‘Gossip Girl’ relies on Univ. stereotypes

When Gossip Girl protagonist Serena van der Woodsen declared on Monday night that she wanted to take Yale’s “Great Hoaxes in Archaeology” lecture, 13 students watching the show in the Saybrook TV room erupted in applause.

“That was the best class ever!” one girl yelled. “I took it last semester.”

A passing reference to the Blue Book, however, may have been one of the few similarities between Yale College and the glossy, high-drama world of backstabbing socialites at Manhattan prep schools. Compared to the somewhat more realistic attempts made by the Gilmore Girls crew — complete with the Whiffenpoofs singing on Parent’s Weekend, for example — Gossip Girl’s rendition was riddled with myths, especially with regards to college admissions.

Yalies crowded into residential-college common areas and TV rooms around campus yesterday to watch the latest episode, titled “New Haven Can Wait,” of the hit one-hour CW drama. The episode centered around the characters’ fall pre-frosh weekend on Yale’s campus — or at least, under an ivy-strewn archway resembling Yale. Although the plot of Monday night’s episode alluded to Skull and Bones and the Harvard-Yale football game, many students said they were disappointed with the misleading references to Yale. Instead of bringing the filming cast and crew to New Haven, Gossip Girl producers chose to film the episode next door to their original set in Manhattan, at Columbia University.

Yale Licensing Manager Denise Castellano said the University never received any inquiries from the producers of Gossip Girl about filming on Yale’s campus. If they had, University officials would have asked for a copy of the script before they approved any requests to use the campus for filming purposes, Castellano explained.

Students interviewed said last night’s installment of Gossip Girl was especially erroneous in its portrayal of the Yale admissions process.

In the episode, three of the main characters met privately with the Yale dean of admissions, but the real admissions dean, Jeff Brenzel ’75, said such meetings could never have occurred beyond the realm of the television series.

Brenzel said he does not counsel students or conduct evaluative interviews, although his role, like that of any admissions officer, leads to conversations with candidates regarding Yale or the application process.

“I don’t do any interviews of applicants or potential applicants, so I’m not in the position of advising anyone,” he said over the phone Monday night.

While admissions officers are expected to answer students’ questions, he said the office does not arrange for any private counseling sessions between admissions officers and students.

He also said the admissions office gives no preference to any school groups over others.

But last night, the show’s rivals Blair Waldorf, played by actress Leighton Meester, and Serena, played by actress Blake Lively — students at an elite private school ­­— backstabbed and bribed their way to get an invitation for a dinner party hosted by the dean of admissions. Sporting designer suits and revealing necklines, the wealthy seniors schmoozed with administrators and professors throughout the evening.

“I certainly do not hold or attend private dinners for candidates,” Brenzel wrote in a follow-up e-mail Monday night.

In the spirit of Gossip Girl mania, Jonathan Edwards freshman counselor Katie Zimmerman ’09 said she and three other freshman counselors threw a Gossip Girl-watching party in their suite for all the freshmen in their college. Zimmerman said she has been an avid watcher of the show since it began in the fall of 2007, but this week’s episode fell short of what she had anticipated. After the initial wave of freshmen left halfway during the episode, Zimmerman said the remaining five students in her suite did not seem to notice the differences between Yale and the Gossip Girl version of the University during the rest of the show. But after three years as an Eli, she said it was hard to ignore the discrepancies between fact and fiction.

“It didn’t bring out the Yale that we all know and love, but instead just used stereotypes about Yale,” Zimmerman said. “And all the characters were just focusing on getting in [to Yale].”

On the whole, she concluded: “It was kind of a failure.”

Zimmerman said she was surprised by the numerous disparities between the fictitious and the real-world Yale.

In reality, the Dean of Admissions does not send out exclusive invitations to ritzy early-admissions soirees. Skull and Bones does not tap pre-frosh. And under no circumstances do high school students approach Yale upperclassmen with romantic propositions.

But perhaps it’s still up for debate whether, as Serena put it, “Yale is for overachieving bookworms and preppies.”


  • Notes from the less prestigious university, Ohio S

    The entirety of Gossip girl is based on stereotypes, not just its depiction of Yale. Parodies usually are. Is anyone bothered by the degrading stereotypes GG exploits about the working class? Probably not so much. True the episode should have been filmed at Yale if possible, but it's still an intriguing show.

  • currentyalie

    Thank you, Ohio.

    This article lacks different angles. It's overall redundant and repetitive. Not everyone hated the episode, and even if you did, unknown reporter, suck it up and write a real YDN worthy account of the facts.

    Try harder, new board people. Try harder.

  • alum

    "And under no circumstances do high school students approach Yale upperclassmen with romantic propositions."


  • Anonymous

    "And under no circumstances do high school students approach Yale upperclassmen with romantic propositions."

    Indeed: when I was a high school student, I approached a Yale upperclassman with a romantic proposition. It was cheerfully accepted, and we dated for a couple of years.
    What's more, we're still friends.

  • '07

    Guess your prefrosh were nerdier than ours.

  • Van Tassel

    This is one of those articles that you head str8 to the message board

  • Harley

    It's a TV show! Who really cares if it wasn't realistic? News flash: Most TV shows have an air of unreality about them. Does Yale have nothing better to worry about than a show? Get over it.

  • Lisa

    You people at Yale, if anyone is dumb enough to believe that a fictional TV series is going to portray your school with complete accuracy, they're too stupid to make it in anyway. Don't complain about the depiction. I bet the college's appearance on the show leads to a significant boost in applications, some from people with brains who are very well aware that the depiction was not entirely accurate but nevertheless grew more interested in the place due to its prominence in the storyline.

    I think Yale and its students seriously have more important things to worry about than how GG portrayed the school, especially when the portrayal was mostly flattering. Come on, Serena and Blair both want to go there! Dan is dying to! Nate seems interested now! Not so much bad in any of that.

  • CJ

    Seriously, if something should be up for critique, perhaps it's the authors’ decision to spend so much time dissecting a TV show that airs on the CW. I believe viewers who tune into “Gossip Girl” are looking for more scandal and drama than an accurate depiction of admissions procedures.


  • cookie

    It took two people to write this article?

  • Yale '04

    This article makes Yale undergrads sound even dumber than the people who made this episode. And whinier.

    And lamer:

    "And under no circumstances do high school students approach Yale upperclassmen with romantic propositions."


  • GG

    Yale Daily News: "Gossip Girl isn't real, guys!"

  • Jon from NYU with a MA in 2004

    I love Gossip Girl and I loved Gilmore Girls. I must say that Gilmore girls did shoot on location in Connecticut as it took place there but they filmed in LA and that why the real Yale was used. I want to add a correction to the article though. Gossip Girl used a CUNY not Columbia University. That's right. Brooklyn College sat in for Yale. As a CUNY employee I think it was awesome seeing Brooklyn College. But I also think the episode was great. Every school has secrets. Remember that Gilmore Girls and Gossip Girl are two totally different types of shows. Overall though awesome job. Good article

  • Tira

    I understand where you're coming from- after seeing this episode, I feel like it kind of makes a mockery of Yale, turning it into some place where anyone can get in as long as they've got money, fame or can bribe their way in and the Dean will fawn over them. Definitely not the best portrayal- but then again it's Gossip Girl, I never put any faith into trusting its reality ahah.

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