Last night, Gossip Girl went smugly into that glittery night. After six seasons and a seismic economic shift that rendered it suddenly irrelevant just over a year into its run, a limping teen drama that has recently had trouble exceeding a million viewers said its last “XOXO.” It’s been obvious for a while that the finale would be silly and superfluous and perfunctory, and it wasn’t hard to guess that its ever-present elitism would manifest in some vaguely horrifying manner. But who could have predicted the show would also end on such a misogynistic note? (For the few who are still watching Gossip Girl, expect spoilers below.)
After a season full of teasers and “greatest hits” off-and-on romances, Gossip Girl had much to accomplish in its final episode. Not only did the show need to get its two central, eternal couples — Chuck and Blair; Serena and Dan — together for good, but it also had to reveal the identity of Gossip Girl, that bloggy scourge of the Upper East Side. Chuck and Blair were easy: With Bart Bass dead, Chuck had finally defeated his father and was free to commit for eternity to his beloved. Under the influence of Uncle Jack, they nearly tied the knot while on the run in some random town hall. But since Chuck knew that wouldn’t make Blair truly happy, they returned to Manhattan and threw a guerrilla ceremony in Central Park, with all the Upper East Siders in attendance. Dragged off for questioning about Bart’s death just after Cyrus pronounced them man and wife, they came out of the ordeal fine enough to have produced a beautiful toddler just a few years later.
Dan and Serena were more complicated — probably because, in a surprise to absolutely no one who has been even casually watching this final season, Gossip Girl turned out to be none other than Dan Humphrey. And here’s the explanation: Dan met Serena at one fateful high-school party that he was presumably invited to by mistake. He knew that poor, anonymous Dan Humphrey from Brooklyn could never win the love of Upper East Side princess Serena Van Der Woodsen. “There was no way I could pull you out of your world and into mine,” he told her, referencing that Oscar Wilde-derived platitude, “You’re no one until you’re talked about.” So, he studied the speech patterns of his female peers (really, this detail comes up) and created a gossip blog that chronicled their adventures in scathing detail. Literally writing himself into Serena’s world, he created his own character: Lonely Boy, the romantic outsider. This actually makes sense, because why in the world would Dan Humphrey have been of interest to a Gossip Girl who wasn’t Dan Humphrey?
What doesn’t make sense is the way Serena receives this news — Serena, who has had her life ruined by Gossip Girl at least three times per season. Serena, who came out looking a steaming mess in Dan’s debut novel. Serena, who recently gave her heart to Dan yet another time, only to learn that he had orchestrated that latest romance as research for his latest Serena Van Der Woodsen exposé. A few episodes back, we learned that he published that essay because he figured she would never truly respect him until — like a real Upper East Sider — he fucked her over. And somehow, by the logic of this show, that turned out to be the truth.
Yes, that’s how Gossip Girl ended: with Dan finally mastering Serena through deceit, defamation, and general creepy stalkerishness, and Serena wholeheartedly succumbing to his dazzlingly devious intellect. In the company of their closest frenemies, she burbled something about Gossip Girl being Dan’s “love letter” to the Upper East Side, and Blair and Chuck and Nate basically responded by breaking into that “One of us” chant from Freaks. A few scenes later, Serena was in an enormous, baroque metallic gold wedding dress and Rufus was attending the ceremony with his new lady Lisa Loeb (a brilliant touch, actually) and Gossip Girl’s original star-crossed couple prepared to live happily ever after in misogynistic wedded bliss.
Forget the sex and the booze and the drugs that had parents’ groups so up in arms during the show’s first few seasons. The culminating morals of Gossip Girl’s story — that the Upper East Side and its cutthroat, amoral denizens embody all that we should aspire to be; that rich, beautiful women won’t respect a regular “nice guy” until he’s repeatedly and publicly destroyed her — were far more harmful than all that.