Woke Reboots: Which Ones Failed & Which One Succeeded?
It’s an undeniable fact that we as a society have gotten more progressive. So much so even Hollywood has begun to take notice. Coupled with this fact is that Hollywood can’t seem to conjure up an original thought anymore. Instead, they are turning to shows and movies that worked in the past and trying to re-create them for a new generation. One of the problems with these reboots is that they come from a time in Hollywood where diversity on-screen (and behind the scenes) was almost non-existent.
Rebooting TV shows like Gossip Girl and Sex and The City was a no-brainer. Both of these shows have huge fanbases that adore them in spite of their flaws. But the lack of diversity and problematic elements from each show is something that needed to be remedied. If these reboots wanted to appeal to new audiences while also bringing back their original fanbase, they needed to change with the times. The question for each show’s showrunners became: how do you make these beloved, yet problematic properties work for a new generation?
Luckily Gossip Girl showrunner Joshua Safran and …And Just Like That showrunner Michael Patrick King recognized they needed to do better when it came to showing diversity on-screen. They didn’t want to make the same mistakes that the original shows did. Instead, they made a conscious effort to make up for the shows’ past discretions. The Gossip Girl (2021) and …And Just Like That make an effort to cast actresses of color and depict progressive characters and storylines. It’s admirable that these showrunners tried to fix some of the mistakes from each show’s original run, but diversity on-screen isn’t enough to make a show good. It seems they forgot they needed to create a cohesive entertaining show to watch too.
First, let’s tackle Gossip Girl (2021). Unlike …And Just Like That, Gossip Girl is not a continuation of the original Gossip Girl (2007). It does not follow any of the original characters, though it is set in the same universe. In theory, Gossip Girl should have been the perfect show to reboot. A show that follows a bunch of rich privileged New York teenagers doesn’t seem like it would be a difficult show to reboot, but Gossip Girl (2021) proves that sometimes lighting in a bottle can’t be replicated. The show’s attempt to modernize the original show by adding diversity among the cast and depicting LGBTQIA+ characters and relationships is nice to see, but the show doesn’t put any effort into their characters beyond that. The best thing about the original Gossip Girl was the connection the audience felt towards the characters. Memorable characters like Blair Waldorf and Chuck Bass captivated viewers, so much so they are still talked about long after the show has been over. None of the characters from the new Gossip Girl are worthy of being remembered because the writers put little to no effort into developing their characters or relationships.
So, sure it’s nice to see POC characters. But if the show isn’t doing anything to make their characters feel completed, what’s the point? Instead of feeling like well-thought-out characters, they end up feeling like caricatures. And when the show uses these characters as mouthpieces to try to push progressive beliefs and opinions, it doesn’t feel empowering. It feels disingenuous and hamfisted. It’s obvious the show is targeted to Gen Z and millennial viewers, so they push progressive views thinking it will win those viewers over. But because their attempt to be woke feels like they’re doing it because they have to, not because they want to. Their goal to engage Gen Z and millennial viewers ultimately actually push them away. Many of them came to watch a messy melodramatic show about elitist teenagers doing terrible things to each other. Instead, they do get a messy show, just for all the wrong reasons.
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