- Gossip Girl -You're All Wrong: Dan Humphrey Being Gossip Girl Was Great
Teen dramas are my religion, and there are few I revisit quite as frequently as The CW's Gossip Girl. Most super fans of a series all about the scandalous lives of Manhattan's elite tend to have one major issue with the show — and that is its very controversial ending. Except, it's zero percent controversial to me, because I think it's perhaps the smartest move Gossip Girl ever pulled off. Fight me on this one.
In the final moments of the Gossip Girl finale, it's revealed that Dan Humphrey was the titular blogger the entire time. Every Gossip Girl blast, including ones about him, his friends, his father, and his little sister Jenny? Yeah, that was Dan, attempting to write himself into a story he was cut out of thanks to his social status. (As in, his million-dollar Brooklyn loft paled in comparison to the penthouses of the Upper East Side.)
Look, I get the issue — logically, it makes very little sense that Dan is Gossip Girl. We've seen him stare at his phone in total shock over a Gossip Girl blast. We've seen Gossip Girl blow up his spot time and time again. Even Penn Badgley, who portrayed Dan on the series, doesn't understand the ending.
Here's the thing, though: I don't care about the "logic" of the ending. For one thing, there's no one who would make very much sense as Gossip Girl. At one point, the writers apparently decided Nate was the blogger, and began planning towards that ending, before scrapping it for the Dan twist. That makes even less sense, but it's really not much worse than fan favorite choices who were more on the periphery of the group, such as Blair's housekeeper Dorota or Serena's brother Eric. Since everyone saw a surprise Gossip Girl blast at one point or another, no one made crystal clear sense. The show simply did not plan that far ahead.
Yet a series shouldn't have to make logical sense in order to make poetic sense. (See also: Pretty Little Liars.) The Dan twist put an exclamation point on the thesis of the whole show.
For one thing, it's the ideal cynical ending for a show about rich people behaving badly. Oh, you wanted Dan to remain the moral center of the Gossip Girl universe? To paraphrase something the extraordinarily wealthy Obie from the HBO Max Gossip Girl revival will inevitably say in a later episode because he thinks he's so woke for protesting his family's real estate business despite ultimately benefiting from it: The American dream promotes the myth of upward social mobility, and in the process encourages people to do whatever it takes, including compromising their morals, in order to get to an almost always impossible destination.
(See also: The Great Gatsby.)
I'm not going to lie: I obviously loved the rich people shenanigans of Gossip Girl. I thought it was hilarious that Blair scoffed at the mere notion of going to NYU ("it's basically a public school!") when it reality the university comes with a price tag well over $60,000 a year. I loved the drama that came with Chuck buying a hotel, despite the fact that he wasn't of legal age to drink yet. I adored that Serena thought she had real problems, and that she would often put off thinking about them by dropping my salary at Henri Bendel. But sometimes, when you're watching a show that glorifies wealth, it's helpful for that show to remind you that, oh yeah — maybe we shouldn't.
In fact, the ending of Gossip Girl seemed, at least to me, like it was holding up a mirror to its audience. Who didn't want to be Blair and Serena?!? They were such powerful pop cultural figures that an entire generation starting wearing colored tights under shorts. But do we really want people with extraordinary wealth being able to do whatever the hell they want, consequence free? No! Of course not! Do you have any idea how ridiculous we all looked in mustard colored tights?
We may know from watching Gossip Girl (as well as, well, the news) that wealth corrupts, but we also know from drooling over the clothes, parties, and privilege present in the series that it's very difficult to not want it for yourself. Dan isn't just Gossip Girl: Dan is us with opportunity, motive, and extreme moral flexibility.
For Dan, who grew up just on the outside, and knew damn well he was smarter than the people on the inside who would go on to run the world, it was way too enticing not to write himself into the story in some way. It was never Serena who encouraged him to create Gossip Girl, as he told her in the finale episode — it was wanting to be inside, and reap all the benefits of that.
"You may be rid of Dan Humphrey, but you'll never be rid of me," purred Kristen Bell's voiceover in the final minute of the Gossip Girl finale. "There will always be someone on the outside wanting to get in."
Most of the time, those people will fail to get "inside" — either because they don't have the opportunities to even attempt to go toe-to-toe with the "elite," or because they realize it's simply not worth it to try. Yet on Gossip Girl, the delicious ending embodies just how much you have to sacrifice of your moral code in order to succeed.
Images: The CW