Pacey vs Dawson: A Lesson in Love

On October 19, 2012 by Kim Wetter

Some of you might know that Dawson’s Creek is very dear to my heart. I grew up watching it and have an emotional connection to the characters. They are my adolescence. I even have the theory that the answer to every one of life’s questions can be found within a Dawson’s Creek episode.

For real though.

I have even been told that I share my feelings as if I’m a character from Dawson’s Creek. My words carry the weight of the world and I somehow make simple things seem super dramatic and serious.

I must be very difficult to deal with.

But we’re not here to talk about me (weird, I know). Today’s question is age old. To “get to know” people in my freshmen dorm, I actually posted this poll, along with a huge poster of James Van der Beek and Joshua Jackson, on my door. It was a tally of who was the better pick: Dawson or Pacey?

My roommate (and beloved wife) was a fan of Dawson Leery. My allegiance has always been to Pacey Witter. Let’s delve into why…

First and foremost, I think it’s important to mention that Dawson Leery is one of the most unlikable title characters ever. He’s self obsessed and incredibly whiny and immature. He is supposed to be, in a lot of ways, because the show was about him growing up. I mean, aren’t all teenage boys supposed to be immature and annoying?

This would be reason enough to ignore Dawson but let’s mush onward.

Joey Potter was the object of affection for both of these gentlemen and she was always, weirdly, torn between the two. Dawson was her first love. He was her best friend. Their childhoods are intricately intertwined. But, that is the exact reason Dawson is bad for Joey.

Although I think Dawson always acts immature, he acts particularly childish when it comes to Joey Potter. When Joey starts to grow up and find interests of her own, Dawson gets jealous. These new interests don’t include him and who is he without Joey Potter? So, he fights with her and fails to appreciate her growing independence. He denies her interests and therefore that which makes her special.

What does Pacey do? He embraces her interest in art. He might not understand it fully but he understands that it makes her happy. When she seems lost, he pushes her. Pacey challenges Joey to never stop developing, learning, growing up. He embraces her for all that she is and all that she could be.

At the end of season three, Dawson hosts a fake prom to try to win Joey back. He puts on a big show and practically forces Joey to go with him because to Dawson, she does not get to make her own choices. She is not an individual. She’s a pawn in his pissing contest with Pacey and he holds to her as he holds to his own childhood – a past where things weren’t so complicated, his heart had never been broken and his parents had never let him down. He denies change because change is not easy.

Joey is merely a symbol. He doesn’t need to even talk to her. Dawson barely notices her.

But Pacey notices her. He notices that she is wearing her Mom’s bracelet and that she is unhappy. Because for Pacey, it’s about Joey. It’s not about what he wants or what he’s feeling, it’s about her.

And that is what love should be. The person you love should challenge you to be your best self and be selfless, putting your needs above their own. That is what distinguishes childish love from romantic love.

And it’s only fair to point out why Pacey and Joey broke up in season 4 – Pacey had lost all self esteem. He was depressed and had lost his happiness. And that made him spiteful and jealous and it had to end because another person cannot be responsible for your own happiness. Pacey helped Joey find herself but didn’t know who he was.

And that is the other side of the story. As selfless as love must be, you must first love yourself.

That’s how Dawson’s Creek ends. Pacey is finally in a great place where he found his passion and he met up with Joey again in adulthood. They were both at a point in life where that sort of love can last.

And, of course, there’s the moment when Dawson first lets Joey go off on her own and he made this face:

Case closed.

2 Responses to “Pacey vs Dawson: A Lesson in Love”

  • Kavindi

    Wow this is by far one of the greatest dawson vs. pacey articles 🙂 you’ve figured it out perfectly AND put it into words so others could understand it as well !

  • Taylor

    Wow I love this! You did a great job putting the thoughts of a lot of us into words. I recently watched the finale episode with commentary from Kevin Williamson and Paul Stupin and The line they said they cut I found particularly fitting. When Joey tells PAC that her love for Dawson is pure and innocent she originally said her love for him was at the way a woman loves a man. like you said it was romantic love not childish love.

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