In its six-year run, which ended with the series finale on December 17, Gossip Girl has been the epitome of a guilty pleasure; a television show that not only portrayed the lives of privileged teenagers coming of age on the Upper East Side of New York City, but reveled in the underbelly of this unique society where underage, spoiled high-schoolers indulge in sex, drinking and drugs, and big spending with almost no supervision or care. All while every rise and downfall of each young life is chronicled by the vicious, omnipresent blogger, Gossip Girl.
Besides big personalities like schemer Blair Waldorf, wild child Serena van der Woodson, outsider Dan Humphrey, and bad boy Chuck Bass, what really made the show special are its relationships. Best frenemies Serena and Blair ultimately always had each other's back, even if from time to time they had to guard against the knife coming from the other one. And the boys had their own bonds: childhood friends Nate and Chuck continually supported each other, and Nate and Dan developed an interesting friendship, one the heir to a political and business empire and the other coming from humble Brooklyn beginnings. The show was always at its best when the gang joined together to rescue one of their own when someone got in over his or her head.
One of the more interesting aspects to the series is the involvement, or lack thereof, of the parents in the lives of their children who are growing up too quickly. Lily, Serena and Eric's mother, is a constant presence, but she ultimately has very little knowledge of the behavior her children engage in. In fact, at her best she is just as much of an irresponsible mess as they are. Nate's father goes to prison for embezzlement to the devastation of his son. Chuck's father Bart is perhaps the worst father ever seen on television, so it's no wonder Chuck himself is quite villainous in the show's early days. Even Rufus, Dan and Jenny's father, who seems to be the most involved, loving parent the show has to offer, is often misguided and blind to his children's antics and woes. These parents are filthy rich and want to seem as if they're completely put together, but in reality, they are all pomp and no circumstance.
The show itself is a fascinating character study into the lives of these enigmatic teenagers, wise beyond their years in experience, if not maturity. Little Jenny Humphrey, who begins the series as a sweet, golden-haired young girl, eager and wide-eyed, is the one character who is transformed almost beyond recognition throughout her run on the show. She is taken down by the world she so desperately wants; as she longs for power and position, she steps over whomever gets in her way—whining unbearably, sneaking around, lying, and befriending only those who suit her agenda. Ultimately, she gets involved in prescription drug-dealing and becomes such a spoiled, bleached-out princess that all traces of likeability are wiped away. This is the downfall, though extreme, of someone who becomes so entrenched in this world that she truly loses herself.
The foil to Jenny is the incredible growth of the larger-than-life Chuck Bass, whose very name came to evoke a response in the world of Gossip Girl. In the beginning, he was almost a sideline character, a villain who preyed on underclassmen and had absolutely no filter when it came to his outrageous statements and even more outrageous actions. This is the boy who takes Blair's virginity in the back of his limo, then pursues her with no shame, the one who offers to exchange the woman he loves for the business he wants, and who indulges in any and every behavior on a whim without apology. But once he realizes there is someone he loves more than himself and begins to put her desires above his own, he becomes a new, better version of himself. He nearly bankrupts himself and the business he's sacrificed everything for in order to get Blair out of a difficult situation. He focuses on becoming worthy, and that's what he does. By the end of the show, he has become the husband and father he probably never thought he could be, and proves that anyone can change.
Then of course are the multitude of romantic entanglements that resulted in almost every combination of couples imaginable: Nate and Blair, Nate and Serena, Serena and Dan, Chuck and Blair. It was lovely to see the most popular rich girl in school, Serena, get together with the bookish, adorable Dan at the beginning of the series. Their love blossomed into something that was perhaps more real than either had ever experienced, while also being wonderfully innocent. She introduced him to a whole new world and he gave her something she'd never had before. Both Serena and Dan were at their best when they were together and the show brought that back around at the end, as they were married in a five-year flash-forward at the end of the finale.
The best part of the entire series is the romance between Chuck and Blair. Their union was a spontaneous combustion that began in the back of a limo and methodically evolved into a relationship that neither could deny. He was her dirty little secret and she is the one he doesn't want to admit means as much as she does, but he allows her to let go and she gives him faith that he can be more. The moments throughout the series that they have are a romantic's dream, from Chuck's long-awaited “I love you's” to Blair's admission that he is the one who makes her feel so much and want everything. Theirs is a great love, and as they spent the latter part of the series' run building an adult relationship that will last, they put each other's needs before their own, defend and support each other to the end, and finally get everything they dream of.
Blair: Chuck and Blair hold hands? Chuck and Blair go to the movies? You said you never wanted us to be boring. Well, we definitely aren't that now.
Chuck: I was a stupid child when I said those things. Life with you could never be boring. Blair Cornelia Waldorf, will you marry me?
Blair: Yes. Yes, I will.
In the final moments, as Dan is revealed to be the ubiquitous Gossip Girl, he says it best: “The Upper East Side was like something from Fitzgerald or Thackeray—teenagers acting like adults, adults acting like teenagers, guarding secrets, spreading gossip, all with the trappings of truly opulent wealth.” This is a world different from any other, one that we were given a glimpse of for six glorious years, one that is to be celebrated, and one that will be truly missed.
Tiffany Tyer is a writer and editor who loves reading and analyzing all things romance. She also works as a vocalist, a tutor, and a non-profit ministry assistant, and she loves it that way. Her book reviews can be found at Happy Endings Reviews, a blog she co-founded.