Last night on Gossip Girl, when Dan Humphrey’s craggy old writing mentor suggested his work would be improved by some personal recklessness, such as the time in the mentor’s own youth when “Charles Bukowski blew a shot glass off the top of his head with a .45″, Dan sought out similar inspiration in the most unlikely of places: Chuck Bass. This made me laugh because, well, how completely ridiculous. But the more I started thinking about this “Chuck Basskowski” parallel, the more I began to see some striking similarities in two personalities that – on the surface – couldn’t seem more different.
In terms of social circles, Bukowski and Bass are about as far apart as two people can get. Bukowski wallowed in the poorest of white American squalor, while Bass was born into the wealthiest of blue-blooded privilege that one could possibly fathom. But the thing about circles is, as you move further and further away from one point, you only get closer to it. These two people may have looked different, but they were also paradoxically the same. While Bukowski was known as the “poet laureate of skid row”, perhaps we could interpret the Upper East Side – with its own kind of junkies and depravity and economic meltdowns – as a different kind of urban ghetto, and maybe Chuck Bass is it’s poet.
Nihilism, self-aware self-destruction, and a deep-seated parental hatred are all traits that define both Bass and Bukowski. Both men fed on women. While Bukowski delighted in pointless bar brawls, Bass enjoys arbitrary emotional brutalization. They could both usually be found drinking alone, and both were undoubtedly most comfortable in their own filth.
Bukowski’s pockmarked face and crude, belligerent manner would never be palatable to the 18-34 demo these days, which is what makes Bass the perfect upgrade for the Hills-driven Reality Age. He operates with the same moral vacuousness, anarchistic spirit and profound disregard for commonly accepted values and decency as Bukowski, but he’s also got a smooth baby’s face, pretty smile, and a soothing voice that doesn’t sound like Tom Waits gargling with gravel. In the future, Charles Bukowski may be forgotten altogether, with misguided college kids instead doing terrible things to themselves under the banner of Charles Bass.
I guess the most glaring difference between these two characters (other than one of them being a work of fiction, of course) would be Chuck Bass’ utter lack of interest in writing or propagating his own myth through literature, whereas Bukowski lived and died by the pen. But who reads (much less writes) anymore, anyway? So I guess it’s sort of perfect that the sad tale of Charlie Trout will still be told, albeit by literary wunderkind Dan Humphrey. And of course, (xoxo) Gossip Girl.