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showmance also show-mance

noun [countable]

a romantic relationship between two members of the cast of a play, film or television series, especially a relationship that ends when the play, series, etc finishes

The former Celebrity Big Brother winners started dating in June, but many have questioned whether their relationship is genuine. Cynics have suggested the relationship is a 'showmance' designed to keep the pair's names in the press, but the pair took the opportunity during a television interview – where else? – to set the record straight.

metro.co.uk 4th August 2011

If you're on the lookout for a bit of 'no-strings-attached' romance this Valentine's Day, then you might want to take inspiration from those who work in the entertainment industry, where relationships can surface and disappear as regularly as the light of day. Among the occupational 'perks' enjoyed by many of the actors that grace our theatres, cinemas and TV screens, is the opportunity for a showmance, that romantic dalliance between two cast members which can last for however long is convenient.

a key attribute of a showmance is that it tends to only last for the duration of the show in which the individuals work
together

A showmance is a relationship which develops between performers in a play, film or television series. Though there are a number of notable cases of these kind of romances leading to lasting relationships (such as for example the marriage in June 2011 of actors Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig, who began dating while working together on a film in the previous year – it remains to be seen how enduring their relationship will be), a key attribute of a showmance is that it tends to only last for the duration of the show in which the individuals work together, usually coming to an abrupt end shortly after the final episode or performance.

Though there may be genuine, if rather short-lived, romantic attraction involved, showmances are often viewed as publicity stunts, such relationships inevitably attracting a great deal of media interest which can be used to promote the show where the romance 'blossomed'. Such criticism has for instance been levelled at young actors Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, whose showmance seems to be gaining momentum as the release of the film in which they star, The Amazing Spiderman (Columbia Pictures, July 2012), draws closer. Showmances are particularly prevalent in reality TV shows (e.g. Big Brother), and also other kinds of entertainment which involve an intrinsic 'coupling' of the participants (as in for instance BBC TV's Strictly Come Dancing or its US/Australian counterpart Dancing with the Stars). In reality shows which have a competitive element and require viewers' support, participants can use showmances as a mechanism for persuading viewers to vote for them – if they keep them in the show, then they'll be able to see the 'romance' continue.

Though mainly used in reference to celebrity romances, the word showmance is now sometimes used more broadly to refer to any kind of contrived romance in which people fake being in love because they have ulterior motives for doing so.

Background – showmance

Showmance is a blend of the words show and romance which originated in the theatre to describe romances which developed between fellow actors on stage, later transferring to film and television. On the model of romance and romantic, there's also some evidence for use of the word showmantic, which can function as both an adjective and a noun to describe such relationships or those involved.

A near synonym is the new term fauxmance, a blend of faux ('artificial') and romance, used to refer to a fake romance between celebrities (who may or may not work together) which has been deliberately contrived in order to attract media attention.

An earlier blend on the same pattern is bromance, a combination of brother and romance coined in the early noughties to refer to a close but non-sexual relationship between two men. Bromance and derived adjective bromantic hit the spotlight in late 2011 as an apt characterization of the relationship between fictional characters Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson in the context of discussions surrounding both the new BBC TV series and the recently released Warner Brothers film Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows.

For teachers

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by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 6th February 2012.

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