What Dawson’s Creek Taught Me

Originally Published: November 4th, 2013; Updated: June 24th, 2014

It’s no secret that, around here, we watch a lot of TV. Like, a lot. No, seriously… So it’s no surprise that everything I know was taught to me by TV shows and I sometimes get a little too attached to these fictional worlds and characters BUT IT’S MY LIFE I’LL DO WHAT I WANT. Dawson’s Creek was always one of my guilty pleasures. It was over-written, slow-paced, melodramatic, and over-written (did I already say that? Regardless, it bears repeating). Sure, the dialogue was peppered with SAT words and sounded more like the teenagers had right-mouse-click-Thesaurus kind of conversations than realistic ones, but the emotions were dead-on. As I type this, I’m currently in the middle of re-watching my Creek DVDs, and smack in the middle of the fifth season, and there are so many experiences that I didn’t understand back when it first aired (I was a junior in high school at the end of its run in 2003), but now that I’m watching I realize that the situations were very true-to-life. One of TVs best romances lived and breathed on the Creek, when Pacey (Joshua Jackson) developed intense feelings for Joey (Katie Holmes), who was title character Dawson’s “soul mate.” Spanning the length of an entire season, from when they first start becoming friends to when Joey finally expresses her own undeniable love, it’s one of the most realistic, heart-wrenching, and riveting couplings on a teen drama. Ever. In a TV age where now every storyline must be streamlined and fast-paced, it’s nice to revisit the Creek, where every storyline was slow-building, culminating in emotional apexes season-to-season. This show has definitely influenced me and informed a lot of my own experiences as a teen. It helps me recall a time in my life that sometimes I forget. Plus, it taught me 11 very important life lessons: 1. That SAT words are totally useful in everyday casual conversations. image I firmly believe that Dawson’s Creek is the only reason I passed the verbal section on the SATs. I learned words such as “vitriolic,” “diatribe,” “theoretical,” “ennui,” “trite,” “genitals” (what? I was sheltered…) The writers must have kept thesaurus’ lying around for liberal use, not that I’m complaining because I’m pretty sure this show is the only reason I ended up getting into college. The verbiage was just epic. Take, for example, the season 4 premiere, where Pacey and Joey are discussing not returning to Capeside for senior year in favor of running away together:

“Just what would we be missing from the land of poorly scripted melodramas, huh? Recycled plot lines, tiresome self-realizations. You throw in the occasional downward spiral of a dear friend, and maybe a baby here and a death there and all you’ve really got is a recipe for some soul sucking, mind numbing ennui, and I for one could skip it.”

I wish I was able to speak like that when I was 17. Oh, and the awesome and totally not unrealistic part was that in the next episode, Pacey was told that he pretty much failed junior year. Talk about continuity… 2. Jack McPhee proved that gay men are not stereotypes, that the struggle to come out and find your footing is real, and that inner growth takes time and patience. Jack’s storyline was incredibly gut-wrenching, and this show aired the first romantic gay kiss on primetime network television; it was huge. Jack’s story was heart-wrenching and realistic. He was multi-faceted: an artist, a football player, a frat boy, and, at the end of the series, a school teacher. When I first started watching the Creek, I was not impressed. The first season and first half of the second season were overwrought and overdone, but midway through the second season when Jack came out by reading a poem to his English class that he had written detailing a sexual encounter with another man, I was HOOKED. A lot of why I continued to watch was for Jack. At least until Joey and Pacey in season 3… Still, I rooted for Jack, and nothing got me more than in the series finale, when Jack is tasked with parenting Jen’s baby, and has the guts to confront his boyfriend who wasn’t quite out of the closet about the importance of being out, if for nothing than for the sake of love. I mean, seriously…who freaked the fuck out when they saw that Jack and Pacey’s older brother Doug ended up together in the series finale? Plus, Kerr Smith was a total babe. tumblr_mivw41CI8I1r7b601o1_500 3. The art of ugly-crying; it’s totally acceptable to ugly cry every now and again (especially if your soul mate runs off to be with your best friend.) I mean, Dawson Leery crying is iconic. It allowed me to see that even actors can’t do everything right. Also, ugly-crying is totally OK, you guys. Go on…let it all out. Ugly cry. It’s good for the soul. Also, I guess Van Der Douche is actually pretty cool now (omg I can’t believe I just said that.) 4. There can be a difference between a “soul mate” and a “love of your life.” I always thought that both terms were interchangeable, that a soul mate is the love of your life. But that’s not necessarily true. Sure, the love of your life should be a soul mate, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not mutually exclusive concepts. In the most poignant moment of Dawson Leery’s entire character arc, he explains to his baby sister, Lilly, what a soul mate is.

“Well, it’s like a best friend, but more. It’s the one person in the world that knows you better than anyone else. It’s someone who makes you a better person. Actually, they don’t make you a better person, you do that yourself because they inspire you. A soul mate is someone who you carry with you forever. It’s the one person who knew you and accepted you and believed in you before anyone else did or when no one else would. And no matter what happens, you’ll always love her. Nothing can ever change that. Make sense?”

In short, Joey. I’ve learned that some of my closest friends are my soul mates; they have pieces of me that nobody else ever will. That doesn’t mean that there is any romance between us. (Hello, I’m gay, and all of my friends are girls, so there’s that.) That’s the difference between soul mates and those all-consuming loves of your life. 5. The best kind of love is one that challenges you to be your best self every single day. Pacey bought Joey a wall after a douchebag defaced her school memorial. HE BOUGHT HER A FREAKIN’ WALL. TO CHALLENGE HER. WHO DOES THAT? If Pacey bought me a wall, my heart would die because it would turn into a mushy pile of kittens and rainbows and all things gooey and I’d I would be completely overwhelmed. And can we just talk about how much Pacey loves Joey? Like at the Prom, when they’re dancing together despite Dawson being her date, and he basically confesses his love for her in the most spine-chilling and romantical dialogue exchange IN TELEVISION HISTORY?

Pacey: See this? This is you. It’s not showy or gaudy. It’s simple. Elegant. Beautiful. Joey: It’s my mom’s bracelet. Pacey: I know. Joey: How do you know? Pacey: Well, because you told me. Six months ago. You were wearing that blue sweater with the snowflakes that you have. You were walking down the hallway at school. I was annoying you as per usual. You said, “Look, Pacey, I just found my mother’s bracelet this morning, so why don’t you cut me some slack?” Joey: You remember that? Pacey: I remember everything.


#SWOON. 6. Jen Lindley taught me all about feminism. She was the most bad-ass character on the show and the unspoken backbone. She marched onto the Creek with such brazen, yet innocent school girl sexuality. She was the madonna, a perfect virginal temptress with a sordid sexual past. She rebelled against everything: religion, gender roles, and she hated all things conformist. She was a rock n’ roll lover, a free-spirited Once Upon A Time troublemaker turned-sage guru who dispensed the best advice, yet couldn’t for the life of her take it for herself. One of my favorite story arcs was when she auditioned to be a cheerleader by tearing down the team captain, urging her teammates to fight the conformity and utter bitchery. The team, of course, responded in true episode TV fashion by crowning Jen head cheerleader. And then, of course, she was crowned homecoming queen: …which basically solidifies rebellion as a legitimate form of growing up. Right? Isn’t that the lesson to learn here? Also, Jen pretty much taught me about strength, bravery in the face of death. When she was dying in the final episode, she mustered up enough courage to comfort her friends, to teach them what it means to love, even in the fact of uncertainty, when nothing makes sense. Her characters story arc in that two part series finale was what finally brought everybody back together. 7. The kind of Will & Grace friendship that Jack and Jen had was nothing short of true love. As they called it, the “patented, meaningless, good-humored Jack-Jen/Fag-Hag banter” was #everything. If you ask me, those two were true love, in the only way that two best friends could love each other: unconditionally and without judgement. 8. Dawson Leery was SO in the closet, which basically showed me that everybody has their own path to follow in life.

Zero chemistry.

I mean, it’s no secret that Kevin Williamson, brilliant SAT Verbal Wizard and mind behind such classics as Scream, I Know What Did Last Summer, and Vampire Diaries wrote Dawson Leery as a reflection of himself. And dudes a big ‘mo. So basically, Dawson’s entire story arc where he whines about his love for Joey and his “values” for his virginity were basically just ways to mask his flagrant and self-hating homosexuality. Or something. Plus, in the series finale, which was written by Williamson after he’d left the show at the end of the second season, Dawson literally had zero love life and no indication that he was happily coupled, which I believe was Williamson’s way of saying “Dawson’s gay, but I can’t really drop that bomb in the very last episode, so we’re just going to pretend like Dawson is a-sexual, k?” 9. Friendships are hard work. It’s not rainbows and sunshine. It’s how you handle those situations that make you either a better person or a worse version of yourself. Sometimes, those closest to you are the ones who end up betraying you…not on purpose, but because they’re the closet ones to you, so even the slightest wrong move seems like an epic knife to the back. Dawson was like, the worst. Seriously, though, he was just awful. He treated Pacey like he was scum, meanwhile he forgot how he basically told Pacey that he didn’t want Joey and asked him to look out for her while he basically just did his own thing. THEN he got all heartbroken when Pacey fell in love with Joey and she loved him back, treating both of them like lepers and exacting the worst kind of mental manipulation on Joey… …all because he didn’t want to lose her. If you ask me, he didn’t even want her. He just didn’t want Pacey to have her. Of course the Dawson-Pacey dynamic was ruined for a least a full season and a half, but it was pretty much broken beyond repair until the series finale when Kevin Williamson came back and decided to make Dawson the sympathetic human he was when the show started. Moral of the story: DON’T ACT LIKE DAWSON LEERY. EVER. 10. True Love exists and that it’s worth leaping toward. Against all odds, Pacey Witter, perennial underdog, leapt toward Joey and she caught him. They risked it all for love and found each other. If nothing else, Dawson’s Creek was an epic love story, and it gave me the Disney-fied hope that love exists in many different forms. It’s a quiet reminder of the flaws in human nature and that those flaws can, in fact, be beautiful. Really, even the act of being in love is worth living for… 11. Re-writing history is the greatest gift bestowed upon a writer. In the series finale, Dawson is having trouble writing the first season finale to The Creek, the show-within-a-show that Dawson created based on his teen years. He doesn’t know whether the Joey character should choose the Pacey character or the Dawson character.

Do you not watch The Creek? We’re together every Wednesday at 8:00. Dawson, you wrote a show about us… do you know how lucky you are? You’re a writer. You get to live life twice. Who else can do that?

This is the crux of who I am as a writer. This quote alone is why I write fiction…to live life again. To rewrite, to experience everything all over again. I owe a lot to this damn show.

What Are Your Feelings About the Creek? Sound Off Below!


  1. Yes, yes, yes!!! My feelings exactly on every point! It’s definitely time to get out my DC series again! Great article! 😀

    1. YES! Get it out and MARATHON! My favorite seasons are 3 and 5. I loved season 4 too, but they ruined Pacey’s character by the end (thankfully redeemed in season 5). Ahhh, I could go on and on, which probably makes me a loser hahah! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Oh man, I was in love with Jack McPhee growing up. He was my ultimate imaginary boyfriend. your right, he did a lot for exposure of gay teens on tv at the time. He was relatable and flawed and went against every gay stereotype like being feminine. Kerr Smith should really come back to TV.

  3. Thank you for this awesome article! Couldn’t agree with you more about each of these ways Dawson’s contributed to my development- also season 3 is my fave as well !

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