While working at a book-packaging firm in New York City, she became inspired to create the Gossip Girl series, which presents a cynical view of high-maintenance teenage lifestyles. The Constance Billard School for Girls is based on an exaggerated version of the author’s alma mater, Nightingale.
The series climbed to the top of The New York Times Best-Sellers list in 2002 and in October 2011 she released a spin-off of the first novel: Psycho Killer.
The television adaptation of the series premiered on the CW network in 2007 to mixed reviews. Controversy and criticism surrounding the show surfaced due to the fact that it failed to show much of the books’ plots, character personalities, and other popular elements, thus disappointing many fans of the novels. On May 16, 2011, Von Ziegesar herself made a cameo for the fourth season finale.
The book’s description says it all: “Welcome to New York City’s Upper East Side, where my friends and I live, go to school, play, and sleep–sometimes with each other.”
So we have a popular teen series for girls set at a posh New York City private school populated by hard-drinking, bulimic, love-craved rich kids being mean to one another. There is no Shakespearian character depth or stark emotional truth to speak of, yet this strange love-child between Danielle Steel and Judith Krantz has the effect of gossip itself- once you enter, it’s hard to extract yourself; and girls everywhere are tearing copies off of the shelves.
What could possibly be controversial about it all?
These books are challenged by parents and religious groups who want them removed from school libraries and reading lists for containing homosexual elements, sexual content, drug use, offensive language, and being unsuited to its target age group. In other words, it contains all of those things that are part of its intended age group and explores subjects that they deal with on a daily basis- whether we’d like to admit it or not.
Sure, the stereotypical whiny little rich girl persona is taken to new lows as the various characters gossip, cut each other down to size, plot vengeance over the most minor of insults, drink, take drugs, ditch school, lie, have sex, and photograph body parts, so it’s no small wonder these books get parents’ and religious groups’ knickers in a twist. It’s destructive; the characters lack a moral compass; and glorify greed, vindictiveness, and physical pleasures.
You know- all of those things that make up every storyline on network television. Well, that, or behind-the-scenes politics. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.
How can we get angry at our teens for reading fictional accounts of girls texting dirty pictures and being rebellious, when we adults are glued to the nightly news reports and political opinion shows about Anthony Weiner, or the next political/entertainment scandal of the week, and gossiping and ranting about it over the water cooler at work the next day.
But that’s just it, isn’t it? Learning how to tell the difference between fantasy and reality; and walking that thin line that separates fact from fiction.
For more information on the Banned Books Awareness and Reading for Knowledge project and the complete list of titles covered, please visit the official website at http://www.deepforestproductions.com/BBARK.html