self-awareness about this show and it almost would have been aided by being maybe more satirical or sharper. So rather than this projection of, you know, quote unquote wokeness from its very privileged characters, just being like something that was supposed to believe they really care about and they’re earnest about, and we should reward them for it instead, making it more like, ‘Oh, OK, cool, so they're projecting this stuff’. Obie says that he hates rich people and gentrification. He stands with the workers. But isn't don't we all know that guy? Don't we all know a rich white kids who pretend to be on the right side and on and there's just no interrogation of that. Whereas to me, that is actually potentially quite a compelling show.

TARA:
Yeah, totally, I feel like the first one was...it definitely glamorised wealth. But it also did it also did it like present wealthy people in a way that was like kind of funny and sort of self-aware, like, for example. So Carter Baizen, the character that you mentioned, played by Sebastian Stan before. So he is like this great character who is a rich kid. And then basically, like early on in the original Gossip Girl, he rejects his trust fund and you kind of meet him after he's come back from this big, like, backpacking journey around the world. And he's got very like Thai fisherman’s pants and crystal energy. And I feel like this is like a really funny kind of archetype of a rich kid. And even like Melbourne private school kids who are obsessed with Rainbow Serpent or you know something like that. I feel like we all kind of know a Carter Baizen. 

OSMAN:
And look I’ve probably been more cynical than you about this show, so do you want to tell me about some of the stuff that you think was actually interesting and perhaps more exciting about it?

TARA:
Yes, for sure. So, so one plot point that I really liked was so the character of Max, I'm not sure if I've mentioned him already, but he's basically this like pansexual party boy who's always up for a good time, very hedonistic. And he, he has two gay dads. And one of them is called Gideon, who's like this amazing character, who I, who I love. So he's basically like a super camp man who wears these, like, really amazing high fashion, like transsexual outfits. And I feel like he ,um, sort of serves the purpose of like replacing some of the trophy wife characters. So somebody like Julie Cooper and The O.C. or Lily Van Der Woodsen in the original Gossip Girl of these sort of glamorous trophy wife mums. And there's an interesting narrative with he and his husband, who is more of a traditionally masculine sort of gay guy, basically there's this tension in their relationship because over the course of their marriage, Gideon has become like more femme and not necessarily like identity shift, but just like presenting himself as more kind of feminine, like playing with femininity and sort of gender fluidity. And his husband really doesn't like that. 

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl TV series:
“Oh, there’s never an entrance he didn’t make.”

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl TV series:
“Or a corset he didn’t cinch.”

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl TV series:
“Oh this old McQueen.”

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl TV series:
“Your, uh, your hair is different.”

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl TV series:
“Serg gave me a blowout, you like?”

Archival Tape -- New Gossip Girl TV series:
“It’s, um, it’s voluminous.”

TARA:
So, yeah, I feel like the character of Gideon is an example of the new Gossip Girl, like expanding the boundaries of like who is considered aspirational in this universe in a way that feels like exciting and feels like more what you would want a Gossip Girl to be doing in 2021.

OSMAN:
So I feel like what we're talking about really when it comes to Gossip Girl, what it is perhaps not landing and what it needs to land to be a show about rich people in 2021 is to be more knowing, to be sharper, to to be a bit more self aware, rather than trying to tick some boxes and satisfy the public that it's actually engaging with politics now when it really isn't. I mean, do you think that there's other stuff out there that is doing a better job of what Gossip Girl seems to be trying to do?

TARA:
Yes, so I think the show Succession is a really interesting portrayal of rich people in rich people today, basically, and I think they do a really good job of like, showing these people who are in these very beautiful and aspirational settings. And, you know, the show is also really high production values and very beautifully shot. But I don't think anybody wants to be Kendall Roy. I'm speaking for myself. Yeah, maybe you do. But I don't think you want to be Kendall Roy or Siobhan or know these characters are basically like fools and Kendall Roy, like this kind of fail fun character who is like desperately seeking his father's love and is basically just like pathetic and embarrassing to his family and to everyone else. And then the character of Siobhan is sort of also a really interesting portrayal of a rich person she's trying to girl boss her way out of taking responsibility for, like, the horror of the machinery of her family and the impact that they're having on the world. So I feel like that's a good way of showing like wealthy people in a way that is really funny. And it's kind of providing an interesting critique. But it doesn't feel like moralising to me. And I think if you compare that to this new Gossip Girl, it sort of feels like maybe they're like, OK, we're going to showcase diversity, which is great. We're going to like show liberal and progressive politics. But I do think it sort of comes off as like a bit condescending and clumsy. There's a lack of, like, ambiguity and maybe they think that we want to see these rich characters who are like self-aware and trying to be really good people. But I think, yeah, we actually maybe want to see more of a commentary on the hypocrisy of these people who are like trying to present themselves with something that they're not. Yeah, I feel like we want a bit more of a wink rather than like being knocked over the head with how progressive the show is.

OSMAN:
Tara, that's a really fantastic way to end the conversation. Thank you so much for talking to me this week.

TARA:
Thanks so much for having me. That was really fun.

OSMAN:
Thanks for listening to the show, The Culture will be back in your feeds next week, as usual.

 

The Culture is a weekly show from Schwartz Media.

 

It's produced by Bez Zewdie and Atticus Bastow, Our editor-in-chief is Erik Jensen, and our theme music is by Hermitude.

 

I’m Osman Faruqi, see ya next week.

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Image of Laure Calamy as Julie in À plein temps (Full Time), directed by Eric Gravel

Venice International Film Festival 2021 highlights

Films by Eric Gravel, Bogdan George Apetri and Gábor Fabricius are among the stand-outs in a program of unusual abundance

Image of Covid-19 vaccines

Dissent horizon

Why do we object more to mandated vaccination than mandated lockdowns?

Detail of cover image from ‘Nostalgia Has Ruined My Life’, showing a woman’s head resting on a pillow

Living to regret: ‘Nostalgia Has Ruined My Life’

With an exasperating but charming protagonist, Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle’s episodic novella demonstrates faultless comic timing