Watching the latest episode of Scandal, I noticed that Shonda Rhimes has a pattern placing her romantic leads (her usually adulterous romantic leads) in the world’s slowest moving elevator and cranking up the sexual tension. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s something in my “studies” that I’ve noticed about her. I’ll ramble on a bit about why I think she uses this trope. (Gotta check TV tropes for elevator tropes: yup, here is the whole index: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ElevatorTropes)
Elevators are a great space for a scene. By nature the scene can’t last too long (unless someone is trapped which can be great for drama and dialogue) and there is a sense of claustrophobia and time constraint that heighten the tension of the scene. Also elevators are inherently awkward (think about your last elevator experience, especially with other people you don’t know).
Any pair can get in an elevator, but romantic leads are a classic choice. The awkwardness. Especially between a burgeoning relationship. The space confinement. A couple who can’t be with each other for whatever reason being forced to breath the same air, smell each other’s perfume/cologne, not touch for 30 seconds. The time constraint. Trying to make out (or whatever, this is PG guys) in those 30 seconds.
Shonda loves this trope. On Grey’s Anatomy, Meredith and Derek are always in elevators (well, season 1-5 that was true, then I stopped watching. Sorry.) and now Scandal‘s Fitz and Olivia are constantly meeting in elevators. (Shonda also seems to have a thing for adulterous romantic leads.) They often can’t touch so the awkwardness and the entrapment are factors and often enough, they break the “can’t touch” rule and try to touch as much skin as they can before the elevator hits the 5th floor.
(Just a quick note on a fave Grey’s episode of mine (2.5 “Bring the Pain” – which was written as a season finale) that involves UST-less elevator usage: the season 2 episode with George and Alex in the elevator and they perform heart surgery in there. Great episode all around and great new use for the elevator other than Mer/Der secret hook up time haha.)
Just a thought on elevators and how they can work in a story.