Renaissance Ross and Rachel

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In another one of my classes that focuses on the Renaissance, we recently had a discussion about how unrequited love was considered to be the most pure form of love during the Renaissance.  The love poetry of Petrarch and Dante are testaments to this fact.  500 years later and the reluctant romance is still central to our culture’s storytelling and entertainment.  Dante and Beatrice have been replaced by Ross and Rachel.  What is it about unrequited love that appeals to audiences so much?  I think it’s because it’s a topic that most people can relate to and empathize with.  It gives audiences something to root for which keeps them tuning in.  Unrequited love, aside from providing great storylines, connects television to a literary history.  Aside from Petrarch’s poetry, the quest for the one you love has been (and I imagine always will be) a popular novel storyline.  No matter what the medium, it seems that unrequited love will thrive, and television has adapted it to its needs particularly well.

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2 Responses to “Renaissance Ross and Rachel”

  1. cls365 Says:

    I think that you have made a really interesting connection here. When referring about Jim & Pam or Ross & Rachel or Chuck & Blair, I never thought about the “reluctant romance” until reading Jeffrey Sconce’s “What If?: Charting Television’s New Textual Boundaries.” On page 103, he talks about the “reluctant romance” in television shows ranging from the X-Files to Friends. In referring to Friends he states that, the show “has approached this convention as almost self-reflexive farce, simultaneously exploiting viewer interest in the Ross and Rachel relationship while also devising almost parodic complications for the couple” (Sconce, 103). In other words, while poets like Dante and Petrarch may have written about unrequited love for art’s sake, TV writers continue to use this topic in order to keep the customers hooked and the ratings up season to season. Of course, the problem with the “reluctant romance” story arc is that once Ross & Rachel finally end up together, the story ends, and if the story doesn’t end there, it probably should have. After all, without the chase, there is no allure or point in staying tuned for next week’s episode.

  2. kbwebster Says:

    a bit random, but i think the theme of unrequited love has been around and pined for since catullus.
    i’m reminded of a book that was recommended by a friend called “my mistress’s sparrow is dead,” a collection of short stories edited by jeffrey eugenides (of virgin suicides and middlesex fame).

    this website sums it up well: ” The book is named after a poem by the Latin poet Catullus and is a description of Catullus’ unrequited love for a married woman, Lesbia, who by most descriptions, is a bit of a femme fatale. The poem has to do with Lesbia and the pet sparrow that she is obsessed with in life and death (the sparrow’s.) The poet laments that dead or alive, the sparrow prevents Lesbia from devoting time to her lover (Catullus). The author explains that this book isn’t a collection of love stories in the traditional sense of the words -no sunny, fluffy, boy-meets-girl type stuff. In each of the 26 stories chosen here, “either there is a sparrow or the sparrow is dead.”

    Then he ends with the explanation Passer pipiabat, a Latin phrase which translates to “Better a sparrow, living or dead, than no birdsong at all.”

    i.e. better to have loved and lost, than not to have loved at all……”

    http://dead-and-rotten.blogspot.com/2008/06/some-other-better-otto.html

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