Written by Daniel Stad
The latest episode of Gossip Girl tonight has inspired me to write this article. When Serena’s “friend” Georgina almost reveals through videotape Serena has killed somebody, it made me think of how - and why - girls can be so, well, mean. So, I thought that maybe I should go forward with my plan of showing that the differences TV shows outline about female interaction during different ages are not mere exaggerations, but useful deconstructions of reality. I will show this, through the examples of television programs, such as Gossip Girl, The Hills, and Desperate Housewives. Gossip Girl is about teenagers, The Hills is about young women in their early 20s, and Desperate Housewives is about adult women in their 30s and 40s.
Let’s first talk about our primary subject: Gossip Girl. Gossip Girl is a modern outlook into the lives of elite teenagers - private schools, limos, smancy parties: the whole deal. While the series is about a bunch of girls who gossip, Gossip Girl is the omniscient narrator who also poses as a website (kind of like Facebook and TMZ.com put together, only she knows absolutely everything that is happening with anybody who’s somebody, and tells you directly - or indirectly - in cyber-article format…hence the singular term “Gossip Girl”). But, back to the fact that this site (or TV show) is not just about one girl. Using this site, these rich, spoiled girls spread scandalous rumours about each other. But, unlike your typical teenage girls, they don’t just talk behind your back; they threaten you with their undeniable power - and harsh words - to your face. Gossip Girl, in a lot of ways, is just like the 2004 smash hit movie Mean Girls. It depicts girls in their most vicious state; they act like fake-ingly, nauseatingly “nice” friends to your face, then once you do something they don’t want you to do, their mission becomes turning the whole world against you - or, at least, their world. And once you climb up the social ladder, you’re trapped with more danger; you immediately enter the competition, even if that wasn’t your intention, and once it’s about showing whose prettier and more popular, it inevitably becomes about appearance rearing its ugly head. Hey! If you’re that famous, everyone loves you - or they hate you….
But, time passes, and, eventually, these girls mature - a bit. Nevertheless, women are like wine; they get better, when they age - slightly. So, let’s discuss girls who age a bit from their adolescent years - girls from The Hills. Shall we? Well, I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because Gossip Girl is dramatized, and The Hills is a “reality” show, (which could explain its lack of emotional expression and ambiguity…). Whatever it is, something makes The Hills different from Gossip Girl, other than its references to “everyday life.” Perhaps it’s the fact that the characters on The Hills are slightly older than the characters on Gossip Girls. So, let’s explore this fact more readily, by examining your prototypical Hills girl. She’s an early 20s, college-bound, fashion magazine intern. But, does that really make her more adult - and deal issues with other women in a rational, adult matter? Well, let’s see. What I notice from watching The Hills is that a lot of tone and body language are concealed. It’s good that they confront their girlfriends in a straightforward, calm manner, but if they say something upsets them directly, damnit, show that they’re upset. I mean, I don’t believe - nor I can tell - you’re upset, if it looks like Botox fixed that permanent monotone expression on your face. “Oh my gawd, I’m, like, sooo upset!” Really? Your voice doesn’t raise in intonation, your eyes don’t light up - you’re like a text message. I can’t tell what the meaning or emotional value behind your words are. Perhaps The Hills depicts reality, because it isn’t as extreme as Gossip Girl; the girls talk behind other girls’ backs, but they also talk to their faces, in a mostly collected manner. So, it does show that girls do these things, but I don’t see the reality of emotion, unless you count the continuous feud between Lauren and Heidi (choosing Spencer over their friendship). Now, the time it’s taking to forgive that is realistic and worth watching…
…but is it as worth watching as the award-winning Desperate Housewives? Well, the thing is that just because it’s more down-to-earth doesn’t mean it’s more realistic - or truthful. I mean, Desperate Housewives is not a reality show, and the girls are more neighbour-like than the “reality” of that of The Hills. But, I guess it could also be because Desperate Housewives is set in a suburban neighbourhood, where everyone is friendly, until behind closed doors. Or is it the age difference that makes…the difference? Desperate Housewives are about, um, housewives in their 30s and 40s. They all reside on Wisteria Lane, practically next door to each other. They all live - and seem - pretty close to each other, yet they don’t always know each other’s secrets. They watch each other closely - invading privacies - to supposedly protect their friends from harm, unless they have their own subconscious selfish and desperate motives. But, despite Gabby’s abuse of handicapped people, Edie’s betraying sex-escapades, Bree’s leaving her son homeless, and the rest, these women are each other’s most loyal confidants, meeting at each other’s homes for tea and cookies, while they laugh and console over their most significant experiences. In their 30s and 40s - most of them nurturing mothers - you can expect these women to lend you a shoulder to cry on - whenever, wherever - unlike those cruel girls who will laugh at you, and are probably the ones making you cry…
In conclusion, when it comes to girls, does age really matter? Well, it seems, according to television, girls in 2008 seem to play nicer, when they’re older. But, of course, each show’s situation may not just depend on the consensual age of its characters and their interaction, but their individual personalities, location, and position in social class. So, it’s safe to say that no matter what the age or factor, girls are always going to be girls. There’s always going to be drama, and girls will always be expected to handle it sweetly and innocently - on the outside.