Gossip Girl, take two

Sep 13, 2015 13:07

I checked out the first half-dozen Gossip Girl episodes almost a year ago, didn’t really click with it, and kind of drifted away. But I’m enjoying it a lot more this time around. Last night I hit an especially meta episode of the show, which I took as a sign to pause and do a little bit of meta about the show. IDK how much sense this makes, it was taking way longer than these thoughts are really worth so I'm just putting it up. But I am really curious how this episode played for people who watched before the big reveal and so maybe it’ll be fun to see first impressions formed after it.

So this is the episode which is more or less framed by Dan’s interactions with his mentor (lolol), where he’s instructed to spend time with Chuck in order to learn how to non-judgmentally understand how the character works. I don’t know what it was like to watch this before the finale aired. But I would be stunned if this episode was not written with at least the possibility of Dan as Gossip Girl in mind (and if not, wow, did they get lucky with having a character lined up like this).

DAN: I-I just-- I thought a writer was supposed to write what you know. This is what I know.
SHAPIRO: Then learn something new. Get out of your comfort zone. A cardinal rule of writing-- if your work's too safe, do something dangerous.
DAN: I-I wouldn't know where to begin.
SHAPIRO: Then find someone who does know. When I was young, Bukowski put a shot glass on my head and blew it off with a pistol. Find your Bukowski. Then get back to me.

This is what he’s been doing - finding places he can attach himself to people who live in extreme ways and appropriating their stories as something he “knows.”

DAN: I-I-I haven't-
CHUCK: Tonight was nothing. You're just a drunken idiot. My amusement for the night.

Dan’s story is blatantly in GG’s style. “Charlie Trout” is an insulting, blatantly transparent moniker, a sorry attempt at a humblebrag of his affiliation with the crème de la crème. (Like Shapiro’s name-drop of Bukowski, ha.)

Now, Dan’s mentor probably has the usual mediocre white man middlebrow tastes, where “asshole -> antihero -> drama.” But I think it’s pretty likely that Dan did, unknowingly, write Chuck as being more dynamic and interesting than the other characters. (And, lbr, probably more dynamic and interesting than Chuck himself. As smirking psychopaths go, he’s strangely lifeless.) His brand of judgment is an expression of fascination.

SHAPIRO: Write from his point of view. Then you'd have a story.
DAN: No, no. No, there's no way that I'm writing from his point of view. I hate that guy.
SHAPIRO: You're judging the character, Humphrey. You think Capote got national acclaim for "In Cold Blood" by judging the murderers?
DAN: I'm--I'm guessing no.
SHAPIRO: Dig beneath the surface. Get into Charlie Trout's head. Find the character's humanity.
DAN: That might be difficult.
SHAPIRO: We all have a secret. A writer's best tool is the ability to draw out a subject's secret and use it.
DAN: Okay, so I go back out there, I - I make him trust me and find out his secret?
SHAPIRO: Be ruthless and bring me back a story with teeth.
DAN: *sighs laboriously*

This exchange is so on-point. Most of the “secrets” which give such social power, like Dan gets from Chuck and Bart gathers on Lily and Blair uses against Jenny, aren’t actually secrets. They’re art that’s been bought and sold; they’re matters of school or even public record. It’s about the power to frame those facts, to tell the wrong person at the right time.

It’s also bang on point as critique of what we know is Dan’s magnum opus. Gossip Girl is far more interested in judging people than in understanding what makes them tick. Also, I love how his bid for Chuck’s trust is his sweeping in to defend Chuck the same way he did to defend Jenny from Chuck back in the pilot.

Also, I love that Mr. Literature has no opinion on In Cold Blood.

DAN: Well, if I have to exploit people to be a good writer, then, you know, maybe-- maybe I’m not a good writer. I don't--I'd rather be safe than use people for art. (quotes)

For fun, sure, even for practice - but he wants his Great Art™ to be better than that, I guess?

His manipulative innocent act is pretty impressive, I have to say. I think it’s in the S1 finale where he refers to himself as “resident moral compass” and “a born liar.” LOL.
  • It felt pretty pointed to me that, while Dan is heroically deciding to be second-rate, their dad is chasing Jenny around trying to ground her out of the success that he didn't have as a kid. I mean, obviously it's more complicated than that - the fashion industry is 'a young person's business' in part because society still fetishizes women too young to be fully educated - but that's part of it.
  • God, Blair and Serena are so gay. They’re like, Rizzoli and Isles gay.
  • Nate is so dumb. I can’t believe he hasn’t been eaten alive.

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