XOXO: Why Some Men Love 'Gossip Girl'

My name is Joshua, and I love "Gossip Girl." My addiction to the CW's drama about social-climbing Manhattan teens began innocently enough, a mere flirtation that grew into a full-blown crisis. I reviewed the pilot last fall and was ambivalent about it. I thought it was enjoyable for what it was but hardly something for me to get excited about.

By midseason, I was deeply absorbed in the catfights and class warfare and refused to miss an episode. My colleague Nick Summers, burgeoning political reporter and reputed ladies man, is not only into the show, but one day as we walked to lunch, he nearly ruptured his eardrums trying to block out the sound of my voice when he thought I was going to spill the details of a TiVo'd installment he hadn't seen.

Nick and I are not alone. My evidence is purely anecdotal, but I've found that a lot of men--straight ones, for what that's worth--have a fondness for "Gossip Girl." Of course, it's not new that macho men will occasionally watch female-skewing shows, but when they admit it, there's typically an excuse or an apology appended. Among the defenses:

I've never heard one of these defenses, or any other one, from a guy who likes "Gossip Girl." Why? Because it has fully formed male characters. There's Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley), who must deal with the reality of dating his fantasy girl; Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford), the moneyed silver-spooner who struggles to break free from his rigid life of privilege, and Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick), the young rake who discovers, as rakes often do, that he's all soft on the inside.

Contrast this with "Sex and the City": in a recent essay, my colleague Ramin Setoodeh mused that the male backlash toward the "Sex" movie had to do with sexism. It isn't that, it's more that men don't respond to parodies of their gender. "Sex" was a cavalcade of comically broken men, those with bizarre fetishes, fatal flaws, mommy issues and commitment phobia. All the male characters were pencil sketches, offering little insight into how men actually think.

With "Gossip Girl," creator Josh Schwartz has managed to replicate what he did before with "The O.C.," another teen soap for which guys have an unconflicted affinity. That is, he's done for teen dramas what Judd Apatow did for romantic comedies: he's figured out how to take a genre that is traditionally hostile to men and make it welcoming to them. And the trick is only to put fleshed-out, relatable male characters into them rather than cartoonish buffoons.

Women sometimes complain about the thin, damsel-in-distress female characters plopped into guy movies, but men don't complain about the cardboard cutouts in chick flicks, they just avoid them. Listen up, guys: "Gossip Girl" is guy-friendly, and not just because of the eye candy (which you can find on plenty of other shows). It's because "Gossip" is the show for girls that doesn't make guys feel like morons. And if it helps get chicks, that couldn't hurt, right?