In 1998, Dawson Leery & the residents of Capeside came crashing into our living rooms… and our hearts. For six years we watched as Dawson, Joey, Pacey, and Jen navigated growing up in a small east-coast town. Even though the show went off the air 12 years ago, the writers of LD still had some questions we needed to answer. So three of our editors recently sat down to try and hash out our lingering questions about “Dawson’s Creek.”
Best Friends And Rivals: The Dawson vs. Pacey Debate
Lindsey: Basically I hate Dawson. #paceyforever
Bridey: I also hate Dawson. He’s ridiculous.
Michelle: Pacey is the bomb. I am a huge fan of “Fringe” and I freaked out when I realized that the same actor is in both of them.
Lindsey: Joshua Jackson is actually an actor, whereas James Van Der Beek just plays variations of himself.
Bridey: Well, first and foremost, nothing Dawson said sounded natural at all. No one talks like Dawson. But James Van Der Beek was great in “Don’t Trust the B In Apartment 23.” In which he PLAYED HIMSELF. I think what made Dawson so intolerable was the same thing that plagued a lot of the show. He was melodramatic. But he was melodramatic without the reason, and he didn’t have the redeeming qualities of other characters.
Lindsey: Everyone was melodramatic. but Pacey actually grew like a real high schooler. He fell in and out of love.
Bridey: I never felt bad for Dawson. He had a great home, with gorgeous parents (who divorced but still cared about him and were present). He never wanted for anything emotionally or materially.
Michelle: Pacey was misunderstood, while Dawson was supremely privileged. That made Pacey a much more compelling character to me.
Michelle: I think everyone can relate to being misunderstood in high school. Pacey had heart, Dawson had ideas. There were some really heavy realities in the show’s plot and yet Dawson seemed to always exist in the stratosphere.
Bridey: Pacey had a level of maturity you never saw in Dawson. Dawson’s Privilege Bubble. I’m gonna go ahead and coin that one.
Who Would You Be Friends With: Joey or Jen?
Michelle: Oh man, Joey was A NIGHTMARE in the first season.
Bridey: I never warmed up to Joey as much as Jen.
Lindsey: They were all a nightmare. I feel that is unfair. I ended up liking the person Joey became, but Jen was always tragic and lost, and I couldn’t relate to that.
Bridey: Jen messed up A LOT, but I felt for her. Joey just served me anger from the get-go.
Michelle: There were times when I really felt for both Jen and Joey, and they do serve as foils for each other to some degree. Joey frustrated me because she had so many opportunities to experience life outside of Capeside, yet she was indecisive and let them go.
Bridey: Jen felt more like a complete person to me, albeit a flawed one.
Michelle: She also goes through more substantive phases than Joey seems to. Her fashion transformation is fascinating to watch, especially when she makes some really poor style decisions for different points. Whereas Joey just always seems to be dealing with the same few issues.
Bridey: That is just the story of the 2000s.
Lindsey: Substantive phases how though? Jen is basically Dawson, a privileged white girl obsessed with sex.
Michelle: I think Jen cycles through different friend groups, and tries out different types of behavior. That’s more what I mean, you see her going down different paths and then reeling back.
Bridey: But Jen has more going on in her life than Dawson. She’s got the whole problem with her parents, living with Gran and Gramps, the boyfriends, the drugs.
Lindsey: I found Joey’s story compelling cause she was determined not to end up like the white trash everyone thought she was.
Bridey: I got the sense a lot of that was in her head, though. And maybe part of my lack of interest in her was that I came to the show later. I was already in my mid-20s by the time I watched it, so I was like, “Joey, for the love of all that is good, put down the f*cking barriers! Stop side-eying everyone and get. it. together, girl!”
Michelle: And although that does seem realistic for someone who was rejected by everyone in her small town, there were times when she had been comfortable with someone/trusted them and then abruptly changed her mind…that always made her seem exasperating to me.
Lindsey: I was 20 or 21 and I still remembered what it was like to feel out of place which I think was mostly Joey’s problem.
Bridey: Yeah, I definitely agree with that. But I do think that her insecurity was mostly her own construct. You know? Like she served Dawson some of her attitude from time to time. She was an easy person to cross.
Lindsey: Yes, that was definitely her major flaw, and she didn’t really get over that until the last episode.
Bridey: Girlfriend could hold a grudge. Maybe the real distinction I saw between Jen and Joey was that Jen was really volatile, while Joey was just insecure, and Jen’s volatility was just more interesting.
The Tertiary Girls Of The Creek
Michelle: Eve bothers me, because I think the show uses adoption really insensitively. As an adoptee, I resented the fact that they made her an over-sexualized mistake who was intended to evoke film noir rather than a real, well-rounded person.
Lindsey: I agree with that.
Bridey: I’d definitely agree that Eve was not a real character in and of herself. Eve interested me because she was like this chaotic evil to Dawson’s boringness. She was Catwoman and he was a less interesting Batman.
Lindsey: She was hypersexualized and aggressive towards a younger guy.
Michelle: To use a person as a plot device always bothers me. That feels unethical to me, whether it’s in a novel, a TV show, or whatever.
Bridey: You’re totally right, Michelle. It’s lazy, and it invariably plays to stereotypes.
Bridey: I CRIED over her and Pacey. Like, despite the show being so over-the-top, their problems were actual, real problems. And I felt so much empathy for her, and wanted it to work so badly.
Michelle: The storyline about her mental illness was genuinely compelling. The way details about her family life are revealed was one of the best aspects of the show in my opinion. You know she is on edge, but as you learn more and more about her situation, your heart just breaks for her, again and again.
Bridey: I think it’s also interesting to see her versus Joey at the same time in the series. Because Andie is scared to let people in and let people see her home life, but she eventually does let those guards down for Pacey.
Lindsey: Andie was also one of the most compassionate characters, which was interesting given her loss.
Michelle: Yes! The sibling relationship with her brother also felt very real to me.
Lindsey: Why is Andie interesting in relation to Joey?
Bridey: Just because at the point in the show when she and Pacey are becoming closer, Joey is still very guarded and closed off, having those barriers in place. So it’s definitely a juxtaposition between two people who feel very insecure about their lives.
Lindsey: It was interesting for me knowing that Joey and Pacey end up together, and watch Andie make Pacey into a man we could love rather than an asshole sex fiend.
Lindsey: And I was heartbroken when they broke up but it was nice that she wanted Pacey to be happy.
Michelle: I was just about to go there—to the fact that the characters losing their virginity at different points also tweaked their relationships in interesting ways. Pacey’s reaction to Andie wanting to lose her virginity was very pro-consent.
Bridey: Very true!
What Was The Deal With Dawson’s Filmmaking?
Bridey: Can we talk about his writing though? Because it was bad.
Lindsey: It was horrible, and he lived it, because he had no original ideas except the scary movie and that was not even B-movie good.
Bridey: Yeah, if you’re going to tell the same story over and over again, you gotta be a genius. Wes Anderson can do it, Dawson cannot.
Michelle: I think that’s kind of the tragedy of being a big fish in a small town. The second he goes to Boston, he realizes his place in a larger talent ecosystem.
Lindsey: Side note: this is exactly happened on “One Tree Hill” with Lucas. He just wrote his life over and over again. Ironic because both shows shot in Wilmington, NC.
Michelle: “The Dawson Effect” …or is it…the Wilmington effect!
Bridey: The thing about all these shows supposedly about teens is that literally NO TEENAGER behaves like any of those characters. It’s like they asked junior high kids to explain what high school is like, and ran with their fever dreams.
Despite our criticism and exasperation, “Dawson’s Creek” will always hold a special place in our hearts, right next to Lisa Frank stickers and VCRs. Its glory truly lies in the imperfections that have kept us talking, debating, and rewatching clips on YouTube in the years since we said goodbye to The Creek’s weekly drama.
What are your favorite “Dawson’s Creek” memories? Tweet them to @litdarling!
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