Trigger warning: self-abuse
In “Blair Waldorf Must Pie!”, from season 1 episode 9 of Gossip Girl, viewers are introduced to Blair’s struggle with bulimia. Earlier in the episode, Blair and her mother fight about her dad’s absence at their annual Thanksgiving dinner. Blair’s mother’s harsh words significantly upsets her, causing her to eat a whole pie and become sick afterwards. In this scene, Serena (one of Blair’s close friends) comforts Blair as they discuss the issues affecting her eating disorder and her mother’s insistence on maintaining a certain appearance.
In the article “Sex and the City and Consumer Culture”, Jane Arthurs discusses the negative side effects of the “bourgeois bohemian” culture she describes in her essay. Gossip girl is a classic example of TV show success arising from “it’s ability to ‘re-mediate’ the familiar forms of the television sitcom and the glossy women’s magazine” (Arthurs 41). Like Sex and the City, Gossip girl also addresses and depicts “affluent, white women” and is a show in which “women’s sexual pleasure and agency are frankly encouraged as a part of a consumer lifestyle and attitude” (Arthurs 44). The show mainly revolves around Blair and Serena as they manage their families and relationships along with their high fashion lifestyle. Blair and Serena’s friendship is similar to the characters of Sex and the City in the way that “their shared culture of femininity offers an alternative to heterosexual dependence” (Arthurs 45).
While neither Blair or Serena are often pictured as single in the show, they also treat their men as “branded goods” and almost in a disposable manner. Much of Blair’s and Serena’s popularity and success in the fashion industry can be attributed to their appearance which prompts viewers to question (as Hilary Radner does) “the extent to which women’s worth resides in her looks” (Arthurs 46). This importance of appearance and lifestyle in “bourgeois bohemian” shows leads to characters who are insecure about their body image and may influence them to take drastic action like Blair does.
Despite the characters’ fractured relationships with their friends, family, and significant others and mostly dysfunctional lives, the show had a considerable impact on the retail marketplace. In the article “Forget Gossip, Girl; the Buzz Is About the Clothes”, author Ruth La Ferla along with Amy Astley, editor of Teen Vogue, explains how the show “ignited ‘a pretty huge resurgence of ritzy, preppy and collegiate looks’”, a point which is further reinforced by interviews from designers, retail buyers, and media experts. It can be inferred that this impact is a definitive example of the power of transmedia marketing and desire to achieve this “bourgeois bohemian” status.
- Is the impact of these “bourgeois bohemian” TV shows limited to fashion trends? If not, what other areas does it affect?
- Are there any TV shows which currently defy any of the stereotypes that Arthurs mentions in her article?
- How can writers and producers more accurately depict “the division between the world of work and the private world of the domestic sphere” rather than just focusing on one?
Thoughts and comments welcome below!
Jane Arthurs, “Sex and the City and Consumer Culture: Remediating Postfeminist Drama”, | 3:1(2003 Mar), pp. 83-98
Ferla, Ruth La. “Forget Gossip, Girl; the Buzz Is About the Clothes.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 07 July 2008. Web. 15 July 2017.