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    The Braindead Megaphone and Gossip Girl Essay

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    We all know that somebody who likes to talk; likes to hear his or her own voice. Whether it is a friend, a family member, or even a newscaster, those people just talk to be heard. What are they really saying, though? Most of the time the answer is absolutely nothing.

    It is all so that their voice is heard over another and people start to pay attention to them. Now, imagine giving that person a megaphone and thinking that there is no way around not hearing this person when they speak. The conversations at the party amongst others start to form around what the person with the megaphone is saying. By the end of the party, all casual and real conversation has died due to one person with a louder voice blurting out whatever they want to talk about. In the essay, “The Braindead Megaphone” by George Saunders, the first point he makes is that a metaphor for the news media is a “storyteller” and it’s purpose is to entertain the people. Other than the news acting as a storyteller, some other important arguments Saunders makes are the ones that talk about why the government turns to the media and vice versa.

    Continuing from there, he discusses about how the news can cover something so unimportant, such as the malls being really crowded around the holiday season, and people will still listen even though that is something clear and evident. He states that this information is making us stupid because we are adapting to all of the stupid things that the news media tends to say. Many of his points can relate to the world today, especially in pop culture. While watching a popular show from The CW network called, Gossip Girl, the main points of Saunders essay started to come to mind. In the show, there is a gossip website called “Gossip Girl” where all of the Upper East Side gets their news. Gossip girl is an anonymous character who hides behind a computer and she never exploits who sends in information, but she does exploit people with certain proof sent to her.

    Every time a “blast” is sent in, people all over the city get a text about what is happening or has happened. People are addicted to reading the information that she says and they listen. The main characters of the show are all complex in their own ways and each has a reason why Gossip Girl targets them most specifically. Being rich, beautiful, and popular gives all of the characters a reason for Gossip Girl to target them. Even though the show is named Gossip Girl, the main events that happen in each episode don’t all fall around her and what she does.

    She acts as someone who can cause more drama in the characters lives but isn’t what the show is based around. Gossip Girl is seen through the lens of Saunders’ argument by Gossip Girl’s influence as a “storyteller”, the relationship between government and media, and making unimportant issues seem important, all which help demonstrate Saunders’ underlying message to seek the truth and form independent opinions. Saunders argument about the storyteller having control relates to Gossip Girl having control over the lives of the main characters in the show. In “The Braindead Megaphone,” Saunders makes an argument about someone shouting through his window about the conditions of the house next door. This guy has limited experience, has to make a deadline for the report, and entertain all at the same time. He continues to shout out, blinding you from the real information.

    He is an entertainer after all, taking control over the thoughts of anyone listening to him. His main characteristic is dominance” (Saunders 3). The guy with the megaphone is dominant and controlling over the party, situation, and the minds of everyone. In the episode of Gossip Girl, “The End of the Affair? ” the main character, Serena, wonders: “What is a world without Gossip Girl? ” The characters in the show are being so controlled that they feel like they don’t know a world without her. She is the main source of entertainment and so is the guy with the megaphone. With this, the minds of both worlds are being controlled and distorted by what these “storytellers” have to say.

    In a scene from Gossip Girl, two main characters named Nate and Serena talk about life without Gossip Girl and what people make of her. In a quote from season five, it is stated that people are the reason the “storytellers” stay alive: “People are just desperate for information”(The End of the Affair). Serena then goes on and talks about what people make of the blasts Gossip Girl sends out, “It is not the secrets that cause the problems it is the assumptions that people make about them”(Father and the Bride). The control that the media has on our brains can have people quickly assume how things might be.

    Instead of relying on assumptions, individuals need to go see the truth for themselves. Maybe that way, the people will have a better sense of control over their thoughts and opinions. Mainly relying on the news to inform is just not enough, especially when the information is biased. Another point of Saunders that really stood out was when he talked about how the government and media work together. They use each other to get what they want and become a “closed loop” (Saunders 16). The government will turn to the media when they want to mislead on something and when the media gets a hot story, it influences the government (Saunders 17).

    The relationship between the government and media is also demonstrated in Gossip Girl. A character named Trip is in Congress and he needs his name clear of all scandal that Gossip Girl has shared about him. Knowing that it can affect his number in the polls and the election coming up, he does whatever he can to clear his name and that involved reaching out to Gossip Girl himself. With a simple bribe about another member of his family, Gossip Girl cleared his name and in return she got a new story from it. The thing that needs to be recognized is that even though proof might not be released about this story, people will listen and believe it anyways because it came from Gossip Girl. Just like the news, the dominant credibility she has will never let people not believe her and Trip turned to the place where he knew people would listen.

    This just proved that a member of government got published what he wanted. The relationship between the government and the media affects the information individuals have access to. With the power that they both provide, working together can be dangerous and leave the public unaware of the truth. The credibility the news media and Gossip Girl has often leads them to not providing the people with the necessary information they are entitled too.

    Useless information is given and people are still consuming it as if it is actually important in their lives. Saunders makes an argument about what happens when people do this, “We took it, and, I would say, it did something to us: made us dumber and more accepting of slop” (Saunders 8). The information being spit out at the people is less news and more entertainment. Saunders uses this point through telling a story about a young reporter on the news spilling information already known in banal language, revved up with the same TV-news emphasis (8). This same tactic is shown in Gossip Girl because there is more than just Gossip Girl that dishes out the newest information.

    There is also a news company called the “New York Spectator” and it is constantly competing with Gossip Girl for the top spot. Trying to get the most interesting news is what the New York Spectator is trying to do in order to top Gossip Girl. This competition is all about trying to win over the public’s attention so that one is over the other. The public is losing in this because the information being released is not helping them at all; it is covered up with fancy language and big emphases.

    The information released is frying people’s brains and absorbing them with nonsense. Basically, teaching them that this news matters. Saunders’ argument is evident in Gossip Girl because of what they view as important news such as, the newest celebrity breakup or which person wore it better. The useless news provided becomes an obstacle in allowing individuals to form an opinion for themselves. When viewed through the lens of Saunders’ arguments in “The Brain-Dead Megaphone,” Gossip Girl serves as the entertainer much like the news media does in the real world.

    The guy with the megaphone can be related to almost every pop culture and entertainment source because of his or her incorrect way of spreading information. Being controlled by the “storyteller,” fooled by the media and government’s power of working together, and listening to news that is unimportant for the lives of today are all points Saunders makes in his essay that can be seen in Gossip Girl. The people of today are turning their brains to mush by adjusting to all of the nonsense information heard on the news. It is becoming adaptable and people are becoming less interested on what really matters and more interested in what is entertaining. Turning our backs to what really matters in the world is only hurting everyone more.

    “Turn that megaphone down, and insist that what’s said through it be as precise, intelligent, and humane as possible” (Saunders 19). People need to be more aware of their opinions and how they form them. From looking at Saunders essay and the popular television show, Gossip Girl, it is evident that people need to open their eyes, see what is really happening, and seek the truth for themselves.


    Saunders, George. “The Braindead Megaphone.

    ” New York: Riverhead Books, 2007. Print. “The End of the Affair?” Gossip Girl: Season Five. Writ. Sara Goodman.

    Dir. Michael Grossman. The CW, 2012. Netflix“Father and the Bride. ” Gossip Girl: Season Five.

    Writ. Peter Elkoff. Dir. Amy Heckerling. The CW, 2012.


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