Saturday, August 6, 2011

Season 1, Episode 3: Kiss

Let's start with the most cracktastic:
Teacher of the Year Ms. Tamara Jacobs informs Pacey he's failing most of his classes. He says he's doing it on purpose, hoping for some “private tuition”. Instead of reacting like...a sane adult and (fill in the reaction of your choice here) Ms Jacobs bribes Pacey to study by offering him “positive reinforcement”. FUCK I HATE THIS STORYLINE. The woman is a crazy, unhinged bitch, and ends up humiliating Pacey and it's HEARTBREAKING.

Dawson's movie that he is desperate to enter in the Boston Film Festival (or something) gets worse and worse. As he reveals in his study period a.k.a the film class he's not even supposed to SPEAK in (and by the way, EPIC FAIL on the “studying” there, Dawson) he's a precocious hotshot at film theory (unlike the rest of the film class, proving my earlier point that Mr Gold sucks at teaching), but everything related to his Monster From the Deep film basically reeks, except the monster costume.

Doesn't matter though – he's not going to get time to finish Creature from the Reeking Creek or whatever it's called, because FLAGRANTLY DISOBEYING THE ONE RULE THAT MR GOLD LAID DOWN (shut your goddamn trap in film class) has earned him...detention?

No. Mr Gold and Dawson share a creepy eye contact moment as Dawson explains “how sports movie narratives work” to the rest of the class (you'd think the teacher would have done that a film class) and Dawson earns the chance to help finish the “football team glorification” film the class is making. But yay, his sort of girlfriend that he hasn't even kissed yet Jen will be there too!


Well – it's not like they WANT us to be on Team Jen, right? Here's what I'm working with:

  • Season 1 can stand alone as a perfect complete capsule series: the story of Joey and Dawson, so TEAM JOEY
  • Jen turns up to the football film shoot dressed as a cheerleader because Cliff (you remember, dreamboat jock Scott Foley) asked her to. Does she have no TACT? Does she not realise that Dawson is UNSTABLE? Does she not understand that DAWSON WANTS TO BE HER BOY ADVENTURE and he will CUT CLIFF, he will CUT HIM WITH A SCIMITAR. Because a knife isn't melodramatic enough for Dawson.
  • My sister pointed out: back in the pilot, Jen's bad girl schtick basically consisted of alluding to moving mysteriously fast in New York and challenging her devoutly religious grandmother who very recently nearly lost her husband to say “penis”. That's not actually edgy, when you compare it to basically every single thing Joey has said or done (including marry Tom Cruise).

We're totally TEAM JOEY right now.

Joey is in fact busy flirting up a storm, spending a day sailing and building sand replicas of the grassy knoll where JFK was shot with a preppy violinist she made eyes at while hanging out with Dawson and Pacey at the Icehouse (REMEMBER THE ICEHOUSE?!). His name is Anderson and Joey reveals herself to be QUITE the accomplished liar when she meets him again – giving a fake name (Deborah Carson) and inventing a whole fantasy life for herself: rich parents, boarding school. It's really pretty fucked up, because it doesn't seem to be about making the guy like her – he already liked her; it's about escaping her reality. Plus, Anderson seems like a pretty nice, upfront guy, and one of the first things he says is that dishonesty is a dealbreaker.

Also, he sees Joey's true nature:

Whatever they have is going to be a good time, not a long time. With this in mind, the fact that literally EVERYTHING she tells Anderson is outrageously untrue and her whole practical carpe diem attitude, Joey does get the first kiss of the episode – making it THE kiss of the title? I think this would have been a downer back in the day, like NO IT SHOULD BE WITH DAWSON – but now I applaud her practicality...and her creativity. Hah, how the years change us.

All her lies, of course come back to bite her when Anderson meets her in the company of Jen and Dawson. Plots thicken all over the place: rival Jen covers Joey's lie because she's all “us girls need to stick together” not realising that Joey would shiv her with a sharpened toothbrush in a SECOND; Dawson is irritatingly oblivious – like – he's THICK and makes you wonder why ANY girl would end up crushing on him: “Her name's not Deborah?”, Joey is just...really awkward at covering her own awkward, outrageous lies. Like, come on. If you're gonna do it, go full throttle. Tell Anderson that oblivious Dorkson is your butler and then order him to do shit for you. Especially if Jen's got your back, girl! Never mind Joey. You'll learn. In fact, I've got a new unifying theory of Dawson's Creek:

This series isn't even about Dawson at all. IT'S ABOUT JOEY.

Sure, the title of the entire series is misleading, given it names Dawson. But it also names a creek. The creek, I think you will agree, has little or no significance to the overall story arc. (Is it just me that remembers the theory that the significance of the show's title was that ultimately, Dawson would die and his ashes would be scattered in the creek – hence, Dawson's Creek? Well, spoiler alert, THAT NEVER HAPPENS. But that would have been an awesome way to end things).

Fact: Only ONE core cast member appears in all 128 episodes of Dawson's Creek. That person is NOT James van der Beek, but instead Katie Holmes (I don't know why I still know this, but it's true. I wasn't exaggerating when I said DC was MY SHOW).

The prompt for me thinking about this is the pre-credits banter between Dawson and Joey in this episode. It's Movie Night chez Dorkson, and tonight the film is From Here to Eternity, starring Montgomery Clift and Deborah Kerr. The whole conversation between Dorkson and Joey foreshadows the rest of the episode for each of them, and reveals the fundamental heart of each character.

Seriously, I'm getting all geeky on it, but this episode is where I start getting sucked in. And this pre-credits banter, and in fact, every time DC references another text (and it happens AN AWFUL LOT – it's just that DC fans were never as geeky as LOST fans to sit and analyse every intertextual reference (plus as already discussed, back in the late 90s, the internet wasn't as much of a thing as it is now) is IMPORTANT, so pay attention when they talk film or tv.

Dawson really is a fantasist, or, if we are being kind, an eternal romantic. He believes that life can be EXACTLY like it is in the movies (e.g. perfect, glossy, blemish-free romance) and actually tells Joey that he is prepared to go to any lengths to stage/production-manage his life to ensure the important moments – e.g. his first kiss with Jen – are ABSOLUTELY PERFECT. To be fair to Dawson: he is viewing the world through love and hormone tinted lenses; everything is shiny happy rainbows as long as things are going well with Jen.

If you listen to that and roll your eyes and snort and/or vomit in your mouth a little, then you are with me over on Team Joey. Joey points out that FILM IS NOT REAL LIFE, that Deborah Kerr would have got sand in her crotch rolling round on the beach and that Montgomery Clift was gay.

James van der Beek is an excellent actor because he looks genuinely wounded as Joey punctures his romantic illusions. Oh god, I hope he is an excellent actor.

Joey can't believe that Dawson hasn't kissed Jen yet (but she's secretly happy, am I right?) and is just like “Just DO it, Dorkson. Moisten your bottom lip and make her mouth dance like Man Meat taught you!”

Okay fine, she doesn't reveal that she was spying on THE WORLD'S MOST AWKWARD MOMENT, but she is all like “you can't stage manage a kiss, control freak, just let it happen and LIVE IN THE REAL WORLD not in your film fantasies”. Joey clearly is erring towards waaaay too cynical for a mere 15 years of age but let's examine the facts:

  1. Her mother died tragically and as revealed last episode, endured an adulterous criminal husband AS SHE WAS DYING OF CANCER.
  2. Her dad is in prison for reasons as yet unrevealed on the show but we all know it's drugs, right?
  3. It's only suggested in a weird subtle way, but Joey's poor compared to some of the other kids at Capeside. She works a lot of hours in the restaurant run by her sister Bessie and her sister's (gasp) black boyfriend Bodie, seemingly because she HAS to, not for pocket money.
  4. SHE'S SUFFERING FROM UNREQUITED LOVE FOR DORKSON. How humiliating – to love your best friend, who is totally oblivious and insensitive and keeps flaunting just how much you are in the friend zone IN YOUR FACE.

Also, I just have to say: I once went out with a guy who thought EXACTLY like Dawson with the whole “romance should be just like the movies” thing, and let me tell you this. The flipside is that when anything goes wrong – even the slightest disagreement – it's like the whole perfect world has crumbled for the eternal romantic, who goes from “everything is rainbows and sparkles” to “my heart is a gaping wound filled with oppressive gloom” very quickly. Like Dawson last episode.

Anyway – my theory. It's all about Joey. I don't know why she's fascinating me this time round. I'm going to watch her and see if she changes (and I think she does) – as in, does her character grow from being this cynical closed off girl? (I think she does). Does Dawson ever grow out of his need to mould reality to fit his fantasy? NO. He still ends up a film-maker, doesn't he? (Don't tell me).

But you know (back to the episode I'm supposed to be talking about) Dawson just can't resist ignoring all the quite practical advice Joey gave him. He and Jen head up to ''the ruins'' to shoot 5 seconds of footage for his monster film; 5 seconds that require this awesome song playing in the background:

and lots of candles that make no sense being in ANY film (told you his movie sucked) and like, a curtain hung up beside a freaking fountain. This is how Dawson Leery creates romance.


In an echo of what happened last episode, Jen gets really mad, Dawson gets really earnest and GUTTINGLY GETS THE GIRL  despite having been the ultimate creepy creeper. The two have to run and hide mid argument when they hear someone approaching the ruins. Obviously cobwebs and darkness are aphrodisiacs because that's how Dawson finally gets his unplanned kiss:

Crucially as Jen and Dawson hide, they leave the still-running video camera behind....and what it captures to teenage me was thrillingly shocking; to adult me: HORRIFYING:

Viewing this through adult eyes: Pacey's fucked-upness makes a bunch more sense now. Shit is getting real.


  1. “Just DO it, Dorkson. Moisten your bottom lip and make her mouth dance like Man Meat taught you!”

    Comedy gold. I almost choked on my cookie.

    I think this was the first episode I ever watched...I remember the very end with the camera. Now I'm going to have to go back and watch along with you. Damn you woman!

  2. HAHA I'm regretting this SO HARD already. Only 125 episodes to go, and I'm apparently incapable of NOT writing a novel for each one!

    The Pacey sleeping with his teacher thing is probably one of THE most enduring images from early Creek. Which, because WHAT KIND OF AN INTRO to his character is that? I like the show so much better when Pacey is in each episode for more than 5 token comedy sidekick minutes. HE'S SUPPOSEDLY DAWSON'S BEST FRIEND DAMMIT!

  3. I love it best when you reflect on how your allegiances have changed now you're watching it 13 years later. Team Joey? What a turnaround!

  4. I know?! but that will change. PROBABLY.