Homeostasis. Nature has a way of correcting itself, resetting the scales and maintaining a kind of chaotic order. Tumbling, turning, Halloween, shifting, and inversion–this season is all about seeing the same old things in the cold grey light of dawn.
Or maybe it’s really just seeing things as they really are (for the first time?). To live in a post-Edgington world is to live in a world that is constantly under surveillance. We work ourselves into a frenzy over issues of privacy and security, not realizing just how hard we have bought into the system. We have, collectively, become Big Brother (something anyone from Gossip Girl could tell you if he or she just thought about it hard enough). Social paranoia is the name of the game as we look for the first thing that’ll confirm our suspicions. We see things, then, not just as they are (to us) but as they have always been–and always will be. We are deaf to protestations, because, after all, that’s exactly what a zombie would say (and we knew it all along, anyway). To live in a post-Edgington world is to live in our world.
Or maybe it’s seeing the evident truths of others long before they do? Our gaze, focused at a distance, loses perspective on who and what is in front of us. We struggle to see what we’ve already lost. Older, wiser, we see the long view and just how far away we are from where we want to go.
Or maybe it’s seeing the truths that are all too evident to us. Driven by the spirit of Mab, we fixate on revenge, redemption, absolution, forgiveness, or our maker. We cling, we claw, and we scrape by because, for us, there’s only one way out, one way forward, one way through.
Sight. Seeing. Being seen. It’s what a part of this season is all about.
In different ways, we deal with the fracture of our selves, forgetting that we, as creatures of Nature, will also be set right by the cold grey light of dawn.
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.
“That’s so messed up!” I screamed into the phone.
A scene unfolded on the television screen in front of me as I quickly shelved the urge to throw my cell into the wall. Although ostensibly an adult with a general tendency to avoid teen drama, I enjoy watching—and discussing—Gossip Girl with my coworkers. For me, the show causes a certain amount of amusement, as its main characters represent a population that I could very well work with in my real life, but also interest because, as with the people it portrays, beneath the glamour and the manufactured façade lies a glimpse of truth that, for all its sophistication, its owner can never fully acknowledge.
As mad as I was, I could not escape the thought that a perfect encapsulation of a quintessential teen experience lay before me. Granted, not everybody’s trials involved scheming, scarves, laced stockings, or a former attempted date rapist (how did everybody on the show manage to forget that?), but the underlying dilemma represented something that I suspect much of the audience identified with.
How do you say “I Love You” for the first time?
As teens, and quite possibly even as adults, we continually fret: “When’s the right time to say it? Who should say it first? What if I hear it before I’m ready? What if I don’t hear it back?” Oh, and let’s not forget, “What if I hear it for the first time during my partner’s orgasm?”
One of the things I marvel at is our tendency to convince ourselves that we can’t say the words until we feel as though everything is just right, when in fact we’re buying time and building up the confidence to simply come out and declare it. We waiver in our conviction, content to let the sentiment fall half-formed from our lips: “I…never mind,” we say. And although we are able to control our mouths, we can’t seem to be able to control our bodies: our actions, our touch, scream out the words that we cannot bring ourselves to utter.
Saying “I love you” (and meaning it) seems terrifying as, in that one moment, you give another human being the key to destroying you. All of a sudden, the walls that protected you are down and although you are vulnerable, you are finally free. And that, at its core, is the fundamental reason why Chuck and Blair’s relationship, one built on a struggle for power, control, and dominance, will never experience those words no matter how much its participants long to hear them.
The whole thing is paradoxical as the very act of revealing your vulnerabilities demonstrates in a very real way that you are stronger than you could have ever thought possible; you are no longer defined by your fear. And the funny thing is, at the end of the day, after all of the anguish and anxiety, you get to that place where the words no longer have to be said because the emotion is simply felt.
“The reason we can’t say those three words to each other isn’t because they aren’t true.”
I quickly apologize to the show for ever doubting it. Here, at last, in an instance that both parties will deny, lies the culmination of many things for these two individuals: the acknowledgement of tacit feelings, the abandonment of the game for an exquisite moment, and a realization that, in contrast to Chuck and Blair’s previous schemes, sex is not love and love is not sex—although the two are often bedfellows, they, like most couples, do not always come together.