We watch television shows and films and read literature in order to invest ourselves in other people’s lives, to participate in various lifestyles and relationships.  These characters’ relationships tend to progress like real relationships – meaning, the “will-they-won’t-they” interplay can drag out for awhile.  Sometimes that’s fun.
A bit of teasing and “maybe-they-will” is normal. Sometimes it’s really enjoyable to watch or experience two characters grow and change until they naturally mesh better. A good example of this is Eliza Bennett and Mr. Darcy. In my opinion, they had to pull themselves together individually before they could be together as a couple. That’s intuitive.  Ron and Hermione likewise had growing up to do. They were young children when they met, and they went through a lot before they were ready to be together. I get that.

Mal and Inara from Firefly: I admit to still being a little sad that they never really acted on their attraction. It was appealing to watch their relationship and to hold out hope.

But it can go on way too long. Ross and Rachel? Oh my god, I want to punch them whenever they debate whether or not they should be together.  By the end of the show, I really didn’t care about either of those characters anymore, nor did I care if they ended up together. Clearly, this “will-they-won’t-they” thing can turn into a thing of wild frustration, even mutiny. I mean, if even a fan who gets pathetically invested in fictional couples (yes, I know, that may just be me) only gets metaphorical blue balls until the very end of the show, there’s something wrong. If your fans throw your books across the room in despair, you may have dragged things on for too long. If even extremely devoted aficionados have tossed in the remote control in dissatisfaction, something’s gotta give.

Richard Castle and Kate Beckett, Jim and Pam, Luke and Lorelai, Buffy and Spike – there really is such a thing as too much romantic and sexual tension.

 

Sarah Pinkerton