Dawson's double standards are once again explored here, and again you have to question whether its intentional or not. Jen rallies against pageants and their inherent promotion of stereotypical ideals of beauty, something Dawson initially disagrees with. However, it's only after Joey has been plucked and pampered and dolled up in an expensive black dress that Dawson, for seemingly the first time, actually notices how beautiful she is. It's one of the most annoying types of male ignorance, and despite Dawson's belief that it's incredibly romantic, Joey eventually realizes that it's yet another road-block in their schizophrenic relationship.
Pageants are naturally a rich source for comedic satire, and the script unsurprisingly cycles through the various genre clichés -- there are the dim-bulb Q&A sessions, the elaborately lame talent portions of the show, as well as the 'gasping-crowd' moment where our heroine is bathed in the spotlight and we all get to see how beautiful they are. Katie Holmes is obviously stunning here, and manages to convey a young woman who is only beginning to understand their own beauty, and how it can capture a whole room's attention. Her rendition of On My Own is squeaky, sure, but it's an important moment for the character, saying so much about her own lack of self-confidence, as well as where she sees herself in the grand scheme of things.
Pacey is also the star of Beauty Contest, entering the pageant not in some groundbreaking stance against sexism, but instead purely for the cash. In the process we learn a lot about Pacey's background and his eagerness to become his own person. He's been defined by his family and his peers for so long that it's neat to see him come into his own, memorably in that stirring (if horribly accented) Braveheart monologue.
Beauty Contest is entertaining as an episode, throwing our protagonists into a new environment that allows for deeper character growth. Jen's part in the eternal love triangle remains problematic (especially as she winds up pining for Dawson at the end of the hour), but it lays intriguing new ground for next week's finale. B+
Guest stars Lori Rom (Hannah von Wenning)
Writer Dana Baratta Director Arvin Brawn