From Gossip Girl to Ghetto Girl: What Messages Are We Sending?

9 years ago
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From Ghetto Girls to Gossip Girls, just what are our girls reading?

I had been thinking about Gossip Girl, as recently read an article
in the New York Times which featured a dissertation by Dr. Naomi
Johnson. In her study she analyzed the brands being mentioned in the
pages of the three titles, Gossip Girl, The Clique and A-List and
came to the conclusion consumption is the new femininity for
the girls in these books. Michael Winerip reports,

examined three series, with combined sales of 13.5 million — “Clique,”
“Gossip Girl” and “A-List” — and found, on average, there was more than
one brand mentioned per page, 1,553 brand mentions in 1,431 pages of
the six books she had read.

Massie, the lead “Clique” character,
doesn’t wear miniskirts and sandals. She wears Moschino minis, Jimmy
Choo sandals, and Chanel No. 19 on her thin wrists, rides in a Range
Rover, drinks Glaceau Vitamin Water and totes her books in a Louis
Vuitton backpack.

Dr. Johnson concluded that romancing boys was
no longer the primary objective of this new generation of romance
novels, as it had been in the good old days of the 184-book series
“Sweet Valley High.”

In the new romances, she wrote, “brands are more important than romantic relationships to female protagonists’ popularity.”

Two weeks ago, Ruth LaFerla wrote about the impact that the show, Gossip
Girl, is having on the fashion industry. She writes,

the show’s sense of style is having a broader impact, in the retail
marketplace. Merchants, designers and trend consultants say that
“Gossip Girl,” which is in summer reruns on the CW network before
returning Sept. 1, just in time for back-to-school shopping, is one of
the biggest influences on how young women spend.

Fans stride
into boutiques bearing magazine tear sheets that feature members of the
cast and ask for their exact outfits. Or they order scoop-neck tops and
hobo bags by following e-commerce links from the show’s Web site.

“The show has had a profound influence on retail,” said Stephanie
Solomon, the fashion director for Bloomingdale’s, adding that it
appeals not just to teenagers but also to women in their 20s, the
daughters and the younger sisters of the generation that made “Sex and
the City” requisite viewing for aspiring glamoristas.

I was immediately reminded of this article when I came across the
Street Lit Review last Sunday. While the Gossip Girl genre is targeted
towards middle class white girls, the Ghetto Girl genre is targeted
towards low income Black and Latina girls.

If I were fifteen, I would be reading Ghetto Girl Lit and Gossip Girl as well.
However, it wouldn't have ended with that. I would be consuming
some Walter Dean Myers, some Ntozake Shange and some Rosa Guy
as well.

The issue isn't that the girls are receiving the messages about sex.
As a teenager, you are always seeking out what you parents say
you should have. Its natural. In middle school we really thought
we were doing something reading Go Ask Alice and A Hero Ain't Nothing
But a Sandwich. However, our reading habits were diverse.

The covers of the Ghetto Girls books are a bit racy, as the desire is to
catch the young girls attention. What I found in Street Lit Magazine was
that the covers of the Grown Girl Lit , Ghetto Girls big sister, looked
awfully similar to covers of prison skin rags, KING, SMOOTH etc. It is
as if the line between stripper chic, rap videos and adult fiction is being

If the Gossip Girl genre is about consumption and sex and the Ghetto Girls genre
is about drug dealers, sex and fast money and faster cars, what exactly
do we expect our girls to become when we are sending them these
messages through entertainment?

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