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A Marxist Ranking of ‘Gossip Girl’ Characters

During the monotonous days of quarantine, like others, I have turned to Netflix to appease my ensuing boredom. Gossip Girl is one of the cheesy staples that I always go back to, especially when I miss New York City. Having also just read through the Communist Manifesto, I could not help but reinterpret this classic CW drama through a Marxist lens. So, here is an official (and satirical) Marxist ranking of all the Gossip Girl characters we love to hate.

Lily Van Der Woodsen-Bass-Humphrey

In a show that centers around glorifying Manhattan’s elite, Lily is the queen of bourgeois ideals. She makes no apologies for her privilege, and will do anything to maintain her and her children’s lifestyle of luxury, including — but not limited to — sending an innocent man to prison, having her own daughter arrested, and helping cover up a Ponzi scheme. She also acquired all of her wealth through multiple divorces and her inheritance — after invalidating her mother’s will, of course — and none through her own labor.

Chuck Bass

Chuck has to be near the bottom of this list because after his father’s (fake) death in Season 2, he became a teenage billionaire. Although his character does improve and evolve by the end of the series, he oozes wealth and privilege in the early seasons through his countless scenes with sex workers and hard drugs — drugs that would no doubt send someone with less privilege to prison. He promotes capitalistic values and owns multiple means of production. He is only below Lily because he seems to make some efforts to redistribute his wealth through philanthropy.

Blair Waldorf

Queen B also ranks low on this list. She only edges out Lily and Chuck because Blair did work hard to achieve some of her success. It is also nuanced that her family is less wealthy than others since the dowry she had to pay to divorce Prince Louis would have bankrupted her family if Chuck hadn’t paid it for her. Blair does have a job, unlike Lily, but she most likely doesn’t have to work to maintain her lifestyle. Plus, she was hired by her mother to run her company (cough, cough, nepotism). Most importantly, she is obsessed with monarchy and believes in clearly defined social classes — let us all remember her blundering toast at an NYU alumni event where she says she has more in common with Marie Antionette than she has with Vanessa. She was also a literal princess for half of a season.

Serena Van der Woodsen

Serena’s character is most known for having things handed to her. She does have a few jobs throughout the seasons, but she often obtains them through connections and her reputation as an it-girl, and most of them only last a few episodes. She is higher on this list because she is not as elitist as Blair and Lily, but she still greatly benefits from inherited wealth and her trust fund. Aside from the few odd jobs and internships, she, like most of her friends, mysteriously dropped out of the Ivy League schools they attend and doesn’t seem to have any career aspirations. Her family connections and reputation also help her get into Yale, Brown, and Columbia, despite her lack of qualifications and low grades throughout most of high school.

Nate Archibald 

Nate ranks lower on this list because his character is pretty emblematic of old money. He is, after all, a Vanderbilt, a family that included one of the prominent robber barons of the Gilded Age. He also ranks lower because of his aloofness to his own privilege for most of the series. Also let’s be real, are we really expected to believe he got into Columbia without any help from his family? He may be a good lacrosse player, but the show also mentions how he is in the bottom part of his class. However, Nate does redeem himself by rejecting his grandfather’s financial assistance in the later seasons and works hard to grow The Spectator. But he is still demoted to a lower spot because he somehow gets away with cooking The Spectator’s books, and he wouldn’t have been able to buy The Spectator without his trust fund.

Dan Humphrey

Dan ranks higher on this list because he does start out the series as a scholarship student from Brooklyn. He does not have the same family wealth and status as his elite private school peers, but still succeeds despite Blair and her elitist peers constantly bringing him down. He also does somewhat metaphorically “eat the rich” through running Gossip Girl. Dan, though, is not ranked higher because he still aspires to, and eventually does, join the ranks of his wealthy peers by the end of the series. He also comes off as hypocritical because he condemns the other characters for their behavior and privilege, yet still seeks to be like them.

Rufus Humphrey

Rufus begins the series as a sort of moral compass for his children and Lily. He certainly isn’t as privileged as the other Constance-Billard and St. Jude parents. However, he is still nuanced with bourgeois undertones through his ownership of two art galleries and his aspiration for his children to have elite private school educations. The Humphreys also can’t be that poor, since they do own a loft in a hip Brooklyn neighborhood. He does seem to help check Lily’s rich-person impulses, yet at times he, like Dan, exhibits hypocrisy, especially during his creepy relationship with the much-younger Ivy Dickens. 

Jenny Humphrey

Jenny is high on this list because unlike her brother Dan, she manages to finally see the Upper East Side for what it is and moves on from it. Although in earlier seasons she was definitely enraptured with the lifestyle of Manhattan’s elite and stooped to Blair and others’ levels in an attempt to carve out her own kingdom, she eventually repents and realizes the shallowness and emptiness of the bourgeois lifestyle.

Vanessa Abrams

Vanessa is probably the most proletariat of the main Gossip Girl characters. She did live in a commune with her parents for a while. She inherited many of the values of her parents, who disapprove of her attending a private university. Although she does stoop to scheming and frequently goes to extremes to protect her relationship with Dan, she never loses her activist values and is never persuaded by the bourgeois values of the wealthier characters.

Elizabeth Flachbart

Columbia Barnard '22

Elizabeth is a senior at Barnard College studying political science and English. She loves to talk about politics, books, theater, and cats. When she isn't in class, she is probably reading The Economist or binge-watching Gilmore Girls.
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