Cultural Hegemony and Gossip Girl
For my last blog I decided to write about the television show Gossip Girl. I had never seen an episode before this assignment and thought that I should select something that I was at least partially unbiased about. Cultural hegemony is the theme that I will be analyzing this show through. Cultural hegemony describes the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class, who manipulate the culture of the society — the beliefs, explanations, and perceptions, values, and mores — so that their ruling-class worldview becomes the worldview that is imposed and accepted as the cultural norm; as the universally valid dominant ideology that justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural, inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class. This definition could be an actual description of Gossip Girl and all of its “values”. The beliefs of the show are directly expressed to the characters on the show and they are then marketed to us when we watch it.
The series is about the lives of privileged young adults on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in New York City. In the two episodes that I watched, there were only two characters who are not white and they are quite literally the secondary minions of one of the main white characters. In professor Tolmie’s fifth class she focused on what is being marketed to us through film and media. A few of the subcategories were able-bodiedness, heterosexuality, whiteness, material wealth, youth, marriage, and female virginity. Six out of the seven categories discussed are directly applicable to the show and its main characters (Tolmie ,2014). The main nine characters with speaking roles are all white, able-bodied, young, with the parents not looking a day over 35, straight, and wealthy.
The focus on the importance of wealth and status in the show builds the false belief that it’s the most important thing and that is clearly transferred into our everyday values. There is a lower class family on the show who are considered “poor” compared to the other socialites (yet they are still able to afford to go to one of the most prestigious and expensive private schools in New York) and their lack of inclusion with the elite students causes tension in the episodes and is the basis of introducing the characters. From the very beginning of the first episode the characters are introduced and categorized into the “haves” and “have not” category. This instantly sets the tone of who is worthy and leads people to believe that they need to be privileged to be praiseworthy.
I feel like it has been clearly expressed that there is a high correlation between our priorities and views and what we watch. “An imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect” is the definition of the word utopia, one of our words to know from the third lecture (Tolmie, 2014). The word utopia is what all of the characters and societies on the show strive for, which is clearly the most dominant thought and transfers into everyday life. Real people are always striving to make more, be more, and own more and I think that it can be related to unrealistic situations shown on shows like Gossip Girl.
Tolmie, Professor. “Fifth Class Slides.” Ontario, Kingston. 4 Feb. 2014. Lecture.
Tolmie, Professor. “Third Class Slides.” Ontario, Kingston. 4 Feb. 2014. Lecture.