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“Gossip Girl” the TV Show Analysis Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 18th, 2021

Show Background

Evidently enough, the development of modern communication technologies, which manifests itself primarily in the emergence of various social networks, contributes significantly to the occurrence of different challenges in the field of interpersonal communication. Accordingly, this phenomenon is naturally reflected in the works of modern culture. One of the TV shows that address communicational problems in the context of social media and social networks is Gossip Girl (Pirone, 2018).

The show aired between 2007 and 2012, depicting the life of upper-class young adults in New York, and it was critically acclaimed, having a 7,4 score on IMDb (“Gossip Girl (TV Series 2007–2012),” 2018). The relationships between two of the show’s primary characters, Blair and Serena, could be exemplified as the excellent source material for the discussion of the issues related to conflict negotiation, friendship rules, betrayal, and barriers to efficient verbal communication (“Blair–Serena relationship,” 2018; Weintraub, 2015).

The purpose of this paper is to dwell upon the discussion of the relevant conceptual framework, reviewing academic literature on the topic. Based on the thorough investigation of the scholarly sources, which discuss the primary aspects of the theory and its criticism, the foundation for the development of the original research will be established.

Conceptual Framework

The theoretical framework that is chosen as the most relevant scholarly approach for the discussion of the concepts and issues under consideration is the face-negotiation theory. Originally, the theory was developed and presented by Brown and Levinson in 1978, as it is mentioned in the article by Ting-Toomey and Kurogi (1998). Since then, the theoretical framework has gained much attention because it established a comprehensive approach to the investigation of interpersonal relationships within society. Stella Ting-Toomey is one of the most acclaimed and prolific contributors to the development of the theory as she continues to publish work in this area of concern. Thus, as the general context of the theory’s emergence is provided, it is possible to explore its main characteristics and assumptions.

It could be observed that the initial purpose, which influenced the overall trajectory of the face-negotiation theory’s development, was to develop an understanding of how individuals from different cultures respond to and manage conflicts, primarily of interpersonal nature. It is worth mentioning that both verbal and non-verbal means of communication are within the focus of the theory.

According to the study by Ting-Toomey and Kurogi (1998), the main perspective of the conceptual framework under discussion on the phenomenon of conflict could be formulated in the following way: conflicts are viewed as situations in which individuals’ contradicting self-interests contribute to the development of conflicts goals, which are achieved by the conflicting parties to some extent (Ting-Toomey & Kurogi, 1998). Accordingly, it is possible to observe that in conflict situations self-identities of individuals are manifested and shaped in the process of communication.

Regarding the primary underlying assumption of the theoretical framework under consideration, it is appropriate to cite the study by Oetzel and Ting-Toomey (2003). In this article, reflecting upon the differences within the cross-cultural understanding of the nature of the conflict, the authors state that “face is an explanatory mechanism for culture’s influence on conflict behavior” (Oetzel & Ting-Toomey, 2003, p. 599).

In the research by Oetzel and Ting-Toomey (2003), the authors conducted an empirical test, administering questionnaires to 768 participants in 4 different national cultures (China, Germany, Japan, and the United States). Four key conclusions were retrieved from the results of the conducted study.

First of all, it is found that collectivist and individualist cultures influence the conflict styles of individuals to a vast extent (Oetzel & Ting-Toomey, 2003). Secondly, independent and interdependent self-construals were largely connected to self-face and other-face respectively (Oetzel & Ting-Toomey, 2003). Thirdly, an evident connection was found between self-face and the dominating conflict style as well as between other-face and the tendency to avoid conflict situations.

Lastly, it was found that face accounted for the total of variance explained for dominating conflict styles, “most of the total variance explained in integrating (70% of 20% total explained), and some of the total variance explained in avoiding (38% of 21% total explained)” (Oetzel & Ting-Toomey, 2003, p. 613). In general, it could be stated that this research represents a thorough and successful investigation of the theory’s robustness. The findings also indicate the framework’s primary assumptions.

Further, it is also appropriate to mention several studies that also contributed to the development of the face-negotiation theory. The article that is highly worth mentioning is written by Zhang, Ting-Toomey, and Oetzel (2014) as it dwells upon the discussion of mediating effects of anger, compassion, and guilt in interpersonal conflict within the face-negotiation theory. The authors focus on the comparison of the conflict styles of the United States and China’s cultures.

It was found that anger in its various forms is largely associated with the independent self-construal, which is distinctive for the American culture (Zhang et al., 2014). On the contrary, compassion was connected with the interdependent self-construal, which is the characteristic of collectivistic Chinese culture (Zhang et al., 2014). Accordingly, this study extends and reinforces the assumptions of the originally developed theory.

Additionally, it is possible to mention the study by Ting-Toomey (2010), in which the author discussed the importance of the dimensional value framework within the context of the face-negotiation theory. Ting-Toomey (2010) argues that the application of dimensional values contributes positively to studying the interpersonal conflict as it allows building a more comprehensive perspective on the subject matter. Also, given the overall scope of the projected research paper, it is of high importance to mention the article by Chen (2015).

In this study, the author investigates the crucial role of social media on the development of conflicts along with understanding self-identities (Chen, 2015). The author conducts a three-condition (rejection, criticism, control) single-factor experiment (Chen, 2015). As the result, it is found that even “relatively minor face-threatening acts of rejection or criticism on a social-networking site similar to Facebook lead to increases in self-reported negative affect and retaliatory aggression, compared with a control” (Chen, 2015, p. 819). As these findings are also discussed within the context of the face-negotiation theory, it could be stated that the conceptual framework is well-elaborated and evidence-based.

Criticism of the Framework and Complementary Theories

The face-negotiation theoretical framework is not largely criticized as it is proven to be an effective theory. However, the article by Oetzel and Ting-Toomey (2003) mentions several limitations to their study. For example, they mentioned that the validity of the dual-concern model of self-and other-concern, which is used in the theory, should be further researched to prove its applicability across different cultures (Oetzel & Ting-Toomey, 2003).

Another limitation that is mentioned by the authors is that the study relies primarily on self-reported information (Oetzel & Ting-Toomey, 2003). However, the theory is still highly potent in terms of explaining conflict styles and the development of conflict situations. The general theory of negotiation, studied by Jang, Elfenbein, and Bottom (2018), as well as interpretive, critical, and social science, approaches described by Ting-Toomey (2010), could be mentioned as complementary theoretical frameworks.

The Connection of the Studied Concepts to the Research

After the conducted literature review, one aspect appears to be insufficiently studied within the context of the face-negotiation theory. The total of the studies that were mentioned in the paper focuses almost exclusively on the comparative investigation of the perspectives on interpersonal conflicts in different cultures. However, it is suggested that the theory could be efficiently used in order to explore the nature of conflicts between individuals within the context of American culture. Thus, it is decided to address the topic of interpersonal conflicts between the two characters of Gossip Girl in the projected research paper as the show is the excellent source material for the discussion of this topic.

Identification of Research Questions

Lastly, it is of high significance to develop appropriate research questions that will guide the process of research. Based on the identified overall scope of the projected research paper, several questions should be addressed. The main question is the following: how can the face-negotiation theory explain the emergence and development of interpersonal conflicts in American society on the example of Blair and Serena’s characters from Gossip Girl? Secondary research objectives could be formulated as follows: what is the role of (1) friendship rules, (2) betrayal, and (3) barriers to cooperative verbal communication in the development of interpersonal conflicts between Blair and Serena?


Blair–Serena relationship. (2018). Web.

Chen, G. M. (2015). Losing face on social media: Threats to positive face lead to an indirect effect on retaliatory aggression through negative affect. Communication Research, 42(6), 819-838.

Gossip Girl (TV series 2007–2012) – Plot summary – IMDb. (2018). Web.

Jang, D., Elfenbein, H. A., & Bottom, W. P. (2018). More than a phase: Form and features of a general theory of negotiation. Academy of Management Annals, 12(1), 318-356.

Oetzel, J. G., & Ting-Toomey, S. (2003). Face concerns in interpersonal conflict: A cross-cultural empirical test of the face negotiation theory. Communication Research, 30(6), 599-624.

Pirone, K. (2018). . Screen Rant. Web.

Ting-Toomey, S. (2010). Applying dimensional values in understanding intercultural communication. Communication Monographs, 77(2), 169-180.

Ting-Toomey, S., & Kurogi, A. (1998). Facework competence in intercultural conflict: An updated face-negotiation theory. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 22(2), 187-225.

Weintraub, H. (2015). . Teen Vogue. Web.

Zhang, Q., Ting-Toomey, S., & Oetzel, J. G. (2014). Linking emotion to the conflict face-negotiation theory: A US-China investigation of the mediating effects of anger, compassion, and guilt in interpersonal conflict. Human Communication Research, 40(3), 373-395.

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