29 January 2009

From Charles Bass to Charlie Bartlett: Preppy Bad Boys Emerge

Forget the sullen, leather clad, Gothic vampire of the movie Twilight. A more nefarious archetype has been maneuvering into many teenage girl's psyches, one Ralph Lauren blazer at a time. In a time where ostentatious displays of wealth are passe, well heeled boys who ride to school in limos are the new rebels without a cause. In this series of posts, I will explore the contrasts between what was once considered the model of rebellious youth in America, as seen through the media lens. In the not so distant past, a prep school boy with great pedigree was viewed as the perfect match for the modest girl who never left the house without her pearl necklace. Now, it is apparent that years of preparatory education and strict adherence to societal rules can lead to endless debauchery. Fathers, beware; the guy with the attache case is here to sweep your daughter off of her feet.

The vamped up boys of Twilight are the sorts of compassionate, troubled souls one might find hanging out near the band room at their local high school. Blood lust aside, these teenagers are portrayed as generally harmless. Any wealth that is present is for the most part concealed; anyone who is different is considered so because they might just sparkle in sunlight. With lingering Christian undertones,Twilight and it's series is a great primer for suburban youth beginning to explore forbidden romance. Any inappropriate themes are not racy to the extent that parent's groups are ready to storm the palace gates.

By contrast, Gossip Girl, with its regular portrayal of underage drinking, teenage sex, and conspicuous consumption, has endured the outrage of groups ranging from Decoder to Focus on the Family. The producers of the series have cleverly utilized the negative publicity to their advantage by creating even more shocking ad campaigns. In a recent episode, prepster Chuck Bass (played by British actor, Ed Westwick), endures the death of his psychologically abusive father by drowning his sorrows in single malt scotch and high priced call girls. Plunging into a seemingly endless downward spiral, Chuck has a brief brush with death on the roof top of his speakeasy inspired burlesque club.

When events seem like they could not get any worse, he spurns the oft placed affection of Blair Waldorf (portrayed by actress Leighton Meester), his contemporary who continues to be enamored with him. No matter how many drunken rampages Chuck goes on, Blair is generally there to pick up the pieces. In a recent episode, much to the dismay of many Gossip Girl fans, Blair finally removed herself from the position as Chuck Bass' resident enabler. Blair, a girl whom appears to have everything together, can finally move on with her life and focus on her college applications. Those fans who are privately cheering at the obvious advancement of a female character from doting to academian, should brace themselves for the predictable moment when Blair steps back into the role of the bad boy's right hand lady.

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