Why is this 'Gossip Girl' character's signature line going viral on TikTok?

@xoxogossipgirlxedits, @gardenmilk via TikTok, @ultragloss via Twitter
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Gossip Girl, the teen drama that revolves around the fictional lives of a group of elite New York City teens, has been a hot topic on TikTok lately for a remarkably niche reason. While the popular CW series ended over a decade ago, in 2012, some TikTok creators are reveling in the nostalgia of one character and her seemingly go-to phrase — “it” girl Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively) and her four favorite words: “I have to go.”

While YouTuber Emma LaPlace (@emmalaplace9979) arguably created the first compilation video of van der Woodsen’s tendency to perpetually exit, claiming that she has to go (with “go” also written as “geaux,” “gou” or “goh” by fans who try to take Lively’s supposed pronunciation of the word into consideration), the trend has drawn recent buzz on TikTok.

In fact, the hashtag #ihavetogoserena has more than 38.7 million views on TikTok, and that’s largely because of a creator named Lana Vish (@lanaviish), whose recent van der Woodsen impressions have gained popularity on the app.

Vish posted her first van der Woodsen impression in November 2023, showing fellow TikTokers the “correct” way to deliver the signature “I have to go” line, down to her facial expressions and strut — pumps and all. After receiving about a million views in a single day, Vish, who watched Gossip Girl during its original run, told Yahoo News that she took it upon herself to record more sketches and re-creations of other iconic scenes from the show.

‘I didn’t expect that people would love it that much’

“I always loved acting and making impressions, but I never focused on it in my social media before. On TikTok, people noticed that Serena van der Woodsen, who is one of the main characters of Gossip Girl, was using the phrase ‘I have to go’ too often,” she said. “It became a trend in which everyone was trying to make an impression of her using this phrase. I am a very observant person by nature, and I like noting mannerisms, so I decided to make my [own] version.”

TikTok and the allure of revisiting nostalgic television shows

Despite ending over a decade ago, Gossip Girl has continued to maintain and widen its fanbase as younger audiences discover the show. Corey Emanuel, a media psychologist in Los Angeles, told Yahoo News that TikTok, as a platform, has the ability to promote discoverability and encourage audiences to revisit older shows.

“[TikTok] plays a dual role of introducing TV series to new generations and rekindling the nostalgia for those who watched them during their original run,” he said, adding that the app also creates a “sense of belonging” for its users. “TikTok users actively engage by leaving comments on videos that evoke nostalgic memories, fulfilling their inherent need for connection and community.”

Vish’s short sketches imitating van der Woodsen, all of which debuted on TikTok in late 2023, have amassed more than 50 million combined views. The reception of these videos, she revealed, was entirely unforeseen.

“I didn’t expect that people would love it that much! I’ve never planned to put it into a series of videos, but when I posted it at the first time, everyone [in] the comments were begging me to make more,” she said. “[I] hope that Blake Lively [sees] them and likes them as well!”

Emotional comfort and predictability, according to Emanuel, are among the reasons why audiences tend to embark on a rewatch.

“Engaging in nostalgic TV viewing is driven by a desire to revisit or reminisce about the past. For a series like Gossip Girl, that means revisiting days of old wealth, glamour, fashion and past relationship dynamics,” he said. “The predictability of older TV series provides a sense of control, reducing our uncertainty and anxiety, thereby crafting a soothing routine in the midst of our oftentimes unpredictable lives.”