In the 1970’s, Raymond Williams’s analyzed television as a technology and form of communication that socializes a person to become a functioning and active member of society. He went further to predict that new developments would change the way we enjoy television. Cable channels, video cassettes and video taping, and interactive television, all new to him, would influence whether television and its controllers would be harmful or helpful. The new technologies have definitely worked to influence the way we enjoy and interact with Gossip Girl, and this website itself is a prime example of changing the way we view shows.
One of the technologies that Williams fears might increase the power of corporations is the invention of cable. While in the 1970’s the major networks and corporations included mostly CBS, NBC, and ABC, over time these monopolies have formed conglomerates and other networks to narrowcast to specific audiences. Gossip Girl aired from 2007 to 2012 on the station The CW, which was formed by executives from CBS and Warner Bros. From the beginning, the network was backed by monopolies powerful in television and film. The CW has proved to be a leader in producing teen dramas like 90210 and The Vampire Diaries and has practically monopolized the genre (aside from a few exceptions on ABC Family). Although the expansion of channels did create an opening for new networks to arise, natural competition and narrowcasting to specific audiences has allowed for certain channels to create a monopoly over a certain genre. Gossip Girl has certainly proved to become a staple and even model for teen drama which many of the previous examples have built their structures off of.
Community Based Programs
Williams believed there would be power in community based programming, however this prediction has proved to be false, as local channels lack both audience and entertainment value. It seems now that people prefer to watch television shows that allow them to experience a world outside their own. Viewers of Gossip Girl are drawn in immediately in the first episode by exquisite clothing, glamorous apartments, and drama beyond anything a normal high school setting would produce. They also do not shy away from picking popular and frankly hot actors to put in the lead roles. Even the faceless blogger is meant to be sexy, with her cool, illusive voice. In the pilot episode alone, viewers experience parties with formal attire, underage drinking at trendy bars, and talks about Ivy League colleges. This establishes a setting that many viewers would be both envious of and curious about, drawing us all into a world most of us could never experience, even in our wildest dreams.
Williams predicted that these new technologies would give people the opportunity to build their own personal video libraries. It has become more common, especially with the introduction of everyone’s new significant other, Netflix, for people to watch on demand viewing on their own schedule provided by outside companies, television providers, and illegal sharing. For a show like Gossip Girl, which has sadly departed this beautiful world, online resources allow people to continue following the show even after it has ended, prolonging its influence. People are still writing and blogging about Gossip Girl (shout out to us!) even though the show stopped airing in 2012. Blogging has also taken form in video blogging thanks to the invention of videotaping and video sharing websites like YouTube.
These technologies have given people around the world a voice to let television companies and networks know their opinions on shows. Blogging has become a much more prominent in what Williams calls reactive television: the viewers react to what they see. The power of social media and blogging has almost created an interactive force and given viewers more of a say in what happens with their shows. Opinions voiced directly by the viewers via social media websites like Facebook and Twitter reach executives of these shows easily, becoming a powerful source of both criticism and praise. Gossip Girl fans spend the entire series guessing and influencing whom the anonymous blogger might be; our reactions over the Internet contribute to the decisions writers and producers must make. And because people are watching shows on their own time instead of during their designated timeslot, tweets, blogs and status updates have become a better indicator of the popularity of a show than simply seeing how many people tune in.
People have a greater voice and impact on the media now more than ever before. New technologies have given people the ability to choose, watch, and react on their own terms, and Gossip Girl is a prime example of this. Reacting to television is most prominent in this era because we have outlets like social networking websites to let companies know what we think; critics are no longer the only voices considered. And though in Gossip Girl it is the upper class elites that control the lives of everyone else, it is in this new technology that we have the power to control success of shows.
Williams, Raymond. Television: Technology and Cultural Form. New York: Schocken, 1975. Print.