Although admittedly a more complex process, examining scenarios in terms of behavior and access to information invokes notions of power dynamics. While the concept of “knowledge is power” has been previously presented, Meryrowitz’ model of backstage/front stage/side stage provides interesting insight into the mechanisms of influence and control.
Knowledge of backstage discourse (and even being able to acknowledge its existence!) often confers a sense of power on an individual; permission to enter the backstage means that one is privy to the intimacy of the social networks present there. This concept provides interesting implications for the ways that minorities can cultivate and exert power. In particular, a sense of hubris in the majority might allow members of the minority to gain unrealized access to the backstage. For example, men who view women as being of no consequence might reveal things that they otherwise would not—these men do not view women as worthy of being a significant threat and, thus, their presence does not necessarily disrupt the intimacy of backstage.
Gossip Girl examines the concepts of front stage and backstage (and the consequences for behavior in both arenas) through two of its main characters, Blair and Serena. Based on Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, these two young women inherit their predecessors’ ways of navigating the world. Outwardly, Blair seems to exert a stronger presence as much of her time is spent focusing on the rules and power plays that dominate the front-facing lives of her peers. Blair’s manipulative nature allows her to dictate the course of action, but does not necessarily indicate that she is more powerful. Serena, in contrast, presents herself as inconsequential and thereby gains audience to some of the intimacies of backstage that Blair will never be allowed access to. Serena, like her forerunner May, represents a unique type of force in her social circles for she embodies the concept of “power behind the throne” and is able to call forth the type of destruction that her adversaries never see coming—because they never truly saw her.