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Racism In Gossip Girl

To the right is a woman named Jessica Szohr. On the show Gossip Girl, she plays a character named Vanessa Abrams.

For a bit, everyone on Gossip Girl was white as toilet paper. That (and the values of normative whiteness) explained their toxic ecosystem. I could even see how this paradigm cajoled the show's creators to center a rendition ("Quirky Guy, Hot Girl") of the TIRED "Ugly Guy, Hot Wife" troupe as the plot.

But things started to make less sense when Vanessa Abrams suddenly joined the cast. She was a racially ambiguous, and an inexplicable splash of color. She wasn't like anyone else. Yet, there she was, inserted into this world like some kind of changeling.


She was an irksome mix of traditionally racist troupes. She was part mammy (always cleaning up after her fellow characters on the show) and part tragic mulatto (or jezebelle, never truly earning the love/loyalty of any men around her). She was the "exotic" sexual alternative. She was the foil to the white, blonde, blue-eyed Serena Van der Woodsen. She was also a mix of several other troupes. She was the "fallback girl" and part "bro" (both of which subliminally peg her as less desirable than the other women). She was also part "eThNiC mOrAl CoMpAsS".

Sometimes, how Vanessa was treated served as a vehicle for explicitly racist ideas. The instance that stood out to me the most was the one showcased in season 3 on the episode "Dr. Estrangeloved". Here was the gist of the scenario:

Dan (white male) had applied to a special school for writing. After anxiously waiting for his acceptance letter, he got a rejection letter instead. He was baffled and devastated. But these sentiments turned into a ballistic torrent of white-trash, Republican emotion when he found out that his ("inferior", half-Black) friend Vanessa got the spot in instead of him. (God forbid Vanessa had her own aspirations! How dArE she change her mind about getting higher education??? How dArE challenge him??? He couldn't let this welfare queen get away with this free-bee! Not at his expense!!! Screw the childhood friendship they had!)


His vindictiveness crept out of him: Dan mentions to Wilma (a white woman with the power to reverse Vanessa's acceptance) that Vanessa's work was "inspired" by his. (Make no mistake: here, "inspired" means "copied"/"based on". )

Forget about verifying the facts. In a tear-jerking display of white solidarity, Wilma calls her daddy, who happens to be on the board that decides student acceptances for the school. She reiterated what she heard from Dan, and Vanessa's acceptance is jeopardized.

Guess what happened next?

You got it: NOTHING.

Turns out that Vanessa's work was ORIGINAL, and she beat Dan fair-in-square.

This episode was indicative of the following racist idea that is still propagated through academia and elsewhere:

"Non-whites are not intelligent. They can only be great/interesting if there are white influences in their art, craft, intellect, or culture. 'White influences' may be:

  1. genetic (sexual, normally through paternity)

  2. social (normally through colonialism/imperialism)

  3. intellectual (normally through literature)

White influences for fantastic non-white work may also include whites being an iNsPiRaTiOn (causing non-whites to want to emulate white work). Basically, any great non-white art, craft, intellect, or culture that exists without white influence is the stuff of either impulse, spirituality, magic, or aliens. It's nEvEr skill. There is nEvEr intention. It is nEvEr the reflection of the non-white's intellect. Anything the non-whites can do, the whites can dO bEtTeR!."

This is the same racist, EVIL rationale behind the absurd show: Ancients & Aliens.

This is the rationale so deeply rooted in anthropology that the AAPA has had to rebrand a couple times over the past century, sometimes by putting out statements like the AAPA's Statement on Race & Racism.

This same thinking is at the root of some of the most harmful and enduring racist tropes, like the mammy, Aunt Jemima, and Uncle Ben.



Now, I'll refrain from calling her ugly...

However, Vanessa looks WEIRDDDddd. Period. I was reminded of what I learned about "The Uncanny Valley", a concept also known as "Bukimi No Tani Genshō" check out this video for details:

Honestly: If they wanted someone Black, why didn't they just get someone definitively (visibly) Black, instead of making us sit here and guess?


It just came to me:

I guess a visibly Black person would have "messed up: the photo op/the look of the show, huh? LOL.

Gotta hand it to the utility of light skin & the "Barely Blackers".

What an interesting rendition on the concept of "spicy white".

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