Week 12; April 4th-18th Blog Entry #4 (Done by L).

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.

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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.

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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.

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 References

Tolmie, Professor. “Fifth Class Slides.” Ontario, Kingston. 4 Feb. 2014. Lecture.

 Tolmie, Professor. “Third Class Slides.” Ontario, Kingston. 4 Feb. 2014. Lecture.

-xoxo L

 

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4 Comments

  1. I really liked how the focus of your blog was mostly in social class analysis. Even between high-schoolers, money talks. From the way you talk about Gossip Girl, this is extremely apparent. I like how you make mention about race as well, and how the two minorities are shafted and not worthy of the others’ friendship.
    While I have never watched Gossip Girl, reading your analysis I feel has given me enough knowledge to stay away from it. You articulately integrated the course content of female virginity and ablebodiednesss to show the reader that this show is superficial.

    After reading your blog, I googled Gossip Girl to find out how it does ratings wise. Apparently after season two everything went downhill, and the author of the article attributed that the rampant sexism in the show.

    – M

  2. Week 12; April 4th-18th – Comment/Response (Done by S).

    Let me begin by saying that I was totally surprised when after reading your blog I scrolled down past your last photo insert and references and there ‘it’ was quietly inserted at the end of your blog, ‘xoxo L’. Readers of your blog not familiar with the show may not identify with its significance but it was present at the end of each episode as the mysterious gossip girl extended hugs and kisses to her readers after sharing the daily events of back stabbing drama in high society. After all, that’s what Gossip Girl is all about, ‘the sheer power of ultimate power’. Being familiar with the television show Gossip Girl, I found myself nodding in enthusiastic agreement with your assessment of this particular series in regards to prevailing themes reflecting cultural hegemony. Like you, what I find disturbing is that the whole show is built upon those notions; the entire foundation resting on the ability of the writers to successfully market wealth, power, prestige, status, domination, manipulation and privilege. There is a saying that goes ‘you are what you eat’, does that concept extend to ‘you become what you watch’? You addressed that well in identifying the correlation between what we watch and our priorities and views. A rather scary concept when one considers the target audience of Gossip Girl as the pre-teen and high school generation. I like the link you made between the messages embedded within each episode of Gossip Girl and the concept of utopia. Identifying that influences of hegemony manipulated by the ruling class profoundly impact the development of an individuals thoughts, perceptions and opinions combined with constant bombardment facilitated by popular culture transfers them from perceptions to paradigms. By artificially constructing wealth, power and prestige as highly coveted acquisitions the message becomes that this way of life, these values, norms and behaviours are the ultimate representation of utopia in society. Watching an episode of Gossip Girl is like peering into the socialite’s country club world of the 1950’s just contemporized. A very sad state of affairs for western society considering the decades of hard work that has been done by others to reveal the insidious nature of hegemony.

    – S.

  3. As you discuss the cultural hegemony found in Gossip Girl, it reminds me of how many other shows that fall under the same stereotypes. To name a few: The Hills, The OC, and One Tree Hill all emphasize an extreme lack of intersectionality. Like the characters in Gossip Girl, most are white, heterosexual, and able-bodied. Watching these shows definitely creates false depictions of reality. I agree with you in that a utopia is also created which influences how society views different genders, races, classes and popular culture. Thankfully, I think many television shows have come a long away since Gossip Girl or The OC. As an example, the Fosters breaks free from the typical, hegemonic drama and feature a multi-ethnic family of biological and foster children raised by two moms. As more shows develop which aren’t afraid of pushing the bounds on what is considered acceptable or desirable to watch, I hope the idea of intersectionality opposed to hegemony becomes conventional.

    – J.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your blog about this show. I used to watch the show and did enjoy it but eventually just found it unrealistic and annoying. I really liked that you addressed social class because that is a huge problem in the show. Dan Humphrey is the ‘poor’ boy who you refer to and continuously throughout all the seasons he is ridiculed and excluded from the ‘popular group’ because of his social rankings. In the last episode one of the two main white girls told the other that they were too important to end up with someone like him, someone with his social class which I found appalling.
    It is also very true what you mentioned about race, all the main characters are white and not only that, as you mentioned, they are all straight and able-bodied too! The lack of intersectionality in this show is awful and I feel like the directors do nothing to change that because they are so absorbed in what they think should be a ‘perfect’ society.

    -R.

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