Dawson's Creek sexist tone and stalker vibes would certainly not have made the cut in the Netflix era
"All the mysteries of the universe, all the answers to life's questions can be found in a Spielberg film," was one of the pearls of wisdom that Dawson Leery dropped in the pilot for the teen love drama series Dawson's Creek all the way back in 1998.
While Spielberg's films are still stellar (look at Ready Player One), what is worth wondering how would Dawson's Creek fare with the audience of today - when most of the iconic sitcoms have faced criticism for not being sensitive enough and for unknowingly propagating sexism, misogyny, body shaming and stalking. Take the blockbuster sitcom 'Friends' for example - the old fans of the show found it ripped to shreds soon after it started streaming on Netflix, as the ones who watched it for the first time found it promoted stalking, fat shaming, was laced with sexism and something they felt was fifty shades of wrong.
Recently the cast of Dawson's Creek had a mini reunion for a photoshoot and it brought back a lot of memories. So we decided to watch it now and see how the teenage drama would work in the Netflix era of today.
Dawson's Creek first aired till 2003, running for a successful six seasons. James Van Der Beek played Dawson Leery, the starry-eyed young boy who dreams of being a famous director and who ends up kissing his best friend, Katie Holmes played Joey Potter, the dimpled nerd who doesn't have the best family life. Joshua Jackson plays Pacey Witter, their friend who is an overall underachiever and uses humor to hide his pain while rounding up the group is Michelle Williams as Jen Lindley, a New York City girl who is trying to find her way in the town of Capeside, Massachusetts and who dies in the end by the way.
A classic coming-of-age series, it chronicles these characters and their struggle to make sense of one of the most difficult phases of anyone's life - transitioning from an awkward, know-it-all teenager to somewhat sensible adults.
At the time, they did a good job tackling teenage issues (not that much has changed now) — the underdogs on campus, the stereotypes around virginity and illicit affairs with teachers and faculty. But one cannot help but fast forward once the s*** hits the fan — as in when Dawson starts weeping and he weeps a lot. And he doesn't just cry — he also has a superiority complex that makes him think he knows better than anyone.
For example for the first episode in the show, as Joey and Dawson have just finished watching the movie E.T, he wants to talk about how 'Gandhi' did not deserve to win the Academy award and that E.T was the one who should've beat it. Calculating by the DC years, he would have been a mere two-year-old when the film did beat E.T to win the Academy award in 1982.
He's also quite the pervert — after Jen reveals to these friends that she was a beauty pageant winner when she was a wee little kid — he immediately chirps in what seemed so witty to him — "twirled a baton".
This is a childhood story D, shut up and go away. He is the same guy who also says he "usually" relieves himself "in the morning with Katie Couric." Eww. The writers really went too far with this one.
But Joey Potter, who was always shabbily dressed, decides that she wants to tap that, damned be his disgusting ways — she is his first kiss. The stereotype that this character has propagated is so backward, it is ridiculous. Just to prove she excels in academics, she has the sloppily dressed, unkempt hair as part of her daily makeup and is only best friend material until she sheds off her dowdy clothes to become a contestant in a fancy pageant. Then what do you know? she's suddenly heartbreakingly beautiful. There is also the problematic chip on her shoulder about her virginity. Dawson's Creek if it were made in 2018, would most definitely be slammed for promoting toxic masculinity.
Women's body parts are just body parts Dawson and voicing out a concern isn't called "going all female", it's called existing, that you do all the time. Joey Potter was made to look like an annoying woman just because she decides to talk about her evolving body. Dawson goes, "Don’t get all female on me, Joey. I don’t want to have to start calling you 'Josephine'"
Through the whole series, D claims he is very respectful to the women he knows, yet he stalks them, he doesn't understand consent and keeps forcing his opinions down their throats. By these women — he means Jen and Joey. Here are some stellar examples of his respectful behavior — he reads Joey's diary, his bff and love interest as they grow up, without her permission (The Kiss/Crossroads), he is so curious about what goes on in Jen's bedroom that he has to use binoculars to creepily look into her bedroom window.
After he gets dumped in 'Road Trip' by Jen, he, unsurprisingly, decides to get over Jen, because girls are just "Coeds wall-to-wall", by going to a bar and trying to pick up women and of course using them to massage his ego. "[Jen]’s gonna freak when I’m not there. It’ll be good to let her wonder about me for a while," is his idea.
At the wake of #MeToo and Time's Up, this episode would have had scathing reviews even though it is a situation we are all deeply familiar with, unfortunately. We all know one of these so-called nice guys, who think they are better than the rest of them just because they claim to be. Perhaps which is why #NotAllMen was a stupid hashtag, to begin with.
Dawson tries to convince Jen to sleep with Jason Behr, a classmate and then again pesters her to sleep with him in Season 2. He portrays Jason's quest as lust while him doing the same thing was a "strength of his love." The creepy romantic vibe at its epitome.
This teen romance saga does lead you ask why everyone in it loves to shed tears so much? Why doesn't Joey deal with her PTSD that she clearly has (because her dad was jailed when she was 13)? The whole plot is quite twisted at its base in my humble opinion, as it's foundation lies in the statement that men and women cannot be friends — yes, in this wild west of hormones, they clearly cannot seem to.
Teenage years shape one's life — but Dawson's Creek is only interested in shaping the love side of things. There isn't one time that you feel like there is platonic friendship or any other theme to this plot because as soon as you do, they sleep with each other.
There are also instances of racism and victim shaming — when in 'Full Moon Rising' Jen makes out with a guy named Vincent and he wants to take it too far and she is not ok with it and Gram comes to the rescue, she tells Jen what the rest of the world seems to be telling her — don't be easy. When Bessie, Joey's sister starts dating Bodie, he is always addressed as her "sister’s black boyfriend" and could we ever forget Matt, deliver the line to Principal Green, "I’m rich. I’m white. That’s all the possibility I need."
Would you watch Dawson's Creek if it were made now? Go ahead and be ready for the waterworks.
The views expressed in the article are purely the writers and do not necessarily reflect that of Meaww group