You Ever Notice That The Gossip Girl TV Show is a Lot Like Persuasion?


So welcome back every one! I enjoyed my week off. As we had a lot of free time last month (April) with the quarantine and shelter in place I watched a lot of TV. Some new things, some old comforts or guilty pleasures.

Of course I am always on the lookout for Jane Austen bingos and Jane Austen comparisons. One that recently came to mind was this: you ever notice that Gossip Girl the TV show (not the book series as I have never read it) is a lot like Persuasion?

What are you talking about??

I know what you are thinking, what does a show about the rich and famous Upper East Siders who drink, do drugs, scheme, and intermix their relationships (I think this show had almost every character date another of the main characters) have anything to do with Jane Austen?

Hmm…

The relationship of Lily Van der Woodsen and Rufus Humphrey

Hmm…

So quick summary on both:

Persuasion is a story that spans over several years. When Anne Elliot and Fredrick Wentworth are young they become engaged, and Anne is persuaded to turn him down as he could die, she could be left with nothing, they are young, he is leaving for the Navy, her family won’t approve, etc. He thinks it is solely because she from a rich distinguished family, and he’s a nobody. He becomes angry, takes a lot of chances in the war and increases his wealth and stature. He returns to find Anne unmarried and her family has lost their money, letting their mansion out to Fredrick’s sister and brother-in-law. Anne has never gotten over Fredrick and is shocked to see him enter her life again. Intrigue happens as some women are striving for Frederick’s heart, a woman has a ploy to snag Anne’s father Sir Walter Elliot, and a estranged relative reappears planning to go after his inheritance and cousin. Will the two get their happy ending together? Or has too much time passed?

Anne in the background, Captain Frederick Wentworth in the foreground with Louisa Musgrove.

In Gossip Girl we have the story of Dan and Jenny Humphrey who live in Brooklyn and attend the private school for the rich and famous on scholarship. Dan is a loner who is there to do well and go to college, hopefully achieving his dream of attending Dartmouth or Yale. Jenny strives to be just like the wealthy and rich, being the Queen B: Blair Waldorf’s lackey. Serena Van der Woodsen returns from boarding school and upsets everyone’s life: Blair is displeased at sharing the spotlight, Blair’s boyfriend Nate is in love with Serena, Chuck Bass is just a jerk with problems & lashing out, and for Dan she is his dream girl. Dan and Serena have a relationship but will he be able to handle the lifestyles of the rich and famous? The story spans several years, breakups and makeups, schemes, intrigue, fashion, money, etc.

The parents and adults on this show are just as bad as the children-drugs, drinking, affairs, etc. Lily is Serena’s mother and former roadie and girlfriend to Rufus Humphrey, former aspiring rock star, and Dan’s father. They traveled around but Lily left him for her life on the West Side. They are thrown back together when their kids date, but the flames between them have not quite died out. And almost every move and act is commented and written about on the Gossip Girl blog.

***Spoiler Warning***

So I know this still might not be making total sense to you, but bear with me until the end and comment if you see it or if you think there is no comparison.

I have never read the books and am basing this on the storyline in the TV show. In the TV show Lily was raised on the Upper West Side, is rich, famous, and beautiful, but also not as stuffy or following in the path of her mother-there is a serious disconnect between her and her mother (and her and her father as shown in one episode). She does not follow the plans her mother wanted for her, but instead gets involved with the average, aspiring rock and roll star, Rufus, and they are so adorable together.

How sweet!

Unfortunately, Lily’s mother, Celia Catherine “CeCe” Rhodes, persuades her against staying with Rufus as she threatens to cut Lily off and will her trust fund and inheritance away. That wouldn’t have stopped Lily except that her mother also convinced her that Lily would be unable to handle a regular life, that eventually Rufus would move on (an aspiring rock star can’t be faithful), her parents and family would never see her again or have anything to do with her, and she would end up poor and alone.

This reminded me a lot of what happened with Anne. While Anne was close to her mother, after she died she was left with her father who she shares a similar disconnect and he also has zero involvement in her life (like Lily’s dad). Anne may not be wild like Lily, but she definitely ranks high in his disapproval. Like Lily, she fell in love with someone society deemed “beneath” her, but also fell victim to the persuasion of a family friend, someone she trusted and loved as a second mother, Lady Russell. The social rank doesn’t matter to Anne, like it does to Lady Russell, but like Lily-Anne falls victim to the what ifs-if she had married Frederick she could end up with no family support (or ever seeing them again), no money, a wounded turned alcoholic husband, the life of drudgery, a widow with nothing, etc. (In fact she could end up with the same life of Fanny Price’s mother)

Fanny (left) and Mrs. Price, her mother, and little sister (right).

In Gossip Girl, it has been over 16 years and Rufus and Lily find themselves back together again. Rufus’ initial reaction is very similar to Captain Wentworth, as he is hurt and angry at how he was treated by his love. The two verbally spar with each other, but as they spend time together, they end up falling for each other again. Rufus realizes his feelings for her when his wife he’s been separated from for months (who is cheating on him), returns. Seeing her back with his family, coupled with him meeting her lover, makes him realize that it’s over for them and he really wants to be with Lily. This part reminded me of when Louisa, the girl Captain Frederick has been constantly flirting with, falls and injures herself making it impossible for him to get with Anne as everyone thinks he is engaged to Louisa-this situation cluing him into the fact that he is still in love with Anne and doesn’t want to be with anyone else. Luckily, Louisa is tended to by Captain Benwick and is engage to him, freeing Captain Wentworth and allowing him to chase after his true love.

So in Persuasion, Captain Wentworth needs to let Anne know his feelings and he writes her one of the most romantic letters so that she has concrete proof he cares for her. Rufus is also very romantic and while he doesn’t write Lily a letter he “walks” (as I don’t believe that he really walked the whole way) from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side in the snow with no coat to tell Lily that he loves her, leaving her with a romantic voicemail.

Both Lady Russell (Anne’s godmother) and CeCe Rhodes (Lily’s mother) realize their mistakes as both stories progress. Lady Russell sees that Frederick is a good man and will take care of Anne, along with valuing her. CeCe also realizes her mistake in having separated the two and even encourages them to get together.

But of course the TV series ran for six seasons and LOVED the drama, so every time Rufus and Lily drew close, they broke up or something came to keep them apart. Eventually, they do marry and I really liked them together, but then Lily’s ex-husband was poisoning her to think she had cancer and rely on him and she couldn’t tell Rufus (so that caused issues) and even later her previous husband Bart Bass-who died but somehow miraculously lived, comes back from the grave so her marriage to Rufus is invalid. And then she ends up with her ex-husband who poisoned her, which is one of the dumbest decisions that TV show made, really? Why would she be with him when he was POISONING her?

So it has parallel’s to Persuasion, but unfortunately they don’t get the happy ending Wentworth and Anne do.

So what do you think? Do you see the similarities? Or are these two stories completely different from each other? Comment below!

For more on Persuasion, go to The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

For more on Gossip Girl, go to Prom Book Dream Come True: Valley Girl, Gossip Girl (2009)

For more Jane Austen meets modern culture, go to Austen Avengers Assemble!

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