Among all the sex, drugs, and backstabbing best friends in The CW’s early-aughts hit Gossip Girl, one question kept viewers enthralled until the series finale: Who *is* Gossip Girl? But in the reboot of the show — which officially premiered on HBO Max on July 8 — the true identity of Gossip Girl is no longer a secret she’ll never tell. Whereas fans of the original show were just as confused as the characters about the person behind Gossip Girl, this time around, audiences are in on the secret. In fact, the very first episode of the new series goes to great lengths to show exactly how the rumor-mongering entity is revived for the modern era — and who’s responsible for bringing her back.
Warning: Spoilers for HBO Max’s Gossip Girl Season 1, Episode 1 follow. The only thing that truly remains the same about Gossip Girl between the original series and the reboot is that she’s voiced by Kristen Bell. (And how could she not be? Bell is truly iconic in this role.) Beyond that, it’s a whole new ballgame. No longer a blog, Gossip Girl’s main platform is Instagram. Even her taglines are different — “your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Manhattan's elite” has morphed into “your one and only source for the truth behind the scandalous lives of New York’s elite.” Guess we’re finally putting some respect on Brooklyn’s name.
But the biggest change in the reboot is the creator (or in this case, re-creator) of Gossip Girl. No longer is it powered by Lonely Boy (or the various characters who periodically “stole” the site to cause trouble among their peers or protect their own images). This time, Gossip Girl isn’t run by any of the elites whose scandalous lives she chronicles. Instead, Gossip Girl is run by the ultimate outsiders: a group of teachers from Constance Billard School.
The series opened with Kate Keller (Tavi Gevinson), a young and ambitious teacher, taking the subway to the Upper East Side. Viewers quickly learned she works at Constance, where the students have no respect for the teachers. After one of their colleagues was fired for not giving special treatment to a privileged student, Kate and a handful of her colleagues put their heads together to find a way to regain power over these rich kids — not just to stop the bullying, but to mold them into, as Kate put it, “Barack Obamas instead of Brett Kavanaughs.” Their solution? Revive Gossip Girl.
The idea was planted by Rebecca, a former student and now teacher at Constance, who credited Gossip Girl for keeping her former classmates — including Nate Archibald, who is now considered a mega success in the present day — in line. She told Kate that Gossip Girl’s previous era was when “people like Nate were scared straight.” And so, Kate and her crew of teachers created the @gossipgirl Instagram account and started tormenting the minds they’re meant to help shape.
But, um, hello? Are we forgetting how truly awful the original Gossip Girl characters behaved when they were in high school? I don’t know what quiet section of the library Ms. Rebecca was living in, but in no way did the presence of Gossip Girl keep Serena and company from misbehaving — especially not at school. There was the Season 1, Episode 12 episode, “School Lies,” in which the entire junior class broke into Constance to have a pool party and faced expulsion after a kid hit his head and nearly drowned. Did Gossip Girl stop them then?
Or what about the Season 2 storyline with Constance teacher Rachel Carr? Incredibly inappropriate relationship with Dan (a student) notwithstanding, Rachel suffered major hazing from Blair that Gossip Girl did nothing to assuage. It’s quite the opposite, actually: Blair used Gossip Girl to get Rachel fired. If these new teachers aren’t careful, their decision to bring Gossip Girl back could fully blow up in their faces.
There’s also the sheer ick factor of having grown-ass adults spying and reporting on the actions of teens. The first episode attempts to address this, when Kate’s fellow teacher, Jordan (Adam Chanler-Berat), snapped photos of students Zoya Lott (Whitney Peak) and Obie Bergmann (Eli Brown) getting undressed through a window. “The only time I felt more gross than standing here showing you these is the moment that I took them to show you. I should be arrested,” he told Kate. And he’s right. At least Dan was in the same age range as his little sister when he, as Gossip Girl, told the world she’d had sex with Chuck. It’s hard to see a world where teachers who are fully aware of their students’ privilege and power would risk their lives and livelihoods to stir up some teenage drama.
Of course, there’s a lot still to come in this new era of rumors and tattletales. If Gossip Girl has taught fans anything, it’s that you shouldn’t make snap decisions when you don’t have all the information. Or do — a little drama makes her job all the more fun.
New episodes of Gossip Girl Season 1 drop on Thursdays on HBO Max.