‘Dawson’s Creek’: A Curriculum In Teen Soap

Dawson’s Creek

Dawson’s Creek, you have been watched, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. That’s actually not true, or else I probably wouldn’t attempt to write this thing. Basically, Dawson’s Creek has been a show always rattling around in my pop culture aura, that I’ve constantly heard being referenced and made fun of, but never actually seen. Of course, I knew about James Van Der Beek and everybody making fun of his crying, and as well as Katie Holmes, before she was spoiled by Tom Cruise. So ‘ol Evan isn’t immune to some teen soaps, even when I’ve aged out of its target demographic, so I took the plunge. To be fair, I watched the first two seasons, over a year ago, pulled away until this past september where I got through seasons three and four, and then wanting to get it over with, I mainlined the final season of five and six over the last three days, and here we are. So, basically, yeah, my memory won’t be the best on everything, not that this was ever going to be cohesive, but here we go.

Since I didn’t watch this during the initial run, and have largely stayed away from Internet stuff about it, I’m not entirely sure what the general consensus on this here show is. I know people make fun of it a lot, for various and apt reasons, but I’ve also seen it held up as a precursor to these current days soaps and seemed like a hit at just the right time for The WB. I mean, it is a teen soap, with all the soapiest elements of deaths, romance, break-ups, deceit, sex, out-of-nowhere twists and so-on, but I let these shows have all that no matter the ridiculous, because that’s what these shows set out to do. That’s exactly where I fall with the show, I like it as it is and for what it set out to do. I don’t like it ironically or think it’s any great piece of work, but for what it intended to do within it’s genre it works mighty fine. It is quite hilarious though how many times each of the main characters dated each other and how many times they found themselves intertwined in some romantic relationship. I’d love to see some crazy graph linking them all throughout the series, and I’m sure someone with even more time on their hands than me as come up with it.

Beyond just as what it intends to do with story and plot and all that stuff in stringing a narrative together, it’s the characters that matter just as much. For the most part I enjoyed spending time with these characters, and no matter what batshit stuff they got entangled in, I liked and knew this characters to an extent, and was just content with spending time with them. With that said, it wasn’t always fun having to deal with these characters sometimes. Take for example the titular Dawson. Oh my god, what an annoying, entitled, whiny douche. It’s often hard to take Dawson seriously when he’s so unlikely in the lead role where we’re supposed to be cheering for his feelings and chase of Katie Holmes. Commonly, he acts like a jerk, and he doesn’t realize it, then he thinks everything should be his, he doesn’t get it, then he pouts. The whole series outlines this way with Dawson where he cries about not getting something (a girl, or something to do with making a movie), he finally gets it, and cries about how he doesn’t like it now, screws it up or willingly lets it go, it goes, then he cries again that he doesn’t have it rinse, and repeat.

On the flip side of acting and character, if I’m coming away with one thing from Dawson’s Creek it’s how great Katie Holmes is in this. Now I come from the Tom Cruise corrupting days, where that was largely where she was known from, and hadn’t seen her in that much actual acting work, and thus really didn’t have an opinion too much on her. But, that all changed here, she plays the role of cute, coy, and independent (yet, flexible in  romantic endeavours) Joey Potter. She’s often quiet and unassuming, but always carries so much in her eyes, and in one of the greatest and encompassing smiles I’ve ever seen (that felt so creepy writing that sentence, but it’s true, sorry). While I may not have always liked where they took Joey, I always enjoyed how Holmes played her, so honestly and conservatively at times. We need you back Katie Holmes, freed from the shackles of Tom Cruise, I demand you back!

As all shows of high school nature eventually face, they all had to graduate, and not all shows face this the same. Well, here they smartly uprooted from Capeside where the show had taken place and moved into Boston and L.A. as the show became more of an ensemble in the last two seasons. Now not everything was always focused through Dawson’s lens and not all plot had to run through him in even a tertiary sense, even while it occasionally still did. I’m not sure that it made the show really any better, but it was more enjoyable, a nice change of pace and freed up the show to focus more heavily on other characters and give us a break from Dawson once and awhile.

I’m glad I watched Dawson’s Creek (all the way through finally *phew*) and not just to say that I watched it (well, actually yeah, mainly that), but because it did what it did well. I enjoy a teen soap/drama from time-to-time, and it’s obvious to see why this one was so popular and see as a pre-cursor to the teen soaps of the mid to late aughts. The show was such a wash of nostalgia for me, and it’s funny because at the base of the show itself, that’s what it was about. Living your life and growing up with the people around you, but never quite able to escape your past, no matter how great or terrible it was. An always remaining presence that pops up at the most random times and you remember something great, someone great, and for a moment you’re back in that time, and you’re replaying it all over again.

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