The teachers are creepy af on HBO Max’s Gossip Girl

Tavi Gevinson in Gossip Girl Season 1, Episode1 - Photograph by Karolina Wojtasik/HBO Max
Tavi Gevinson in Gossip Girl Season 1, Episode1 - Photograph by Karolina Wojtasik/HBO Max /

The central mystery of the OG Gossip Girl was the identity of the anonymous gossipmonger who kept the students of Constance Billard and St. Jude’s in check. Rather than building the same kind of “Who is she?” fervor over the stretch of seasons, HBO Max‘s reboot let the audience in on the secret in its premiere. However, it wasn’t an unmasking, it was the origin story of her revival.

But instead of a teen puppet master orchestrating take downs and twisting facts in their favor, the new Gossip Girl is the teachers of Constance St. Jude’s. It’s a fresh element in the reboot, an unexpected take that has introduced a kind of exploration of immorality that its predecessor didn’t have.

Typically, creepy teachers in teen dramas tend to be enablers whose attraction to their students play out in scandalous, often designed to be titillating, ways. There’s an inappropriate romance to these teacher-student relationships and an uncomfortable sexuality that teases the forbidden as if the adult’s behavior isn’t predatory and an abuse of power.

Spoilers ahead of Gossip Girl episode 2

Gossip Girl trafficked in these waters in episode 2 of season 1, “She’s Having a Maybe,” when Max’s clear sexual harassment and stalking of Constance St. Jude’s Classics teacher, Rafa Caparros, inexplicably shifts in his favor.

The creep factor of the teachers on Gossip Girl

Rafa doesn’t sleep with his students. It’s a line he won’t cross, however, once they graduate they’re fair game. He makes Max aware of this by telling him exactly what they could get up to once Max has a high school diploma to his name.

The game of sexual chicken this relationship is likely to turn into isn’t uncommon in teen shows. While not a staple, it happens too much despite repeated criticism and calls for writers to do better.

The OG Gossip Girl also had a teacher-student relationship plot involving Serena van der Woodsen and her English teacher Ben Donovan. Though they didn’t begin a romantic relationship until she was of age and years had passed, the first sparks of their inappropriate bond began when she was at boarding school.

What’s generally not typical is teachers weaponizing their students’ private lives for their own gain via an anonymous online account. In-person or behind their back manipulations, threats, grudges, and abuse, sure. But, photographing their interactions to socially destroy them and using the student body and the rest of the online world to do so is a whole other level of creepy.

Technically, Constance St. Jude’s teacher Jordan Glassberg, who took a photo of Zoya and Obie getting undressed in “Just Another Girl on the MTA,” helped brains of the Gossip Girl operation, Kate Keller, disseminate child pornography online. Zoya is 14 years old; Obie is 16.

The teachers are stalking their students, encouraging others to do the same, and posting private and privileged information in order to rein in their students’ bad behavior at school. They’ve committed crimes to achieve this goal and have no intention on stopping.

We’re only two episodes into this season and already things feel out of control when it comes to Gossip Girl. While the show plays up the humor of the teachers bumbling through their plans, it also thrums with an insidious undercurrent.

Kate posted to the account while looking Zoya’s father Nick full-on in the face and then proceeded to have their parent-teacher conference as if she isn’t actively working to draw his daughter into an all out war with her sister.

Throughout episode 2, she is shown as getting friendly with Nick. They have a rapport. She likes him, obviously. Though she didn’t choose to use the photos of Zoya and Obie caught between her dad and Julien’s father, Kate is still sitting on the secret of what happened at Little Z’s old school.

Her hope that she won’t have to use it, but clear determination to do so if it comes down to it, was unsettling. Downright disturbing. The teachers being Gossip Girl is an element that works in the show to chilling effect but hopefully the writers never treat it like some zany, wacky, misguided thing their doing because their students lack respect.

While the humor is fine, the closer looks at the immorality of it and Kate’s growing obsession with the power she’s wielding is by far more interesting and the nefarious edge Gossip Girl needs. As is the comeuppance that should come swift and hard for these teachers once they’ve been found out.

Next. Do Zoya and Obie end up together on Gossip Girl?. dark

New episodes of Gossip Girl drop on HBO Max on Thursdays.