Why is Serena van der Woodsen so annoying?
Serena van der Woodsen might just be the nicest person on Gossip Girl.
A big-hearted and kindly statuesque beauty, Serena is also blessed with huge Hermes bags of charisma and endless wealth, connections and privilege.
Despite this, Serena is as happy dating a townie chef (remember Ivy’s ex?) or a cater waiter (Dan Humphrey) as she is on the arm of old money Nate Archibald.
She’s a protective older sister to her younger brother, Eric, and a loyal BFF to Blair Waldorf. She also treats Blair’s minions well while mostly refusing to be involved in their schemes.
That’s why everyone loves Serena!
Everyone except you…
Something about good natured, easygoing Serena niggles at you.
After all, if Serena’s so damn nice why did she plot against Lola and Blair in Season 5?
Is Serena van der Woodsen a good person at all, you wonder?
Well, the truth is that Serena was lovely while she took her place in the spotlight.
Whether she was being projected onto a screen in Times Square or strutting the catwalk, she could afford to be easygoing because…
…she had everything!
She had the world on.a plate. With her unassailable status at the top of the social hierarchy, she simply didn’t need to plot and scheme like bestie, Blair.
After all, why would you plot and scheme to get what you already have..?
Serena had no need to strive for social ascension so it was easy for her to take the moral high ground.
And she frequently did.
Yet what an interesting choice of best friend…
You wonder what motives Serena might have had in befriending a darker character like Blair…
Well, one advantage to their friendship is that Serena gets to live vicariously through Blair – since Blair does things she wouldn’t dare to…
Serena adores drama but she wants to be the ‘good’ one.
Blair makes that so easy.
After all, having “Darth Vader” as her bestie makes “Sunshine Barbie” look fabulous by comparison!
But we only find out who Serena is (and Serena only finds out who she is) in Season 5 when the spotlight and the men are focused on Blair.
Or indeed anybody other than Serena.
Once that happens, Serena’s envy weighs on her far heavier than her conscience and she plots against those outshining her…
Season 5 is fascinating because we get to see how the role reversal changes Serena and Blair – they literally swap places.
Blair gets everything (she thinks) she wants – and becomes a nicer person.
Serena loses what she wants (the limelight and Dan) and suddenly becomes a much more deceitful person.
Because you just don’t know what you’re made of until you are tested…
We actually see Serena change before our eyes… She loses her spark and charisma despite physically being the same person.
Her body language alters and we see those furtive facial expressions as she becomes a “shut in” instead of the extroverted upbeat person she was before.
The morals/values Serena seemed to have when she was around Dan in Season 1 evaporate very quickly when life isn’t going her way anymore.
In fact, we see flashes of this even in Season 2; when she is unfairly judged by Dan (this happens repeatedly) her immediate reaction is to show him how much more popular/powerful she is than him…
An interesting instinct!
We are baffled early on in the series when Chuck Bass insists that Serena is a “born Queen” and she denies it, saying she has no interest in the spotlight.
He says she’ll feel differently when the trumpets call. We’ve only seen nice Serena at this point so we assume that he’s merely trying to wind her up.
By Season 5 we finally understand what he meant…
It is this that makes her saccharine persona and words stick in the throat, cloying and artificial.
It’s a borrowed affectation she’s trying on and unlike the clothes in her glorious wardrobe it doesn’t quite fit.
Serena is not a bad person and she has much to recommend her. She has an easy and engaging manner which is far more accessible than Blair or Chuck’s intensity.
She’s also very adaptable, adjusting her behaviour to fit the occasion or person – although this is sometimes to her cost.
Serena is far more complex than she appears – to herself and others.
Yet she can only see herself as a ‘bad’ party girl or a ‘good’ misunderstood angel who is trying to turn.her life around.
She doesn’t give herself any room for manoeuvre, failing to strike a workable balance.
In a reflective moment, Blair rebukes Serena for excusing the conduct that saw her lose her place at Yale:
I don’t need a stirring speech on what a good person I am. I know I’m not. Yale kicking me out is the karma I’ve earned.
If only Serena could see herself as clearly, you’d like her better then, wouldn’t you?
You’d acknowledge that she’s a free spirited and charming ‘people-person’ who is comfortable in her own skin and enjoys her sexuality without shame…
…if she’d only realise that she is also evasive to the point of dishonesty and a drama-seeking missile!
Serena is often underestimated. She is so much more than the “dreamy blonde” socialite of Dan’s book – and so much less than the golden girl on a pedestal he initially mistakes her for.
And if Serena only knew it she would not be so darned annoying.
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