The year is 2007, and New York City’s Upper East Side is the place to be — at least, that’s what the writers of Gossip Girl would lead us to believe. The infamous it girl Serena van der Woodsen always had a flair for the dramatics throughout the series, but in an episode titled “The Wild Brunch” that aired on Sept. 25, 2007, she took her theatrics to the next level when she threw her phone away in a public NYC garbage can. But, TBH, after years of reflection, I’ve realized this absurd move is... kind of relatable?
In case you forgot, the totally reasonable and not-at-all ridiculous moment went down during the second episode of Gossip Girl ever. In the wake of a massive fight with her best frenemy Blair Waldorf about her past romantic affairs, van der Woodsen strolls down the New York City streets she calls home — in slow motion, no less — while looking through some pictures on her chic dark blue LG flip phone. The photos remind her of better times with her estranged besties Chuck Bass and Nate Archibald, but it’s a picture of Serena and Blair that sends her (and her phone) over the edge and into the trash. But really, what’s a phone but an easily replaceable accessory?
It seems like an exaggerated reaction at first, but there’s actually a powerful metaphor in there if you look deep enough. The act of defiance represents a new chapter in Serena’s story, as she leaves behind the life she once knew and effectively “deletes” her once-closest friends from her life. It’s like something out of Shakespeare really... if Shakespeare had a cellphone. The terribly grainy photo in question looks like it was taken at the Colosseum in Rome, which, if accurate, would make the whole ordeal even more poetic. Very fall-of-the-Roman-empire vibes. In true Gossip Girl fashion, though, B and S put an end to their feud in the very next episode, which means the over-the-top display was basically for nothing.
Of course, Gossip Girl didn’t miss the chance to pour salt in Serena’s wound. As she’s having her main character moment on the east side, Gossip Girl (the precursor to today’s DeuxMoi) sends out a message calling Serena out. It says: “It looks like the ultimate insider has become a total outsider. It’s your move, Serena, and you know who will be watching: Gossip Girl.” Ouch. It’s unclear whether or not Serena held on to her phone long enough to read the message, but if she did, I don’t blame her for dumping it in the trash.
As if the scene weren’t melodramatic enough, the moment is also underscored by The Bravery’s song “Believe,” because it wouldn’t be a mid-2000s teen drama without at least one pop-punk anthem on the soundtrack. Maybe she could’ve successfully gotten her angst out if she had just made the song her ringtone instead, but one thing’s for sure: it definitely would not have been as iconic. Or, perhaps her phone was due for an upgrade — the first iPhone came out just a few months before this episode aired anyway.