We talk about several different novels, movies, and TV shows in our final video project, but in the video itself, we only included the key points of these works, as to not overwhelm the viewers with voiceover. We decided, therefore, to use our digital scrapbooks as a way to elaborate on these works.
Gossip Girl: Book Series by Cecily von Ziegesar//TV Show Created by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage
“Our apartments are all within walking distance of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue, and the single-sex private schools, like Constance Billard, which most of us go to. Even with a hangover, Fifth Avenue always looks so beautiful in the morning with the sunlight glimmering on the heads of the sexy St. Jude’s School boys.” (You Know You Love Me: A Gossip Girl Novel by Cecily von Ziegesar, pg. 3)
When I think of glamor or of New York City, I first think of Gossip Girl. It depicts overly privileged teenagers attending elite private schools, and later, colleges, in the city, and leading dramatic lives filled with scandal, sex, and New York City royalty (along a short marriage of Blair to a real royal, the prince of Monaco). Many of the characters are insanely wealthy, residing in fancy penthouses or even hotels. Blair Waldorf’s penthouse overlooks Central Park, and her supposed place of residence was included in our video. Despite her social status, she still has to work to prove to her mother that she can take over her design business – this was not just handed to her. However, the Humphrey family also plays a big role in the series, which consists of Rufus, a musician turned art curator raising his two children, Dan and Jenny, and putting them through these same private schools. They live in Brooklyn and are far from the socio-economic standing of other characters in the series. Dan is a hard worker and takes advantage of his opportunities in the city to attend NYU and make his way up the social ladder, becoming a part of the elite world of the other characters. Overall, the series shows how even the most privileged people still struggle, and how even those born with so much must fight for their opportunities in some way.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Novella by Truman Capote//Film Directed by Blake Edwards
“To start, we had Manhattans at Joe Bell’s; and, when he heard of my good luck, champagne cocktails on the house. Later, we wandered toward Fifth Avenue, where there was a parade.” (Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote, pg. 53)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s focuses on Holly Golightly, a girl who appears to be nothing but a party-loving, charming socialite. However, Holly actually came from quite humble beginnings and had a rough childhood. Like so many others, she came to New York City hoping for a better life. Through the parties she attends and her prominence in the socialite scene in the city, it appears that she has grasped the opportunity that the city has to offer. However, again like so many others, she is not truly happy and still struggles with emotional turmoil. It seems at times that she is trapped between feeling real emotions and affection toward others and a contrasting, more cold-hearted nature to do what is best for herself. Though she seemed to have “opportunity,” she ends up leaving the city, showing that opportunity has a different definition for everyone, and that opportunity does not necessarily equate to happiness.
The Great Gatsby: Novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald//Film Directed by Baz Luhrmann
“So Tom Buchanan and his girl and I went up together to New York — or not quite together, for Mrs. Wilson sat discreetly in another car… We drove over to Fifth Avenue, so warm and soft, almost pastoral, on the summer Sunday afternoon…” (The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, pg. 18-19)
The Great Gatsby is another example of characters who appear to have taken advantage of the opportunity in the city but still remain unhappy. Jay Gatsby is a millionaire and known for extravagant parties that display his wealth. However, he is consumed by love for Daisy, who is married to another man. Her husband, Tom, is also extremely wealthy, is having an affair with Myrtle, though is still upset by Gatsby’s relationship with his wife, perhaps because Daisy is Tom’s “possession.” Though the novel shows many, like Gatsby, who have achieved the “American Dream” of prosperity, wealth, and opportunity, they have not found how to be truly happy or lead fulfilling lives. New York City may be a place of “opportunity,” but an obsession over this opportunity, translated to mean wealth and financial success, can often lead to unhappiness and more bad side-effects than good outcomes.
The Catcher in the Rye: Novel by J.D. Salinger
“Anyway, I kept walking and walking up Fifth Avenue, without any tie on or anything. Then all of a sudden, something very spooky started happening. Every time I came to the end of a block and stepped off the goddam curb, I had this feeling that I’d never get to the other side of the street.” (The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, pg. 256).
Holden Caulfield is already a privileged teen attending prep school, so he comes to New York seeking a different kind of opportunity than many others. He is looking for an answer or remedy to his loneliness and depression, and he expects that his life and his outlook will change when his location and scenery changes. However, he does not try to actually change anything about his life, or work on improving his mental health. He is still unhappy, as he is not doing anything to change this fact. He is a prime example of why people must take an active approach to opportunity, as the city does not just hand opportunities to people. Simply being in the city is not enough to allow a person to accomplish his or her goals; people must interact with the city in order to truly take advantage of opportunity.
The Street: Novel by Ann Petry
“This is the kind of car you see in the movies…the kind that pulls up in front of the snooty stores on Fifth Avenue where a doorman all braid and brass buttons opens the door for you.” (The Street by Ann Petry, pg. 155)
In The Street, Lutie is trying to improve her life and her son’s by working to move them off of the street they live on. At times, it seems like she is successfully persevering and really doing the best she can to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to her. Unfortunately, some of these opportunities involve her rejecting her morals and sleeping with men to make money in some capacity. She struggles, as she wants to be able to provide for herself and her son without falling to these means. All of the negativity she feels toward her superintendent and other powerful men, the street, and the city eventually gets the best of her, and she ends up leaving the city and her son. Again, opportunity was available to her, but she lost hope and was not able to persevere through her hardships. She also blamed what was going wrong in her life on the place she lived, specifically the street, rather than taking responsibility for her life and her actions.