Bart Bass is the tough, (well, murderous, as it turns out) father of Gossip Girl’s Chuck Bass.
A self-made billionaire property magnate, Bart has an abrupt authoritative manner and he initially appears to be an old school autocratic father, disappointed in his wayward son.
This is a narrative we could understand.
If only it were true…
Yes, Chuck’s behaviour in Season 1 is so heinous that it would make even the fondest father falter. Yet, Chuck’s miserable actions (which include two sexual assaults) are not what troubles Bart.
No, Bart has kept Chuck at arm’s length his entire life.
It’s hard to imagine how newborn baby Chuck had already caused so much offence…
Early on in the series, Bart tells Chuck: “I know I’ve had trouble being close to you – but it’s not for the reasons you think…”
He then shares the first ‘reason’ in a long list of bewilderingly contradictory reasons Bart gives over the years as to why he finds Chuck so challenging.
So, here they are:
- Looking at Chuck reminds Bart of his dead wife. (Small problem: Chuck’s mother didn’t die – as Bart knows perfectly well.)
- Chuck is irresponsible and needs to settle down with Blair. (Small problem: see his next reason.)
- Chuck is weak and soft for caring for Blair. (Small problem: see his previous reason.)
You only need to consider that when Bart returns from the grave after faking his death, and encounters a mature Chuck who has becomes a serious, responsible man, happy to run Bass Industries with his father, Bart Bass has never hated him more.
In fact, he wants Chuck dead…
But why does Bart feel this way? What the hell is going on?
Let’s attempt to solve the one mystery Chuck couldn’t.
As you might imagine, it’s a combination of factors…
Although Chuck and Bart differ enormously in myriad ways, one thing they share is an obsessive need to control the people around them.
Both of them have private investigators on speed dial and are continually checking up on those they love.
We see Chuck mysteriously turning up wherever Blair happens to be; his limo curb crawling along, and Bart’s dossier on Lily, Serena and Eric after he marries into their family.almost breaks up his and Lily’s marriage.
So, one critical challenge Bart faces is that Chuck is simply too clever.
Intuitive, analytical and methodical, Chuck’s suspicions are almost inevitably correct, his advice (after Season 1) is always sound, and for all his considerable romanticism he has a clear, rational mind.
Despite Chuck’s awe of his father (Chuck has immense admiration for ambitions, capable people) he cannot help but see Bart for who he is and to start pulling away at the threads until Bart’s corrupt life starts unraveling before his eyes.
As a child, Chuck held no such power. While softer hearted folk love animals and children, they are nothing more than an inconvenience to Bart and he disposes of both without hesitation, ensuring that they’re out of sight and mind.
And so he kills the race horses he’s bought, and leaves young Chuck to be raised by room service, faceless limo drivers and an au pair who rapes him.
As Chuck grows older, he is more than an inconvenience; he is a threat.
Bart never saw Chuck as his son and as an adult he can only see him as a competitor. A young rival who may one day usurp him.
No wonder he doesn’t want to share the reins.
He uses the fact that Chuck, who essentially had a nervous breakdown after being shot, is punished for going AWOL.
But as we’ve seen by that list of ever-changing and contradictory reasons, Bart didn’t need a reason – he simply wants Chuck to fail so that he remains the top dog.
What makes his relationship with Chuck particularly irritating to him is that there is simply no way of controlling Chuck.
Having Bart as a father has left Chuck with an abiding contempt for authority – and whether he’s smoking pot in front of his headmistress or hiring a PI to investigate his father, he bows to no one.
Given what a pathologically competitive man Bart was it probably didn’t help that his wife, Lily, loves and understands Chuck far more than she was able to love Bart.
Bart looked at his handsome, capable, loving and loveable son, and hated him from the pit of his dark heart.
Had Chuck continued on the destructive path he initially sets out on in the first season and had ended up a hopeless playboy drunk or in jail for rape, Bart would probably not have felt the need to try and kill him.
Yet, in spite of his father – and himself – Chuck slowly and painfully learns to become “someone someone could love.”
As Blair says of Chuck: “You’re becoming a man in ways that your father never was.”
And Bart Bass detested him for it.
Did Bart have any redeeming qualities? It’s time to debate your view in the comments field below…