Netflix’s re-release of Dawson’s Creek (1998-2003) is an ointment specially formulated for adults who were once kids in the 90s. We were close to adulthood in the ’90s, and the complexities of the teenage drama that played out on Dawson’s Creek shaped our youth. And now we have arrived, we desperately want to go back to our teenage years.
Dawson’s Creek was a time of simple politics, the beauty of youth and the innocence of virginity.
In the quaint town of Capeside, Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek) is a typical ’90s American teenager with a passion for film and pop culture. The series traces the complexities of Dawson’s close childhood friendship groups, romantic relationships, and the anxiety problems that plague teenage lives.
When it comes to sexual tension, Dawson’s Creek flirted with everything from the virgin girl next door, Joey (Katie Holmes), to the sexually mature out-of-Tower Jen (Michelle Williams). And let’s not forget Dawson’s best friend, Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson), whose Tryst with a 36-year-old English teacher looks even creepier in retrospect.
Even so, our memories of Dawson’s Creek, like all nostalgic things, have to do with longing for a golden age that never really existed. COVID has reinforced this feeling of longing for a romanticized past: be it a golden age of baking bread or wearing “mom jeans”.
After a crisis, we often return to familiar stories. After the 9/11 attacks, American television and film emphasized strong models of masculinity and “cowboy” mythology. Americans were looking for a sense of security – a hero with steely eyes who could sneak in and fix everything.
Dawson’s Creek brings us back to innocence and simplicity. Even if it was always just a fantasy.
In the summery town of Dawson’s Creek, Cape Cod, teens are free to touch, hug, love, and roam freely. And all of these things they certainly do in spades.
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A central tension in the series is the love triangle between Dawson, Pacey and Joey. While Dawson’s Creek has all kinds of tears and diatribes, it has a microdrama that we know will eventually resolve. The only thing better than no problem is a problem that we know can be fixed.
Return to the stream
When the show streamed over the weekend, I jumped in and found Capeside exactly where I left it: in excruciatingly pristine condition. But with fresh eyes the cringe factor was astronomical.
One of the big elements of the show, which was different from others of its kind and era, was the cadence of dialogue. The writers apparently had no regard for how teenagers spoke.
In the first episode, Joey foreshadows the narrative of the coming season and tells Dawson: “[…] Our emerging hormones are designed to transform our relationship and I try to limit the effects. ”
Seeing again as an adult makes it feel just like a teenager will to sound, but is usually adorable short.
I don’t remember making any quick statements that perfectly articulated a meta-analysis of my own chaotic youth experience.
Then there’s the scene where new English teacher Tamara (Leann Hunley) meets Pacey for the first time in the video business and asks for a copy of The Graduate (1967). Obviously, the writers didn’t want to be subtle.
Re-experience teenage life
Dawson’s Creek brings with it a carnival of long-lost moments from the 1990s: the posters on Dawson’s wall refer to Spielberg films; his job in the local video store; the tapes and VHS tapes strewn around the teenagers’ bedrooms; the grunge-lite clothing.
Although our teenage years are a small part of our lives, they are often much more emotional. Psychologists suggest that this may be due to the effects of the often painful negotiations between clinging to the security of childhood and the dreams of emerging adulthood.
These negotiations mark these years with such force that they remain shaped in a way that other decades do not.
During this period there is also a critical connection between the importance of popular culture and moments of identity formation. The art with which we grow up shapes our psyche for life.
Maybe I don’t crawl so much at the show as I crawl into myself. Dawson’s Creek gives me a safe place to reconsider my teenage years. When I remember what I saw, I can remember who I was.
It’s strange to see the show, now we know how it turned out – both on-screen and off-screen. We leave the crew as they leave the creek and try to find their own feet in the world in their burgeoning adulthood.
Van Der Beek had some small successes: he was impressive in The Rules of Attraction (2002) and showed great self-referential television in Don’t Trust the B Apartment 23 (2012-13).
Holmes had some great roles but never seemed successful in her acting career, while Jackson shone in later television roles. But it was Williams who became a breakout star. As the youngest leading actress, she was nominated for four Academy Awards.
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It was then that Dawson’s Creek offered us an escape – if only for a moment. And now it may have a similar function. In the turmoil of 2020, it’s comforting to return to the fantasy of the pristine community of Capeside, where the biggest problem is who Joey will choose.
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