For someone who doesn’t consider Gossip Girl his “driving passionate force in life,” Penn Badgley sure is opinionated about it! Other actors might brush off questions about their characters’ love lives and soulmates, but when the interviewer asked him who his character Dan Humphrey is meant to be with, he answered without hesitation:
Blair, actually. Definitely. I think Blair is Dan’s soul mate. I don’t know if they’re ever going to get together, but I’ll tell you that I’ve never enjoyed any scenes on the show as much as those scenes with Leighton Meester, on a strictly intellectually as an actor. There’s a whole other thing—like everything that happened early on in the show, like the obvious Dan and Serena stuff, that moved me in a different way for obvious reasons, but strictly as an actor, those scenes with Blair are the best.
Wrong! Wrong wrong wrong.
Let me get up on my purist soapbox for a minute. Dan/Blair, or “Dair,” is not actually a thing because it never happened in Cecily von Ziegesar‘s books. Early in the first or second season of The CW’s Gossip Girl show, it became clear that the writers were deviating from the books and would have to come up with flashier, sexier plotlines. But this was the last piece of sacred ground left unclaimed!
A big part of this was that in the books, Dan was a creep. He’s skinny, perpetually wired on caffeine and smoking a cigarette, and prone to delusions of grandeur. He stalks more than goes out with girls and is always sabotaging his relationships of any kind. He and Blair almost never cross paths except when he very briefly dates Serena — yep, it’s not a seasons-long drama like on the show — and so she doesn’t think much of him. The TV show’s choice to have Blair actively look down her nose at Dan and snark about his poorness was a hilarious addition, but that’s where their interactions should have stopped.
Now they’re kissing, and they probably had sex… It just mocks Blair’s character. It was OK for Blake Lively to get swept up in young love with Dan because Serena is stupid and will entertain any guy who falls in love with her for a little while. On the other hand, Blair is unapologetically conceited and upper-class.
In the books, Blair does end up “slumming it” with a Brooklynite… but that’s Vanessa, who briefly becomes Blair’s roommate. Their tenuous friendship is really fun to read because it seemed like a natural progression in the books (it comes in the last third of the series), and not a desperate, last-ditch pairing like on the TV show.
The main difference here is that a lot of the romance’s development is based on the actors’ chemistry. The Gossip Girl producers have said that they first noticed Dan and Blair’s chemistry in a season 1 episode. Furthermore, Leighton agrees with Penn that their characters fit well together: “I like that friendship… I think they’re good for each other in a lot of ways, in a way that Chuck and Blair aren’t.”
Still, you have to respect the story above which actors happen to look pretty together.
Then again, I just discovered that the ninth, tenth, and eleventh (last) books were ghostwritten, so that just stabbed my faith in Cecily’s vision for the series. But I still believe!