All of you who read this blog know, I think Gossip Girl is feminist-friendly tv. I really, sincerely do. I have written graduate school essays on this topic and have written a weekly feature devoted to analysing Gossip Girl from a feminist perspective for this blog. So, naturally, I think that if teenage girls are going to watch tv aimed at teenage girls, Gossip Girl is an EXCELLENT choice. That's why parents confuse me with what they will and won't let kids watch.
This Thursday, my parents had one of their famous dinner parties (Seriously, my mother can be like Nigella Lawson on steroids. The level of gourmet home-cooking was border-line disturbing, even for a foodie like me). I decided to take a break from writing essays to steal some of mom's legendary Northern Italian-style lasagne, when I became embroiled in a discussion over what television one should expose one's 13 year old daughter to with a middle-aged woman who sent her daughter to private Catholic high school. She informed me she would not allow her daughter to watch the Gossip Girl television series, nor would she even allow her to read the books (telling your kids not to read? Is that EVER a good idea?). I thought, well, they DO send their daughter to Catholic school, so maybe they're more socially conservative than I am. Who am I to judge? Also, 13 is different from 16. Even though I was watching racy tv at 13, I did it secretively. I understand why parents might not want young teens watching tv where kids have sex and and drink, even though censoring them from it won't stop them from doing these things themselves in a year or two). Parents seem to think that sex and drugs shouldn't start until 16. Like, they have a free pass until them or something, which, I'm sure, if I had a teen, I'd wish I had too.
The thing is, just as I was writing this mother off as slightly socially conservative but nothing to worry about, she emerged as the world's biggest hypocrite. Guess what? She always her daughter to watch both The HIlls AND The Bachelor, and even watches it with her. WTF? It's okay to watch LC give up the opportunity to go to Paris to stay with her drug addict boyfriend? It's okay to watch LC become friends with benefits with Brody Jenner in later seasons? It's okay to let you daughter watch Heidie like in an emotionally abusive relationship? It's okay to let your daughter watch Audrina date that weird asshole who never bathes Justin Bobby? All this is OKAY, but Gossip Girl, a show where teens make frequent allusions to Freud, classic films and authors like J.D. Salinger and Shakespeare, that's not okay? Sure, Gossip Girl may have the implied sex and the drama of The Hills but it does this with an ACTUAL story and real acting that doesn't make you cringe. Also, the fashion on the show is so well thought out it's art, in my books. Gossip Girl encourages teens to be cultured while satirizing and deconstructing negative post-feminist values like neo-traditionalism and the obsession with heterosex-positive methods of female empowerment.
Also, this particular mother claims that The Hills is feminist-friendly? The HILLS! A show where everything revolves around boys, and giving up everything for boys who treat you like crap. LC. let drug-addict Jason Wahler walk all over her and Heidie stays with the unemployed, irresponsible and cheating Spencer, but Blair Waldorf dumps men who don't appreciate (See her telling Chuck where to go in season 2). Plus, Blair and Serena might fight as much as LC and Heidie, but at the end of the day, they have the intelligence to be able to work THROUGH their problems. They value their friendship.
Don't even get me started on The Bachelor. Who the hell wants to let their tween watch 30 women get into cat fights over some guy they barely know? Is it appropriate to normalize such behaviour by immersing your impressionable daughter in it? Of course, media only has so much power, and if you raise your daughter well, she'll probably just see the chicks on The Bachelor as ridiculous objects of humour who've totally gotten carried away with a competition and aren't really in love; however, if you're going to let your daughter watch post-feminist crap like that, why can't she watch some feminist-friendly quality tv? Oh, and if you won't let them watch the show, can they at least PLEASE read the books when they ask? That's all...