Tonight's finale of the strike-shortened first season of 'Gossip Girl', the buzzed-about CW show based on the ubersuccessful series of young adult novels about the lives of rich Manhattan private school kids, promises to be a doozy. Will Blair Waldorf's life of privileged partying come screeching to a halt when she finds herself knocked up? Is the putative baby's daddy bad boy Chuck Bass or floppy-haired Nate Archibald? Will Lily van der Woodsen sacrifice her daughter Serena's happiness to pursue her fated luv with Serena's Williamsburg-bred boyfriend Dan Humphrey's improbably youthful dad Rufus? Did the actress who plays Serena really get a nose job right before the series started filming? (Well, yes.)
Some or all of those questions might get answered on tonight's show, but this one probably won't: what is up with the show's insistence that almost everyone in its purview, including those downtrodden Humphreys (they have to live in Brooklyn!) is so incredibly WASPy?
Okay, that's a slight exaggeration. After all, much has been made of the show's inclusion of two mostly-mute characters who fans have unceremoniously dubbed Black Girl and Asian Girl. And of course there's Dan's alternative love interest Vanessa Abrams, who lives on the Lower East Side and is sort of brownish. But as writer Jonathan Liu puts it, it's the dearth of Jews among the students at Constance Billiard which makes the show's portrayal of the scions of Manhattan's ruling class (even) less believable: "I doubt that an all-WASP elite actually exists anywhere anymore." Times magazine interview-lady Deborah Solomon even specifically took the show's creator Josh Schwartz to task about this, quizzing him, "Why are the characters uniformly white, with old-money names like Blair Waldorf and Serena van der Woodsen that hark back to a time when high society was not integrated? Why are there no Jewish characters?"
"It’s interesting, because on 'The O.C.' I went out of my way to make those characters Jewish, not what you would expect to find in Orange County. But in New York, weirdly, I failed. I was working off of the source material," Josh explained. Well, fair enough (though the show does diverge from the books in a million other ways). If that excuse doesn't work for you, you can always go with Meghan McArdle's explanation for the show's "anasemitic" quality: "Media executives are leery of portraying rich New York day schools, or the entertainment industry, as being chock full of Jewish people for fear of encouraging the stereotype that Jews control all the media and the money in this country." Hmm!
Of course, a huge part of GG's addictive charm lies in the fact that it in no way resembles present-day New York — the prep school fantasyland it depicts seems almost to be set the 60s, but with cel phones. For me, at least, this is what makes the show such an escapist pleasure. But even if just for superficial reasons, some of the show's fans mourn the Semitic sex appeal of Schwartz's last hit. Musing about the charms of Dan Humphrey, a gal of my acquaintance sighed: "Well, he's no Seth Cohen."