Dawson's Creek Ruined my Adolescence: Part Two
In central casting, Will Davis Jr. would play a six foot tall comely North Carolinian with jeans as tight as sausage casing, who would tell anyone who listened in his thick Southern accent that he was a descendent of John Wilkes Booth. He was also as American as it gets. “What do you mean you’ve never been muddin’?” he prodded me, between shots of bourbon at our favorite bar, the Confederate-themed Wall Street watering hole, The Patriot. “I don’t even know what you are talking about.” “They don’t have muddin’ in Canada?” His grandfather had rifles mounted on the wall. His parents were Methodists. He had been turkey hunting. He ate chicken on his waffles.
Now living a block away from my apartment, Will seemed to embody Americana down to his ironized stars and stripes boxer briefs. He told me about Spring Break – where he threw empty beer cans off his Daytona Beach balcony and cheated on his high school girlfriend. He pointed out a Jeep parked on Park; similar to the one he received for his sixteenth birthday. He detailed his junior semester abroad where he romanced “a real posh girl” in London, steeping me in the smoke of his American spirits. But best of all, Will had lived near Wilmington, North Carolina where they had filmed all six seasons of Dawson’s Creek. In high school, he had auditioned as an extra and was rejected. I’m sure it was because he was already a character. “Do you want to maybe do it?” Will asked one night, during a particularly torrid make out session set to The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, and The Grateful Dead – bands culled into a genre he deemed “Americana Sorcery.” “Uh, okay.” I had joined the land of the living.
Dating Will was like playing a mid-season cameo on a generational melodrama entitled “On The L Train.” I, the plucky Canadian intern at a mid-level music magazine, immersed myself in a gang of similarly bemused Southerners, drinking mini bottles of Peach Snaaps in abandoned swimming pools, screaming out the dialogue during an al fresco airing of “Dazed and Confused.” Riding “Brooklyn style” on the back of Will’s fixed gear bicycle, we would scream the choruses of our favorite Smiths songs as we cycled back to Bushwick, in time for ironically-detached viewings of “Point Break” on TNT. And every Sunday the group would gather at the Greenpoint Coffee House for gossip and eggs benedict as Will’s dishy Keanu Reeves-doppelganger roommate made us Caesars, delicately scowling at the hordes of hipsters just like us.
But my contract was soon to be expired. “Stay,” Will implored me on my last night in New York, clutching at my American Apparel tube dress as we kissed outside the graffitied walls of our favorite Lower East Side dance club, “Trash” – the one I had to flash a bouncer to get into when my fake ID was revealed. “You know I can’t stay.” “I’ll marry you.” “Are you retarded? You’re not going to marry me,” I said. “I’ll marry you,” he pouted, butting out his American spirit.
William, was it really nothing? I treasured that summer for months, thinking nostalgically back on all the Pabst Blue Ribbons consumed on Williamsburg fire escapes, all the Vampire Weekend singles, all the times I was left stranded at house parties while Will’s friends disappeared for hours to “go to the bathroom”, returning jittery and elated. Why wasn’t the zeitgeist enough to make it last? The major problem with a television show is their eventual cancellation. Unless you land a spin-off. And who wants to watch Joanie Loves Chachie when Happy Days is on?
“I doubt that Jean Baudrilliard has ever seen Dawson’s Creek but I’m sure his head would explode,” adds Kyle. “Dawson thinks he’s going to repair his past with a piece of culture. It’s funny that it seems to be a struggle for him, because the show itself basically approves of that. It asserts that, you know what? Television can save you. These characters are better than you, and you should definitely aspire to be them. Maybe at this point, considering the amount of culture that is available to us, we should just give into the fact that we consciously desire to have our lives be like fiction – because you know what, it’s gotta get it right sometimes. But I guess that I’m just searching for something I feel could be an accessible model for my own life.”
I’m not nostalgic for high school, but I am nostalgic for all the television shows I adored, all the albums I owned, and every movie starring Freddie Prinze Jr. Is this an unfair paradox, or simply the way my generation experiences reality? Is the central crux of Generation Y a feeling of nostalgia for something we’ve never experienced, entrenched deep within pop culture? And how does this affect the way I listen to Weezer’s “El Scorcho” a song that singularly applies to every boy I’ve ever wanted to love?
“Basically”, Anderson writes in his review of the Creek’s soundtrack for SPIN.COM, (tracks like Six Pence None The Richer’s “Kiss Me”) “are the soundtrack to not knowing what you want, but definitely knowing you want something…While Beverly Hills 90210, the other major teen zeitgeist show from the ‘90s, was full of drug addictions, gambling debts, and sexual harassment of all forms, Dawson’s Creek was mostly about knowing that something has to happen after high school, and not knowing exactly what that was going to be.”
I asked Kyle if he ever feels haunted by all the experiences he’s never had.
"I think our generation not only feels nostalgic for the very recent past and for things that we think were supposed to happen, but also for things that are impossible. It’s a strange deterioration of timelines, wherein nostalgia is attached to things way outside of our own experience."
"Panic at the Disco’s publicist once told me that the reason why the band sounds like it does on their first album is that they learned rock music all at once. So as far as they are concerned, there’s no reason why Queen and Dr. Dre shouldn’t be associated — after all, they heard them at the same time. I think that’s an apt metaphor for how our own personal memories are constructed. Since multitudes of information and culture are available to us at all times, the strange chemical reaction that occurs when you get attached to something gets all thrown off. So now every time I think about my high school girlfriend — the one I’ll always be hung up on no matter how old I get or how strange she gets — the song that I attach to her is Scott Weiland’s “Barbarella,” even though that song came out years after we broke up."
Maybe Kyle's right. Maybe pop culture predisposes necessary pain – after every breakup with someone I wasn’t really dating I evaluate my personal effects – Pavement reissues, Wilt Stillman DVDs, bonne mots from Angela Chase. (“I’m in love. His name is Jordan Catalano. He was let back, twice. Once I almost touched his shoulder in the middle of a pop quiz. He’s always closing his eyes like it hurts to look at things.”) Like Dawson Leery, I’m tired of having my larger-than-life dreams compensate for my smaller-than-life life. While my stint on “On The L Train” seemed tortured and passionate for someone who had never experienced anything and certainly had never done it in the KGB Bar, the characters were flawed and uninspired, the love an amateurish imitation of how the best television should make you feel. The ending wasn’t tragic, it just ended. It ended when my parents picked me up at the Buffalo airport and I cried in the bathroom at Applebee’s. And it ended when I had to face reality, which ideally should be comparable to artifice.
Dawson: Joey, stay. We can watch bad reruns and throw sarcastic remarks at the television.
Joey: Well for the record I'm getting pretty tired of television. I mean, the metaphor alone is making me nauseous.
Dawson: What are you talking about?
Joey: I mean, every night it's the same. We hang out in your Spielberg-ized bedroom and watch movies and TV reruns. It's so predictable.
Dawson: This is a great show. This is a huge two-parter, the big cliffhanger.
Joey: Cliffhanger? C'mon Dawson, you of all people should know that a cliffhanger is merely a manipulative standard designed to improve ratings.
Dawson: No, a cliffhanger’s purpose is to keep people interested. Keep them guessing what's going to happen in future episodes.
Joey: But just like in our own lives, they are so predictable. I mean, the producers put the characters in some contrived situation hoping that the audience will think something is going to change, but, you know what? It never does. Back to the same way it was before your so-called cliffhanger. It's boring Dawson.
Dawson: Well, what if this time it's different? What if this time in the cliffhanger something changes? You wouldn't want to miss that, would ya?
I want to sail away to Cuba with the boy I love, and never bestow as much as a blowjob. I want to climb into the bedroom of the person I confide in most and know that they will always be awake. I want kisses on moonlit piers, and to be crowned Homecoming Queen, and dramatic confessionals where we always say exactly what we mean, incrediblyfastandurgently. I want a never-ending rotation of pastel cable neck sweaters, and parents who are sympathetic to my every need. I want Jann Arden to score my first kiss, and my soul mate to retake my virginity on our senior ski trip. I want Katie Holmes’ thighs and Michelle Williams’ breasts. I want true, undeniable love, but only at the expense of my own self-flagellation. I want to own a rowboat, so I can row up to your house and tell you not to go to Paris. (I only own a metro pass.) I want you to look at me as if you know who I am because we share the same blood.
‘Cause I don’t want to wait, for my life to be over. I want to know right now, what will it be?