When news broke that Gossip Girl star Ed Westwick had been accused of holding a woman as a sex slave for 48 hours, I didn't want to hear it. After reading the disturbing allegations, my mind immediately began buzzing with questions like "Is it true?" "How could this happen?" and "Him too?" I felt disillusioned remembering how last year, the 30-year-old actor, vehemently denied previous rape allegations.
As a 23-year-old woman, in the age of the #MeToo movement, I've grown accustomed to accepting the fact that men I admire might be sexual predators. But, somehow the thought of reconciling Chuck Bass — a romantic male lead in a TV show I love — and Ed Westwick as a rapist felt too difficult to bear. But, then I realized: Wasn't Chuck Bass a sexual predator in his own right?
Chuck Bass being Chuck Bass.
I admittedly jumped on the Gossip Girl bandwagon a little late. I'd heard about the books growing up and saw clips from the series here and there, but didn't commit to watching all six seasons from start to finish until my junior year of college. As an aspiring NYC magazine editor, I couldn't deny the overwhelming allure of watching Serena van der Woodsen, Blair Waldorf, Chuck Bass, Dan Humphrey, and Nate Archibald make the streets of Manhattan their playground. And let's be honest, the hit CW show would have been nothing without its romance. Correction: it would have been nothing without Blair and Chuck's epic love story.
In the Pilot episode, we watched Chuck confront Serena about her affair with Nate. He told her that he knew she and Nate slept together even though he was dating her best friend/frenemy Blair at the time. But, Chuck had a motive for telling Serena this — he wanted sex in exchange for his silence. With a hand on a visibly uncomfortable Serena's leg, he gradually moved closer to her and began kissing her as she fought to push him off. She said, "Stop it… no… stop it," before she ultimately kneed him in the groin in order to escape the situation.
In case that wasn't enough, a mere 10 minutes later, he targeted freshman Jenny Humphrey at a party. He told her, "Let's go and talk somewhere quiet." Within seconds of moving to a "quieter" location aka a roof, he began kissing her. He seemingly picked up on her nonverbal cues signifying that she was uncomfortable. "Okay, I'm sorry. If you don't want to do anything that's cool," he told Jenny before offering her champagne. But, in reality, it wasn't cool if she didn't want to do anything because his attempts to have sex with her continued. His persistence caused her to text her brother, Dan, for help who showed up with Serena just in the nick of time.
Several episodes later Chuck started developing feelings for Blair. And what? We, as viewers, were expected to accept his actions as "bad boy" behavior. The crazy thing is… we did. At least, I did. I rooted for Chuck and Blair from their game-changing scene in the limo during Season 1 to their wedding in Season 6. They were meant to be. Destiny. Chuck and freaking Blair. Who didn't root for them?
Three letters. Eight words… you know the rest. (Photo Credit: Giphy)
The problem isn't only that Chuck's rape attempts were never directly addressed by the show — it's that most of us didn't even notice. His actions weren't criminal, they were crude. He was dangerous… but in a sexy way. The way dating a guy your parents disapprove of in high school is dangerous. Not the way being held captive and raped for two days is dangerous. Now, I am in no way saying that a character an actor plays is indicative to who he is as a person. I am also not saying that Ed is guilty of the crimes he's being accused of. What I am saying is why did I fall in love with his character in the first place? I idolized him to the point of being shell-shocked at the thought that the man who plays that character is a predator.
Right or wrong, Gossip Girl influenced a generation. Right or wrong, Chuck Bass captured the hearts of millions of women. But, at what cost?