Pop Culture Confessional is a weekly column where our writers can divulge and indulge in their most deeply embarrassing cultural passion — and then tell you why it actually rocks. Everyone has a few dirty little secrets. Only the truth shall set us free.
The theme song is iconic. From the first “do do do do do,” you’re already anticipating the exultant “I don’t wanna wait.” The opening credits begin with a glorious shot of the fictional small town, Capeside, Mass. The show became a defining series for the well-established teen sitcom hotbed, the WB (now CW). Complete with atrocious late ‘90s and early 2000s fashion and clichéd high school stereotypes, Dawson’s Creek was the northeastern small cape town life I never had.
There’s the jocular slacker, the former druggy city girl, the sought-after nerd and the melodramatic idealist with big dreams, along with a host of other character archetypes. They are at once relatable and neurotic, and so beyond my own life experiences. My friends in high school were mostly amalgamations of stereotypes, not quite conforming to one extreme or another. We didn’t steal each others’ significant others or have wayward boyfriends from other states that try to force us to take drugs again. We were just average high school students, which is perhaps why I latched on.
I’ve never been one to follow TV shows, for the simple reason that I just don’t have time. But when summer rolls around and Florida becomes a steamy place full of humidity and boredom, I find myself staring at the TV screen for hours on end. Sophomore year of high school, this coincided perfectly with the TBS marathon. They aired two episodes per day, every day starting with the pilot and ending with the last terrifically dramatic and depressing final episode. And I was there, watching every one of them.
Every day I woke up and settled in to hear the latest on the absurd love triangle among Joey, Pacey and Dawson. I watched their high school experience, not at all comparable to mine. There were attempts to steal tests and mental breakdowns, while my high school got its excitement from periodic fights. They stressed and applied for colleges before I even wanted to start thinking about that process. I never connected with their group style, always together from cradle to college and despite living near a beach never really understood the Capeside lifestyle.
But I did identify with certain aspects of the characters themselves. Jen never quite fit into the group. She was a bit of an outsider, coming from New York. She had a past she tried to hide and couldn’t seem to let it go. This affected her, and though she hated it, it really formed her. Joey can simply be summed up as a woman that doesn’t have a clue in the world about what she really wants. I wished I could be as brash and daring as Pacey, or the cast of his bad-idea girlfriends. And Dawson is endearingly clueless. He wants to reach for what he thinks is ideal, despite the fact that the audience knows deep down it shouldn’t work out that way.
Dawson’s Creek was the group of bizarre friends I never had, from a place so far removed from my reality. It’s a borderline soap opera. It features ridiculously privileged kids who face petty disasters but in the end have felt plenty of loss and love and pain. And since working at the family seaside restaurant, or cleaning sailboats at the dock wasn’t an option, it’s how I spent an entire summer, for two hours each day.