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 cliché 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.