Another Social Media/Gossip Girl Rant :)

Wednesday 15 February 2012

For the second time this year (already!), this is a TV drama love story centric post! And, once again, I'm going to ramble on about Gossip Girl... I do hope you don't mind :) SPOILER ALERT FOR GOSSIP GIRL SEASONS 1-5.

I'm totally fascinated by the way the internet has changed the way we engage with and interact with TV. Yep, you can tell I studied Film and TV :P Anyway, as one of my January posts suggests, I'm all caught up in following this online war over 'team Dair' and 'team Chair' in Gossip Girl. For those not in the know, there is currently a (seriously) vicious online battle of the shippers between GG fans who are loving the new relationship being exlored between Dan Humphrey and Blair Waldorf, and those who are still convinced that Blair belongs with Chuck Bass. As an opening statement (repeating what I mentioned in the previously mentioned articles which you can read here and here ) I was, until the middle of season 4, a hardcore Chair fan! So for any Chair fans out there, this is absolutely not an attack on the relationship, I was just as caught up in it as anyone! Now, however, I've been completely and utterly won over by Dan and Blair. That will all come later though, as first I wanted to talk a wee bit about the crazy way fandom has developed (using this particular storyline as my example) thanks to social media, and the wonder that is technology!

I live in Scotland, so the very fact that I am completely up to date with the goings on of Gossip Girl when ITV2 is several episodes behind The CW tells you something about the speed at which information travels thanks to online platforms like Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr and Facebook. I can keep up to date, reading reviews of episodes online, watching clips (which are more often than not taken down fairly quickly thanks to copyright) on YouTube and following the debates on Twitter as the episode airs (or the next morning as it usually when it airs in the US it's during the night over here). Imagine that ten years ago? Hell, five years ago? This increasing availability of information is completely changing the way people follow television shows. Therefore, if you're not online, with an interactive website, and on Twitter, Facebook and with an active fan base, you can pretty much call it a day! Gossip Girl has an official twitter (cleverly tying in with the show by suggesting that it is run by the infamous Gossip Girl herself). This allows fans to watch the show along with tweeting about it to the show's official account - and they do. In their hundreds. On Monday night (13/2/12), as the Valentine's Day episode aired, both 'Blair and Chuck' and 'Blair and Dan' were trending on Twitter at various times... this shows you how active these fans are! In addition to that, in my ''research'' for this post (okay, fine, looking up spoilers - I know, I shouldn't be allowed near a computer) I discovered that there are several Tumblr accounts dedicated to Dair and to Chair, and there is an app on facebook (which apparantly has 300 monthly users) entitled Chuck and Blair Quotes. One of the most popular Tumblrs, simply titled 'Dair' is updated constantly (and I mean constantly) with new Dan and Blair quotes, screencaps, avatars, quotes and Chair v Dair fan verbal feuds! This is the new way to interact with TV. To call yourself a 'fan' of a particular show is now a much more tricky thing than it ever used to be. Ten years ago, being a fan of a programme meant tuning in on whatever week night it aired to watch it, setting up a tape to record it if you were out (or if you were a super-fan and wanted to keep all of the episodes) and buying the boxset when it was released. People who were uber-fans of shows (Star Trek for example) were seen as obsessive and geeky. What then do we call the thousands of fans today who spend hours of their time discussing their favourite show over these various internet platforms? Writing fanfiction and posting it on, or making fanvids and tribute videos to whatever show (or whatever coupling/friendship/storyline within a show) they love? While there are plenty terrible fanfictions and fanvids out there, there are also some really good ones. I discovered this one here as I was trawling through the hundreds of Gossip Girl related tweets on Twitter this week before writing this, and kudos to whoever made it, it is fantastic! The editing, the song choice, the choice of clips... this is a really impressive video. But again, this is something made possible by the invention of YouTube, a platform where anyone can share their talents with the world. And rather than film something themselves and edit it, many people choose to make tribute videos to their favourite shows, using their editing skills for this purpose. This is fandom times a million compared to what the term used to mean!

This then has proven to be somewhat of a complication for the writers of Gossip Girl! Whether or not they are phased by this online war, I don't know, but having your fanbase split completely down the middle with a love triangle can never be easy - especially when the split is so public here in 2012. There will always be a certain number of fans who disagree with the end result of a storyline, whatever the show, and whatever the time. Social media hasn't suddenly created the notion of fans falling for different couples in television - it has just allowed these fans (referred to as shippers) to become much more vocal over the past few years. And today, their voices are being heard loud and clear. So what would you do, if you were producing a show which was eliciting two completely different reactions to one storyline, dividing your audience completely in two? A few years ago, when talking about Lost and Alias, the amazing J.J.Abrams referred to the internet as being to TV what the audience is to a play - he said if you don't listen to the silences and the applauses, you might as well not be working in TV right now. And he's right - it's hard not to take audience reaction into account, and that can sometimes save a show! Remember that time they killed Sarah in Prison Break off during Season 3, and the audience were so utterly horrified that she magically reappeared at the start of Season 4? Yeah, that's what I call listening to your online audience! However, at a time like this with Gossip Girl, what are the writers to do? You can never please everyone, but this time it seems like they are being forced through internet campaigns on Twitter and Tumblr etc to choose one half of their fanbase over the other? Surely when things get this crazy, you just have to ignore the online ramblings and have the writers go with their gut - who do they think Blair belongs with? Word on the net (typically) is that Chair is endgame, and Dan and Blair's blossoming romance is merely a roadblock, but who knows. All I know is that if I was writing a show that was getting such a reaction from its audience, I'd be a smidgen on the terrified side.

So, before I go, I just wanted to throw my tuppence worth in - why not, when the internet is already buzzing with this particular subject! As I said, I was absolutely all for Chuck and Blair until the middle of season 4. Even at the end of season 3, when Chuck had basically sold Blair in exchange for his hotel, and slept with Jenny Humphrey just hours after realising her has lost Blair forever (or so he thought), I still, for some unknown reason, couldn't help myself wishing Blair wouldn't find out about Jenny and that she adnd Chuck would get back together. And in season 4, after Paris, still I sat hoping they could work things out. It wasn't until the episode which finished with Dan and Blair realising they were going to be left alone together in the city over Christmas that I started to change my mind (clever old writers). It's no secret that Dan has always been one of my favourite GG characters, as has Blair. As gorgeous as Nate is, and as bizarrely seductive as Chuck is, Dan has been the one I have constantly been drawn to throughout the whole series. Is that helped by the fact I may, on some subconscious level, be in love with Penn Badgley? I couldn't possibly say. And although Serena was the one the show initially centred around, Leighton Meester is just too good an actress to allow that to be the case for long - she steals every scene she's in. So I suppose it's sort of weird I hadn't contemplated a Dan/Blair relationship before. Anyway, once I really started to think about it, and once the Dan and Blair scenes started to increase in frequence, I couldn't help but go over to the 'Dair' side. Their banter is fantastic, and they bring out a side of each other that no one else does - Chair fans call it boring, I call it well matched. There's no drama with Dan and Blair, and rather than be the cause of her tears, more often than not he's the one comforting her when she is down. I can't really criticise people for being team Chuck, since I was until very recently. I'm hopeless, even now I'm watching The Vampire Diaries, and while Elena is in love with sweet (well, sweet in comparison to other vampires), dependable Stefan, I'm practically crying over unpredictable, dangerous Damon, thinking 'Elena, just give him a chance, he loves you'. Yeah. That's right. I'm hardly an advocate for the sensible relationships! But when it comes to Blair and Chuck, I suddenly imagined for a second that Blair was my sister, or my best friend (just go with me here!)... if any guy treated my best friend (speaking of whom, check out her new blog here!) the way Chuck has treated Blair, I would kill him. Well, I'd want to kill him anyway, and I'd want her to never speak to him again. He allowed her to sleep with his creepy uncle to get his hotel back, he slept with Jenny Humphrey, he took about five years to finally admit he loved her in the first place, leaving her emotionally confused for the best part of two entire seasons AND lets not forget him leaving her with a cut on her face when he smashed the mirror above her when she refused to take him back. And we can all say 'he just feels so passionately about her, they're soul mates, he's terrified of losing her'... but let's think about this. If we changed the storyline around and rather than setting it in a situation where we have glamorous twenty-something year olds in the Upper East Side of NYC, set it in a quiet suburb of London, where a forty year old man treats his wife like this, would we be cheering them on then? Especially if someone as straightforward and caring as Dan walked into the woman's life? I think not!

I know that Gossip Girl is fantasy - that's partly why I'm addicted to it! It's decadent and over the top and a total escape from reality! And Dan himself summed up Blair and Chuck's tumultuous relationship perfectly earlier this season:

Blair: I haven't even spoken to Chuck.
Dan: You don't have to. You two have some strange, force-field effect on each other, physicists should study it.

This is the level of dramatic tension we find in these Gossip Girl relationships! But just because the show is glamorous and over the top, does that mean we should excuse violent and unpredictable behaviour? Even if the guy is clearly madly in love with the girl, and her with him? I could go on for hours, but I'll stop now, as I'm sure anyone who has lasted reading this to this point will agree it's time to call it quits! So I hope you enjoyed my little (or not so little) rant, and come back on Friday for my weekly favourite YouTube videos :)

Lynsey x

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