“Gentrified”: The Yuppies Are Coming

Fordham Alums Discuss Creating and Starring in New Web Comedy Series



Emily Tarpey (left) and Leena Borst (right) in a scene from “Gentrified,” their comedic web series that follows the adventures of two girls through the boroughs of New York City. (gentrifiedthewebseries/youtube.com)
Emily Tarpey, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’09, and Leena Borst, FCRH ’12, share the same dynamic energy in an Upper West Side Starbucks that they do prowling the streets of Brooklyn in short dresses and stilettos (for their first apartment, get your mind out of the gutter), the plotline of their new web series “Gentrified.”  Borst uses her more acrid and biting sense of humor to play on the bubbly and effervescent Tarpey, but the juxtaposition makes them an effective (and hilarious) comedic team, both off camera and while filming their web series about twenty-somethings leaving home for good.

“Gentrified” chronicles the misadventures of Rach and Brit, two ditsy and clueless girls of privilege who are looking to break free from the suburbs and find the “new up-and-coming neighborhood” in Brooklyn.  Brit and Rach are vapid, vain and shallow, yet strangely endearing and certainly mean well. They see themselves as “This generation’s ‘Sex and the City,’” but mostly stumble through the borough (and life) half-aware of their surroundings, totally uninformed (despite their constant access to the Internet, thanks to their ever-present iPhones), and essentially, just painfully clueless. On their quest across “The Land of the Brook,” they manage to (unintentionally) insult just about every type of person, from prostitutes and “gingers” (neither of which have souls, according to the duo) to black people to Hawaiians (both of whom they treat like greeters on an exotic island) with a forced pun and a cacophony of giggles.   To the chagrin of the pearl-clad, Starbucks toting, shoulder-sweater sporting girls, none of the neighborhoods they have explored suit their fancy. So they decide to gentrify their own.

According to Tarpey, the essence of “Gentrified” is “making fun of racism, trying to laugh at everything and everyone. No one is safe.” The web series documents the absurdity of stereotyping and generalization, illustrated by the metaphor of gentrification itself ( “the influx of middle-class or wealthy people that often displaces the poor residents”).  Brit and Rach are loosely based on a caricature of Tarpey (as a Westchester girl in the city), mixed with a definite “type” that Tarpey and Borst (as well as Allison Taylor, co-creater and writer with Tarpey) have experienced through their lives (though Borst piped in that the girls are “everything I hate in a human being” and jokingly admitted that “she would spit in our face if we walked past us” during filming).

Tarpey points to her education as a part of the development process, as an English major with an Ancient Greek minor, she drew from both to create “Gentrified.” Gently mocking Tarpey, Borst sardonically points out that this is why “the entire thing is in Greek, someone dies, someone falls in love with their father…”  (“Gentrified” is not in Greek, there are no deaths, and the thing the girls love most about their fathers are their yachts).  Tarpey defends herself by pointing out that the series takes place in a 24-hour time period, typical of Greek theatre, and freely admits, “I’m a bit of a nerd.”  Borst credits her experience with Rose Hill improv troupes (such as “Free Pizza”) for her ability to weave spontaneity into the script of “Gentrified,” explaining that “no one memorizes their lines, like true college kids.”

The actual writing took place last winter, the filming came later, in which there were “lots of butts” according to Borst (citing an incident in which her “miniature dress” flew over her head as she tripped one day, and she gave the watching crowd a very different type of show).  The music in the show is locally grown as well, some of which is played by Fordham’s LaLaLush. Five episodes have been released so far, with a new episode released every Tuesday.

The season finale of Gentrified is slated to premiere Nov. 19, with the creators looking to shoot season two soon.

To see more of Tarpey, Borst, and “Gentrified,” watch them on youtube.com or www.gentrifiedthewebseries.com. Also, look out for more from Emily Tarpey in “Shadows of Life,” an indie film produced by Face 2 Face Films slotted to debut in festivals in early to mid 2013.