Sexual Tension as Plot Device

alyssa_truebloodsexualtension_post.jpg

HBO


Ta-Nehisi's tired of sexual tension as a plot device in television and movies. I agree that boy-meets-girl stories are kind of tired. But given the role that looking for love and for sex or maintaining relationships or marriages plays in most of our lives, I don't think it's really a question of proportionality in basic subject matter. A lot of shows and movies are about matters of the heart and groin, because a lot of our lives are.


But I think it's a matter of arc, intensity and balance. Not all flirtations end in consummation, much less a relationship or marriage. Desire colors inflection in the way we talk to people, the way we move around an office, and shape our days and weeks. Flames can flicker and die in days, or weeks, or burn on a low grade for months or years. Attraction can color friendships without ever being acknowledged or acted upon. In other words, sexual tension shapes our characters and relationships without being the sum total of them.

I actually think that's one of the main reasons long-running unconsummated romances, especially workplace ones, get audiences in such a lather. In real life, we refuse to acknowledge or speak aloud a lot of the things we feel, because we're scared, uncertain, married, confused. When characters consummate those attractions successfully, when the long-running risk turns out to be worth it, they're living out fantasies we've all had. They validate the idea that sometimes we'll be brave, and lucky.
Presented by

Alyssa Rosenberg is a culture writer with The Washington Post.

The Best 71-Second Animation You'll Watch Today

A rock monster tries to save a village from destruction.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Best 71-Second Animation You'll Watch Today

A rock monster tries to save a village from destruction.

Video

The Case for Napping at Work

Most Americans don't get enough sleep. More and more employers are trying to help address that.

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

Video

Stunning GoPro Footage of a Wildfire

In the field with America’s elite Native American firefighting crew

More in Entertainment

Just In