Gossip Girl – “All About My Brother”

“All About My Brother”

May 5th, 2008

It’s time for someone to be Outed – or, more accurately, for two people to be Outed. Homosexuality is one issue the series has not addressed in any broad strokes, and there is obvious concern when raising this that things will either fall into sensationalism or lack the emotional impact necessary to make this important issue resonate.

The series finds the perfect person to handle it, perhaps the show’s most sympathetic character. As everyone is busy being catty or bitchy, this character has never fallen into those traps, and it explains important things about his past and his future.

The result is an episode where homosexuality isn’t a joke, or a plot contrivance, but a real issue in a person’s life. Just as the show tackled pregnancy in the right way, I think they’re on the right path here as well…for the most part. The real problem is that while the end result might be fine, the way it’s used for the plot seems false by comparison.

Admittedly, I will start with my biggest issue: Asher turning into a complete and total jerk for the sake of tearing Jenny’s heart out. Her being his beard seemed like a sympathetic trait at first, but for it to devolve so clearly into an action of selfishness (He got creepy in two seconds, flat) is dangerous. Admittedly, Jenny appears to be in it for the same reason, but it’s a really unsympathetic view of his character that just doesn’t make sense.

Similarly, for Erik to be outed through Georgina’s attempts to destroy Serena’s life just doesn’t seem right – as a way of entering into the storyline, it just seems false. However, as noted above, Erik is a character I’ve always enjoyed: he has a pure heart, which is so very rare on this show, and I think that watching the people around him rally to him (Mainly Serena) is charming.

While it admittedly gets in the way of Jenny and Erik becoming the cutest couple in the series, it does open the door for them being the cutest set of best friends in the series once Jenny gets over her obsession with being part of high society. I like Jenny’s choice, here, an immature but frustrating scenario that finally wakes her up. Even Blair and Chuck are standing up for Erik here, but Jenny is that far gone into this society.

And Erik never was, which allows him to stand on his own two feet with pride and honour. His decision to confront Asher, and eventually allow Gossip Girl to out them in favour of continued lies, is a powerful statement about his sense of identity. That they met in the Ostroff Center makes perfect sense, and for Erik to have outgrown his problems enough to come clean is a great character moment. I’ve always wanted the show to spend more time with Erik as a character, and I hope that can continue considering this development has only seen it grow.

Another impact of the storyline comes from, surprisingly, the interactions between Lily and Rufus regarding the struggles of their youngest children. Say what you will about the parental storylines, but these two actors have a lot of chemistry, and in particular Kelly Rutherford. Her reaction to Erik’s coming out is natural, and turning to Rufus for advice felt realistic; that her ultimate concern was for his mental well-being makes perfect sense, and works with the general sentiment quite well. These two parents have a lot in common, and I really hope we can keep this non-sexual chemistry for the sake of avoiding parental melodrama.

And, speaking of melodrama, let’s discuss the other storyline that is certainly a distraction from the far more emotionally impactful time spent with the above. Serena is still dealing with her Georgina problem, as she has infiltrated Dan/Vanessa through an alias of Sarah, and returns to Serena’s penthouse to deliver a video of a sexual tryst and an ill-advised outing of Erik. She follows up with continued threats against Serena telling Dan the truth, all played with gusto by Michelle Trachtenberg. But then, things go off the rails: Serena tells Blair that she killed someone.

Yep, murder is what Serena is hiding. It just feels way too melodramatic for my tastes, the kind of thing that introduced out of context like this seems too ridiculous for its own good. I am hoping that we get a logical explanation, and that it’s not true, if only because I don’t want to see Schwartz retread the same lines as when Marissa shot Trey on The O.C. (And yes, I now have Imogen Heap stuck in my head, thank you very much Andy Samberg).

It did, however, allow us to see a side of Blair that’s able to be there for Serena, and to let Jenny down easy, and to care for Erik – after portraying her as a bit too much of a bitch, the show is nicely stepping back from that. Hopefully, they can similarly step back from the edge of the cliff that murder represents. While I think that the introduction of homosexuality takes a few wrong turns when he’s outed by Georgina’s cattiness (though she claims ignorance to his status, which I kind of buy and was a nice subtle character touch), or Asher being a real jerk, ultimately Erik being surrounded by people (even Chuck and Blair) who care about him is a strong note for the series.

Cultural Observations

  • In other news, love the “Now you know how Vanessa Hudgens feels” line when Jenny starts to hear about the Asher/Erik kiss – so subtle, just like the Katie Holmes dig.
  • Also, apparently, the Asian girl from last week’s episode now enters into Blair’s entourage – this is a cute way of essentially recasting the role we lose when the previous actress went off to college, but it still seems a bit strange.
  • You know, considering all of those racy ads, you’d think that the series would be willing to actually show two men kissing on the show. Perhaps it’s the early timeslot that has the censors scared, and you could explain it away as the show trying to create suspense for who it was (I had it figured out pretty quickly, mainly from the episode title and the short height of the mystery suitor), but not even seeing one of the photos Blair takes off Asher’s cell? Seems like a cop-out to me.

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