“Reluctant Romance” in Gossip Girl

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Jeffrey Sconce says that part of the art of television lies in creative use of standard formulas. One of these is the “reluctant romance.” To be honest, I hadn’t ever noticed this very obvious convention. I’ve seen in it in so many shows from the X-Files to Friends, but never made the connection between the similar story arcs. Anyway, while when reading about it, I found myself thinking about Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf, and how their reluctant romance, though similar in ways to all the others, sets itself apart.

Blair and Chuck’s relationship, though obviously a clichĂ© rehashing of the “will they, won’t they?” story arc, has some qualities specific to itself. While other reluctant romances are so because of complicated interpersonal histories (Friends) or limiting professional relationships (X-Files), Chuck and Blair’s romance was filled with a heightened sense of sexual and romantic tension, as the both parties acknowledged the attraction. They acknowledged and reveled in “the game.” The audience thus found their antagonistic-romantic relationship all the more interesting, and frustrating.

This was the way in which the creative team behind Gossip Girl reinvented the reluctant romance convention, which shows a level of creative and artistic thought behind the show. Of course, now that Chuck and Blair’s “game” has ended, in the 3rd season, ratings have dropped (I for one haven’t been watching). Indeed, Sconce writes that ratings often drop when a reluctant romance ends in realized romance.

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2 Responses to ““Reluctant Romance” in Gossip Girl”

  1. acs423 Says:

    When we were talking about “reluctant romance” in class on Tuesday, Chuck and Blair was the couple I thought of immediately (perhaps because I’m a Gossip Girl fan). One could say that Dan and Serena are also a part of a reluctant romance (not so much anymore but definitely throughout the first and second seasons). I think that since Dan and Serena have officially broken up–and probably will not get back together unless Rufus and Lily divorce (because of the obvious issue of their parents getting married, making Dan and Serena step-siblings)–these two characters have become dramatically less interesting to watch.
    Now that I think about it, Lily and Rufus also have a reluctant romance. Gossip Girl is just chock full of these sort of “will they/won’t they” relationships.

  2. elizafriar Says:

    Like Max, I also hadn’t thought of “reluctant romance” as a convention. Though now that it has been brought to my attention I can’t seem to get it out of my mind. When I think back to the shows Firefly and Friends, I cannot help but be reminded how interested I was in the romantic relationships between the characters. In a lot of ways, especially with Friends, it was that reluctant romance that kept me coming back time and time again, even when I had become bored with the other story lines. Shows, like The Hills for example, seem to have taken out all other aspects of the story and appeal directly to those viewers who look for the reluctant romance aspect. Perhaps this is why a show like Friends was a bigger hit with a larger community.

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