'Gossip Girl': Is Chuck Bass abusive? E.P. says no; we beg to differ
We've seen Chuck's dark side before (not that he has any particularly light sides), but in one of the final scenes of the episode, he went particularly off the rails.
After humiliating Blair ( Leighton Meester) by crudely airing details of their sex life to a woman she was trying to impress, Chuck went home to continue to drink himself into a stupor. Blair met him there to tell him that the Prince had proposed to her. She wasn't malicious or intending to use the revelation to hurt him. She was just asking that he acknowledge reality. Considering his behavior at the party, she was surprisingly gentle with him.
Chuck made excuses for the way he'd publicly degraded her. "Everything I believed about my father, everything I thought I wanted to be, what I needed to be for him, it was all based on lies."
He grabbed her and kissed her neck, despite her pushing him away. "You'll never marry anyone else," he said. "You're mine!" He shoved her down, forcefully invading her space. He then made a fist, and as she ducked out of the way, he punched the glass behind her head. The glass shattered, slicing her cheek. She pushed him away and ran to the elevator. When she got home, she called her mother to tell her she'd accepted the prince's proposal.
Backlash from viewers was immediate. Our own "Gossip Girl" recapper, Tierney Bricker, wrote, "In this episode, he embarrassed Blair, degraded her, scared her, forced himself on her and then physically hurt her. This is not a man you're supposed to be rooting for."
"Gossip Girl" writer and executive producer did a follow-up interview this morning with E! Online, in which he insisted that Chuck is not, in fact, abusive. "He punches the glass because he has rage, but he has never, and will never, hurt Blair," Safran says.
We're left wondering if Safran missed the part where she went home bleeding because Chuck was using physical intimidation to release his own emotions.
We love flawed characters. The Dexters and Damons of television keep things interesting; they raise the stakes. Chuck has been a fascinating character to watch on "Gossip Girl." However, for the writers to justify his actions and say that he's not being abusive toward Blair is, frankly, disturbing, particularly given the young, female target demographic of "Gossip Girl" and The CW.
Humiliating a woman with sexual language and derogatory statements, as Chuck did at the party, is abusive. Physically intimidating a woman by invading her personal space, shoving her, and being destructive to her surroundings is abusive. Women and girls who watch the show should be aware of this.
HelpGuide, a non-profit health resource, has a helpful list of the signs of an abusive relationship. Let's discuss some of them, shall we?
"Does your partner see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?" Just last season, Chuck made a deal with his nefarious uncle, offering sex with Blair (his girlfriend at the time) in exchange for the Empire Hotel property. He blamed Blair for her victimization, saying that she went into his uncle's room of her own volition, though it was the endgame of his own complicated scheme to get her there.
"Does your partner act excessively jealous and possessive?" Let's just look at that Chuck quote one more time: "You'll never marry anyone else. You're mine! You're mine, Blair!" Which, come to think of it, fits in perfectly with him seeing her as his property as well.
"Your abuser may use a variety of intimidation tactics designed to scare you into submission. Such tactics include making threatening looks or gestures, smashing things in front of you, destroying property..." Chuck was clearly using intimidation tactics as he pushed Blair around and caused physical injury to her person after smashing a window. "I feel it's very important to know that she is not scared -- if anything, she is scared for Chuck -- and what he might do to himself, but she is never afraid of what he might do to her," Safran told E!. But if Blair wasn't afraid, why did she literally shove Chuck away and run, in a very undignified, un-Blair manner, to leave? The look on her face as he's about to punch the wall can only be described as terrified. She screams "Stop it, Chuck!" and then shouts out again as he smashes the window.
Safran excuses the window smashing by saying that Chuck "has rage," and Chuck justifies his actions by explaining that he's had a difficult time dealing with some new information about his father.
We're not buying it. We hope that the women and girls who watch "Gossip Girl" realize that if they're being humiliated, sexually shamed, physically pushed or intimidated in a relationship, they deserve better than that.
We've seen some discussion of the fact that Blair may have been emotionally abusive toward Chuck in the past, having manipulated him with her schemes. There's no denying that at moments in their long history together, she has treated him badly -- just another reason that these two should not be together. Blair has shown character development throughout the seasons, and is making a clear attempt here to have an honest discourse with him.
Chuck, on the other hand, has shown that despite everything he's been through over the last four seasons, he's developed very little. In the pilot episode, he tried to force himself on a 14-year-old girl and on Serena. Here we are, four years later, and he's again assaulting a woman -- this time, one he claims to care about.
The one consolation here is that Blair seems to realize that the relationship is unhealthy. By the end of the episode, she has accepted the prince's proposal and even shuts out Serena, who was supportive of Chuck and tried to justify his behavior as a result of his alcohol abuse. In our opinion, Chuck won't be a viable love interest until he's been checked into the Ostroff Center for some major rehabilitation.
We're not holding our breath for that to happen, though. "We all make mistakes. No one goes through perfectly," Safran recently told Zap2it. "I don't think that Chuck necessarily needs to be redeemed so much as he actually needs to find his way, which is different."
For more information about how to identify signs of relationship abuse, check out this worksheet from the Harvard University Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response.