As a diehard fan of the original Gossip Girl, which ran from 2007 to 2012, I couldn’t help comparing the 2021 show to its predecessor. Then again, comparisons are inevitable, with frequent references made to the OG in the reboot’s first episode. Although drama and glamour still rule the Upper East Side today, society as a whole has changed noticeably in many ways since the original Gossip Girl’s last episode a decade ago.
This reboot captures many of those key changes, rendering them on screen with self-aware, tongue-in-cheek humour. Here are the five main differences between the two shows, and regardless of what you feel about them, I think there’s one thing everyone can agree on: thank god it’s still Kristen Bell saying XOXO, Gossip Girl.
1. Bigger main cast
In the original Gossip Girl, there was the non-judging breakfast club of Blair, Serena, Nate, and Chuck. But in the reboot, there is a core group of seven ruling elites called “The Samurai Seven”. The name isn’t great, but what’s worse is that a couple of characters inevitably get lost in the shuffle because of the bigger group size. In the first episode, Monet de Haan (Savannah Smith) and Luna La (Zion Moreno) are simply shown as Julien Calloway’s (Jordan Alexander) minions, with no distinct roles of their own. However, there are hints from the actors that their characters will be more fleshed out in future episodes.
2. More diverse main cast
What the reboot does obviously better is representation of minorities. The original Gossip Girl had an overwhelming white cast, whereas four of the five main females in the 2021 version are played by actresses with either Mexican-American or African-American ancestries. Meanwhile, actor Evan Mock who plays Aki Menzies is half-Filipino on his mother’s side.
Besides ethnicity, the reboot also does a great job with queer representation. While GG circa 2007 featured two gay characters, Eric van der Woodsen and Blair’s dad, the 2021 show includes a wider spectrum of sexualities. Max Wolfe (Thomas Doherty) has two gay fathers and identifies as pansexual, while Aki is bisexual. Meanwhile, actress Moreno is openly transgender. About halfway through the first episode, Audrey spouts this gem: “Don’t straight-shame me”—something we would have never heard back in 2007.
3. Modern technology
For a show whose entire premise is based on surveillance tech, it is a given that more up-to-date technologies must be featured in this 2021 revival. While checking out the original Gossip Girl site, one of the Constance-St. Jude’s teachers deadpans: “A blog—I haven’t seen one of those in years.” Gone are the flip phones, with the latest iPhone models in their stead. In one scene, fashion influencer Calloway broadcasts an Instagram livestream to her adoring followers, before purchasing an Alice + Olivia dress with just one click online in another shot. Other than the anonymous blog, technologies such as social media and e-commerce were pretty much non-existent in the original Gossip Girl, but I’d argue they provide the scaffolding of the characters’ lives in this reboot. In the wise words of Calloway: “Instagram is for stories, Signal for sex, WhatsApp for abroad, and Messages for chat.”
4. More socially conscious
Besides activist Vanessa Abrams, none of the characters in the original show ever displayed much inclination to help or even awareness of those outside of their elite set. Sure, there was a charity gala every other episode, but it was clear the characters cared more about the socialising opportunities than the charity itself.
Therefore, it’s heartening that the reboot’s characters seem to be more socially conscious. Well, at least a couple of them are. Zoya Lott (Whitney Peak)’s outsider status is delineated by her concern for social movements: while the other girls tote around purses from Fendi and Chanel, she chooses bags from Revolution Books and black-owned brand Melanin Apparel. Meanwhile, “guilty rich” guy Obie Bergmann IV (Eli Brown) spends his free time protesting gentrification and bringing food to strikers—even when they are striking against his family’s company. Notwithstanding his parents’ reaction, his girlfriend Calloway is more concerned that all his volunteering is making him too sweaty to appear on her IG story. Is it any wonder then that Bergmann IV is immediately drawn to Lott?
5. Who is Gossip Girl?
Last but not least, one of the pivotal differences is the identity of everyone’s favourite surveillant. Unlike its predecessor which milked the secret for all it’s worth until the very end, the reboot unexpectedly chose to reveal the secret in its first episode. And who is Gossip Girl? Well, that’s a secret I’ll never tell.
To find out who’s Gossip Girl, watch the first episode on HBO Go.