Posted On July 8, 2014 By In Television

The Blairs and the Serenas


This year, I’ve dedicated my time to a lot of worthy, intellectual causes. Most important? Slowly working my way through Gossip Girl on Netflix. As someone who considers a 40% off sale at Loft to be a dose of excitement into daily life, I have become absolutely addicted to the scandal, drama, and debauchery that the show is famous for. Other than entertainment purposes it serves, the characters on Gossip Girl have, in their own hyperbolic way, served as a wonderful barometer for flawed human relationships that we constantly encounter today.

I am in no way trying to generalize the human experience. However, I’ve seen a pretty common juxtaposition among women my age, particularly among pairs of friends. Let me break down the show for you: Blair and Serena were best friends who grew up as it girls of the upper east side. Blair is known for her intelligence, her impeccable wardrobe, and undeniable talent for scheming. Serena is known for her charm, effervescence, irresistible blond hair and “legs for days.” Both girls were beautiful in their own way, but the contrast was apparent. Everything Blair did was planned, controlled. She managed every situation she was in and worked herself towards anything she wanted. Blair is type A, perhaps uptight. Serena, on the other hand, floats rather than walks. She is the ingénue, the it girl, the person for whom everything seems to come naturally. Men, jobs, college acceptances, they were all written to fall at Serena’s feet. Both girls were incredibly privileged, but Blair spent much of the series feeling like she was continually in Serena’s shadow.

Everything about their characterization is meant to serve this contrast. Blair has straight, brown hair, walks in short, quick steps, and wears impeccably tailored outfits that often make her look older than she really is (though she always looks impeccable.) Serena has long, often messy blonde hair, a haphazard yet glamorous wardrobe, and walks in confident strides. Blair controls people to get what she wants, while Serena seems to attract it like flies to honey-without doing a thing. It’s not wonder that Blair was constantly green with envy, often turning her back on their friendship because of her own jealousy. It’s something that I think many girls can relate to.

However, this omnipresent envy wasn’t an important part in EVERY plot arch on the show, because it would become trite and trivial if it were. No, Blair’s insecurity comes out the most when she and Serena are in competition for the same thing. It was often a relationship, though other times it was a college admission, social position, etc. Blair often resorted to rather awful tactics to try and take Serena down. I mean, really awful. She exposed Serena’s deepest, most shit-stirring secrets, told lies, manipulated everyone in Serena’s life, and yet, it comes across as justified every single time. Often, audiences forgive Blair’s misgivings and often root for her as the protagonist of the show. While both girls live an incredibly fictionalized life (almost dream-like), Blair, with her imperfections, comes across as the more human of the two girls. People see themselves in her and want her to succeed, because they know how it felt to be “imperfect.” She manages this reliability along with her hyper-powerful, “Queen B” persona, which is the real genius of her character.

Personally, I consider myself a “Blair.” I’m calculated, not very spontaneous. I don’t have an effervescent beauty or personality, more of a constructed one. And this is fine, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve come in contact with my fair share of “Serena” types in recent years, and it is often difficult to quell feelings of envy. What does it feel like to walk with that Blake Lively stride of pride? How does one attain a mega-watt smile? To attract guys like a magnet? To be the darling of the community around you? Fuck off, Serena. You don’t understand what it feels like to work for something and have it blow up in your face. Stop doing that damn squinty-eye hair-flip thing and join the real world. UGH, I can’t. It’s about this point in the jealousy spiral that I decide I need some vodka or retail therapy, much like Blair. Unlike her, I don’t have a limitless credit card, hotel maverick boyfriend, or upper east side apartment. Therefore, that’s where most of our similarities end.)

It’s natural to feel jealous of people who have that ease about them. Hell, I would be crazy not to wish that I naturally possessed that level of mind-blowing confidence. However, there is a beautiful progression of Blair’s character as she grows up in the show. When she was in high school, she would do anything to undermine Serena if she felt her friend was getting the lion’s share of the spotlight. While her feelings of inadequacy remained a resilient part of her character, her actions towards them changed. I don’t want to spoil anything for people who may be going through the show, but at the end of the series, Blair transforms from an immature girl with vitriolic and self-absorbed tendencies, to a powerful and contented woman who has established herself to the best of her abilities. And we as viewers root for her all the way, because we know her success is inevitable.

What is my point? People may decry Gossip Girl as Trash TV, or something only teenagers will really enjoy. But there is a lot in the relationship between Blair and Serena that we can recognize and apply to our own lives. The lesson is about the big picture: Blair ultimately found her happiness without becoming Serena. She found her own contentment , and it was all because of attributes that were unique to her. Comparison with your best friend, no matter how tempting it may be, doesn’t solve any of your own insecurities. It will often just add toxicity to the relationship, and keep you from truly enjoying each other.
Take it from Queen B, there’s enough happiness to go around.

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Sarah Barnitt is student at the University of Michigan who hails from the crown jewel of the Tri-State Area, Long Island (others might not agree, but to that, she says "eat a bagel and hush.") She considers herself curious, introspective, cynical, and usually theatrical. However, she usually just wishes that anything that isn't related to J.Crew, Buttercream frosting, or Saturday Night Live would leave her alone. In the future, she aspires to become Audrey Hepburn, and doesn't have a backup plan.