The ‘Gossip Girl’ Reboot Has Everything You Loved About the O.G.—And More

There’s a moment in episode one of HBO Max’s Gossip Girl reboot, available for streaming July 8, when I realized it had the original show’s DNA. It happens at the very end: Queen bee Julien (Jordan Alexander) is headlining a fashion show where, unbeknownst to her, her minions, Monet (Savannah Smith) and Luna (Zión Moreno), have concocted a plan to thwart new girl Zoya (Whitney Peak), who happens to be Julien’s half-sister. What that specific plan is doesn’t matter, but the sabotage would make Blair Waldorf proud. And the outfits they’re wearing make the O.G. Constance Billard girls look downright plain. 

It’s delicious, candy-coated fun—a little bitchy, very cheeky, and highly addictive. In short, all the ingredients that made Gossip Girl 1.0 so effective. This may surprise fans who’ve followed the online chatter about the reboot. Showrunner Joshua Safran has insisted this new reimagining is more “woke”—the kids are socially conscious, there are no catfights, no limos…no fun, essentially. Many feared Gossip Girl 2.0 would be so cannibalized by 2021 buzzwords it might forget that it’s, well, a show about girls who gossip.  

This couldn’t be further from the truth. HBO Max’s Gossip Girl is chock-full of gossip, gowns, and garish displays of wealth. The central characters are stylish, cunning, and painfully hot. And aside from a few ham-fisted moments of “wokeness,” the show presents its diversity as all pop culture should: as natural, as normal, as “why hasn’t this been the standard all along?” Safran and co-executive producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, who helmed the original GG, took a page from Shonda Rhimes’s handbook and made a world just as enticing and exclusive as Blair and Serena’s but filled it with people everyone can identify with. 

Savannah Lee Smith (Monet de Haan) and Jordan Alexander (Julien Calloway) in HBO Max’s Gossip Girl


There’s still sex, but much of it is queer. There are still Instagrammable beauty moments, but they’re from characters with many skin tones. Mean girls are still tossing their hair and scheming on the Met steps, but sometimes their hair is in locs. Sometimes they have no hair at all. Gossip Girl’s representation (and “woke” sensibility) work because it’s simply embedded into the story. It’s not a “thing” the way Safran’s tweets may have suggested it would be. 

“Certain things are essential to the Gossip Girl franchise: a strong, complicated female dynamic at the center, romantic triangles—which exist in the new show but are updated—and parent-kid relationships,’ Savage tells me over Zoom while sitting next to Schwartz, who chimes in, “And the existence of Gossip Girl: this ubiquitous, omniscient online presence tormenting these kids. If those elements were in place, then the possibilities were wide open.” 

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