I watch Gossip Girl.
There, I said it. I devour it like The Big Black Dog devours each of her meals – as if she hasn’t been fed for months. Admittedly, I feel slight shame in admitting that. I know it’s a load of hogwash about far-too-rich-for-their-own-good kids living a ridiculously glamorous and silly world with little to no regard for anything that’s real and true or, for that matter, kind.
Despite all that, I love it. It is unrealistic escapism that requires absolutely no concentration or thought. The scheming and planning and focus on all that is frivolous is astounding in its excess. The drama, the angst, the passion, the ultimate me, me, me-ness.
Last night, though, we were out for dinner and sat next to a table that had five squealy 14-year olds at it, out for dinner. I don’t remember going out with just my friends to a restaurant when I was 14. Sure, we spent hours at each other’s houses and went out with each other’s parents but alone? Maybe we did and I’ve forgotten in the mists of time.
It was like watching a real, live, version of Gossip Girl. They were all dressed in similiar outfits – skinny jeans, fresh faces, long hair. All of them. Attached to their cell phones, they took pictures of each other, presumably to upload directly to Stalkbook, so that those who weren’t invited knew they hadn’t been, a’ la Gossip Girl. They spoke of skiing holidays and beach romances. Rich kids. Young kids.
The thing that horrified me, though, was when I watched them order. All of them ordered and ate, except one. She had a water bottle filled with some milky thing, presumably a diet shake which she sipped on throughout the meal. She was tiny, skinny, achingly beautiful. My heart broke when she, literally, asked her friend opposite to smell her food. Smell it. A look of pure pleasure crossed her face as she inhaled the aroma of the food, and passed it back, untouched.
Not a thing passed her lips except for the shake. I wanted to hug her, shout at her mother, tell her she’s beautiful. And then I realised how dangerous media can be. These were the bright young things who are the real audience of Gossip Girl and, I fear, they’re not considering it as fun, frivolous, vacuous entertainment, but as something to aim for.
And that is just frightening.