Why the Gossip Girl books are even more scandalous than the show

Gossip Girl debuted long before streaming was a thing, which meant that catching the latest episode of Gossip Girl meant watching it live when it aired on the CW between 2007 and 2012. The show was must-see TV, partly because of its teen dramas and scandals, and partly because of its incredible fashions — which we're still talking about today. The show's costume designer, Eric Daman, says (via Vanity Fair), "It was very clear from the beginning that we wanted to editorialize television and give it this high-fashion, international flair... when we came back with Season 2, so many designers were lining up and wanting to be a part of it — they wanted their stuff on either Blake [Lively, who played Serena van der Woodsen] or Leighton [Meeser, who played Blair Waldorf]."

But unlike the fashions they were famous for, Gossip Girl's characters themselves were hardly the saints parents of teens hoped their offspring could emulate. Publicity stills positioned the show as, "Every parent's nightmare" and "Mind-blowingly inappropriate," which gave teen viewers all the more reason to tune in. Lively tells Allure in comments carried by UK Glamour that when parents approached her to say their teens were Gossip Girl fans, she felt conflicted. "People loved it, but it always felt a little personally compromising — you want to be putting a better message out there. I would not be proud to be the person who gave someone the cocaine that made them overdose and then shot someone and slept with someone else's boyfriend."

So while the show had questionable content, it has to be noted that the books were even more controversial. 

Gossip Girl's books were banned in libraries

Even if the show featured topics that made most parents die a little each time it flicked across the screen, it appeared to have nothing on the Gossip Girl books written by Cecily Von Ziegesar. While the book series kicked off in 2002, the American Library Association says the Gossip Girl books did not cause waves until the TV show premiered in 2007. Parents, churches, and community leaders then decided to get the series banned from libraries because the young adult books addressed mature topics such as sex and drug use. If you think parents might have overreacted, consider this: Naomi Wolf, a women's rights advocate, called Von Ziegesar's books "corruption with a cute overlay... [and that] sex saturates the Gossip Girl books... This is not the frank sexual exploration found in a Judy Blume novel, but teenage sexuality via Juicy Couture, blasé and entirely commodified" (via Banned Books Week). Ouch.

Gossip Girl's producer, Stephanie Savage, admits that adjustments had to be made to the book before it was aired on TV, and interestingly enough, that decision actually annoyed the book's fans (via Entertainment Weekly). But since it didn't really hurt the show's success, you'll just have to pick up the books to see exactly what the show left out.