Dawson’s Creek. The beloved teen soap of the 90s. The One Tree Hill before we knew we needed One Tree Hill. (Fun fact they’re filmed in the same town) The simple teenage coming of age premise that exists for young people to lose themselves in relatable television.
It’s true, most of the situations we find on teen soaps are hyperbolically dramatized representation of real life problems. Every single one has their moment of gun play, suicide, drug problem, divorce. And while the former is less likely than the latter in the average teenager’s life. What I didn’t realize is that this kind of drama exists. Fiction can not be born without influence of some sort. What they didn’t tell me was that my life could be a teen soap. They didn’t tell me love triangles were real. The scenario of the love triangle is both hyperbolic and real at the same time, particularly in the Dawson, Joey, Pacey saga that is the Creek. This nonsense happens. It’s not just television. And guess what? Dawson’s Creek gets it wrong.
Characters ring around the rosy, dating each other, breaking up, dating someone new, and we never see, we never feel the crushing guilt that actually comes gift wrapped in a love triangle.
Two best friends (Three with the girl) and back and forth she goes (either in action or in emotion) of which to love. There’s always the reliable, kind, often inexperienced, innocent love (a la Dawson), and then the romantic, whirlwind, unstable, and even difficult love (Pacey Witter, folks). And the Joey’s of the world have to decipher. To be at constant war of head and heart. Stability versus Adventure. La di da.. you don’t even need to watch 5 seasons right? If you’re caught in this same triangle and looking for answers, I wouldn’t advise it. Because what teen soaps forget acknowledge about love triangles is the concept of time and guilt and grief. We aren’t built to love and leave and feel no qualms for the left behind, even if we’re the ones to do the leaving. It actually isn’t simple to find someone new and everyone is okay. There’s guilt. And there’s pain. And the friendship that started it all takes the most crushing of the blows. There’s mistake, and confusion, and regret, and none of it is sunshine. Handsome boys don’t actually suddenly move to town and make you forget all about what’s his name. The love does not get left behind.
So it irks me when people use these shows, as guilty of a pleasure as they may be, as poems of great loves. Stories to aspire to. Love is messy and most of the time makes zero sense. The only thing that is indisputable, in real life or on television, is that only one gets the girl in the end. The difficult, subtle, unacknowledged part, is the agony of figuring out which one it’s actually supposed to be.