Ryan Sheely and Matthew Wrather celebrate the Gossip Girl New Year, considering the cremaster field of Paris, the self-righteousness of bad parenting, and whether anybody in New York City is truly “middle class.”
Next week, we consider the return of Glee!
There will be no spoiler warnings and there will be many naughty words. If either of those things bothers you, don’t click!
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As a summer school attendee, I was struck by the similarities between the rebirth of Chuck Bass (aka Henry Prince) and Tony Stonem: a self-serving man has a crippling injury after finally confronting his stand-offishness with the woman he’s wronged. Redemption implied, old friends disappear to a point.
His ‘life flashing before his eyes’ being a montage of getting slapped and beaten for his misdeeds served to show that he’s recognized the error of his ways. That he chose not to use the “I’m Chuck Bass” catch-phrase when it could help him most presumably shows a true identity change, not just a continuation of deception and manipulation. It would be interesting to have Bass temporarily forfeiting luxury to ‘see how the other half lives’ just for his own amusement but I suspect that, with the stalker and Georgina as villains, Chuck’s character is due for enlightenment.
I’ve just listened to the podcast (I know, I know) and I wanted to comment on Wharton. I think the comparison between “House of Mirth” and “Sister Carrie” is very apt, and on the surface the contrast that Carrie’s story is one of determinism while Lily Bart’s not so much, is true, but only so far as the authorial voice inserts itself in the narrative. Dreiser means for us to see Carrie’s agency limited by circumstances, and overtly calls her a “waif amid forces” and uses that whole “boat on choppy seas” metaphor a couple times. (Truthfully, I think he overstates his case some, but I’ll come back to that.)
Wharton, however, doesn’t engage in that sort of editorializing, and in fact lets the plot really drive home the fact that Lily, and by extension women of her class, are on the whole bred to be useless and dependent, which leaves them with only superficial “choices” between different faces of the same outcome. HoM, I think, is really dark in it’s strict adherence to the idea that ANY deviation from the expected social pattern, any slight break with the rules, will fuck you up. Forever. Until you die (suicide?).
I think the difference in the subtlety w/r/t the predetermined nature of these two ladies has a lot to due with the authors and what they were trying to do. Dreiser was writing about a “fallen woman” who succeeds at a time where all such were depicted only a cautionary tales; he had a decade-long battle to get it published and distributed. It makes sense that he would play up the role of Circumstances to avoid just flagrantly rubbing Carrie’s immoral choices in peoples’ faces. Similarly, Wharton was commenting on both how bullshit women’s roles were, as well as the pettiness and hypocrisy of upper class, the latter being certainly more acceptable reading material; therefore, I think she couches her gender critique under a layer of “look at this rich lady’s stupid decisions and asshole friends”, when a deeper reading shows that Lily Bart was basically born to fail, one way or the other.
Both heroines certainly did the best for themselves as they could, but in the end Carrie was able to achieve at least some of her goals by throwing the bird to societies’ rules, which I think for all of Dreiser’s framing is what she did. Lily, though, couldn’t win for losing, because her game is rigged, and I think we all know which story Our Blair’s actually in.
(Um, yeah. I cajoled all my friends who watched Gossip Girl read HoM at the beginning of Season 2, so I’ve been on this kick Wharton/GG for a while. Pardon the geekiness.)