BLOG POST (Module 9): NANDIKA DONTHI, Gossip Girl and Bourgeois Bohemians

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.

Discussion Questions:

  • 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!

References:

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.

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2 thoughts on “BLOG POST (Module 9): NANDIKA DONTHI, Gossip Girl and Bourgeois Bohemians”

  1. Hi there!

    To answer your first question I believe that TV shows demonstrate much more than just fashion when it comes to the “bourgeois bohemian” concept. Other examples are the luxurious places that television shows portray, specifically in the show Gossip Girl; we see a lot of beautiful settings. We see mostly Blair or Serena going to Prague, Paris, Rome, Santorini and many other places. The way television angles these locations not only seems to advertise those places to the viewers but also sends the message that it is ” an everyday thing to do”; to travel the world whenever possible; We see that a lot in Gossip Girl.

    For your second question, I noticed that many shows do not defy such stereotypes, in fact, they embrace it and use them to give the show more dramatic suspense. A common stereotype that is most commonly seen is lead women characters staying single for the sake of achieving sexual satisfaction without boundaries; no relationships (Arthurs, 43). We definitely see that in Gossip Girl with Serena. The majority time the show revolves around Serena being a magnet to many guys on the upper east side. There is an episode in which we see both Nate and Dan try to get Serena to choose either one of them to end up with but by the end of the episode Serena ends up with neither of them due to another drama she is thrown in close to the end of that episode.

    I think that a primal example of a common plot that includes both worlds is also on Gossip Girl. Originally, Dan is considered working class and his Dad has to work in order to pay for both Dan and Jenny’s private school while Serena and Blair see private school as something less than. They’re very careless overall about their studies because their parents have connections which help them out in any given case. In some sense, Dan could be labeled as a blue collar working class while Serena is obviously a socialite, hence white collar. A very strong example that is not a show is the movie The Notebook. We see how Noah is a poor working class man while Allie is a rich girl since birth. They both fall in love and their social statuses are the main problem throughout the screening. Overall there are a few examples which do show both worlds coming together but what makes this repetitive theme overplayed is that at most times, we see how the main theme is a conflict between social classes and overall acceptance.

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  2. The impact of “bourgeois bohemian” TV shows can be seen in trends relating to sex, fashion, and cultural taboos. While it can be easy to see its influence on fashion, as it is often displayed very prominently as in Gossip Girl through Blair and Serena’s shopping trips, the show also introduces Serena’s brother as gay and depressed (in Season 1), Blair’s and Serena’s sexual lives, Dan Humphrey’s lower socioeconomic status and how his life compares to the other elites, etc. The show brings light to different socially liberal issues in addition to the fashion trends as it is now seen as trendy and even required to be politically correct. Additionally, writers depicting these topics can easily navigate them through both work environments and families, as these social issues can be seen in conflicts and resolutions with family members or colleagues. This transition between the worlds allows creators of shows to be able to bring more of a balanced view between the different spheres of life and be able to include different interests of both the domestic (predominantly female) and work (predominantly male) spheres in a single show.

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