Up Shit (Sorry, Dawson’s) Creek

My best friend thinks Katie Holmes/Joey Potter from Dawson’s Creek is the hottest woman to ever exist. But that may be because he’s a guy. Is there a woman out there who really thinks Joey is a realistic portrayal of womanhood? She always seemed like the Ultimate Mary Sue for the X-Generation to me.

Her poor background seems to be nothing more than a plot device to have her play the hard-done-by-victim card whenever it’s convenient. She looks down at another girl, Jen, who competes for the affections of her on-again, off-again boyfriend Dawson in an ongoing love triangle only marginally less vomit-worthy then the triangle with Joey, Dawson and their friend Pacey. Over five years, every time Jen and Dawson get together, Joey plays the abandoned-woman card, like She and Dawson Are Meant to Be and Any woman Who Gets Between Them is a Homewrecker.

Incidentally, what is Jen doing when Joey and Dawson get together? Finding other boyfriends, getting on with life. Like any self-respecting woman should be doing.

One episode which really shitted me was when she slept over at her boyfriend’s house, missed an exam, demanded the professor let her resit and blamed her boyfriend for a reason that’s not entirely clear. Dude, life doesn’t work like that. I can just imagine telling my unit-co-ordinator, oh, sorry, I went out partying and slept in and couldn’t make the exam, I expect you to let me sit the exam in my own time. I’d get laughed out of the room and fair enough too. And as for the boyfriend – if I was him, I’d be thinking good riddance to bad, self-absorbed rubbish.

And she craps on about her virginity like it’s this great prize that men should compete over, and whoever is the worthiest wins it. For Christ’s sakes”¦ sex, like most other pursuits, is one learned through experience. If you baked your first cake and you burnt it/undercooked it/left out the flour, you wouldn’t take it too hard, would you? You’d know that it was your first attempt and most first attempts end in, at best, mediocrity. So why do Mary Sues hold sex up to be this Holy Grail of enlightenment?

She spends ten years pitting the two Loves of Her Life, Dawson and Pacey against each other, competing for her. And then she goes on about how she “˜never meant for this to happen’. Rubbish. If she had never meant for it to happen, she would have chosen one or the other, or neither, but she wouldn’t have kept stringing both along.

If I were in the reverse position – a man manipulating me and another woman into competing for his affections – I would have told him to go to hell, and probably so would the other woman. But when a Mary Sue does it, that’s forgivable. Is that the whole idea behind Mary Sue? That she is so beautiful/intelligent/amazing/unforgettable that She Could Do No Wrong? Do (mostly male) writers create these characters hoping such a woman will fall for them?

Holmes always seemed quite bland to me, I never understood why she was worth squabbling over. Give me Mae West or Marlena Dietrich any day. But maybe that was the appeal of the Mary Sue; she’s the (perfect) girl next door, she’s the girl who, with a bit of idealism, any geek can have.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch She Done Him Wrong.


  1. Jennifer Kesler says

    I’ve never watched the show, but I have to say your description sounds very familiar. For example, if Mary Sue is destined to be with Lead Guy, it’s okay if Mary Sue cheats on her boyfriend with Lead Guy, or dumps Lead Guy after he’s bought her a house, etc. Because it’s really all about Lead Guy. Mary Sue isn’t a character: she’s a plot device.

    And I’ve also speculated she’s some writers’ wet dream.

    When the Stargate episode “Threads” aired (in it, Sam dumps her fiance after he’s relocated to her town and bought a house for them and arranged the wedding pretty much without her help, so she can hanker after the leading man undistracted), we had a fascinating discussion on a forum. A couple of women reported that men in their lives felt sorry for Sam, while most of the women thought she handled the whole thing deplorably.

    Sometimes I wonder if we see the opposite sex clearly at all, or if we’re always looking through glasses of one tint or another.

  2. scarlett says

    I hated Threads, I was really embarressed to be a woman after having seen it. I don’t know how you can feel sorry for her. She doesn’t even have the excuse of ‘maybe she got in too fast’ because she’d already been engaged to a complete nutcase. It seemed to me that it was OK for Sam to do pretty much whatever she wanted (including playing love interests against each other) and it was OK because she projected herself as the victim.
    That’s what I hated about Joey – she was allowed to do whatever she wanted, play boyfriends against each other, cry the wronged woman if someone else got involved with one of her love interests etc, and it was OK, because she was JOEY, she was the VICTIM. To me, she was just incredible self-important and boring.
    But maybe that’s what men want, a victim, or at least something packaged like a victim. But the truth is, all the Mary-Sues I’ve seen – Joey, Sam, Susan from Desperate Housewives – aren’t so much victims as self-important manipulative bitches with delusions of being victims.

  3. scarlett says

    Not only that… but if Lead Guy ends up with Another Woman, then The Other Woman is a Homewrecking Tramp. Never mind that Dawson and Jen only ever hooked up while he was between relationships with Joey (as opposed to cheating on Joey), no, Jen was a Homewrecking Tramp. What I found really interesting, though, was that when the situation was reversed – Joey and Dawson were together – Jen was doing other things with her life, like studying, pursuing an interest or dating someone else. I found that much more admirable then Joey sulking whenever Jen and Dawson got together.

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