Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dawson's Creek: To Green, with Love (3.16)

There's always been something overwhelmingly 'white' about Dawson's Creek. It's set in a quiet, traditional small town, religious values are of high importance, everything's safe and moral and conservative. Everybody seems to know each other, and the class divide, while present, isn't a major distinction that tears individuals apart. And everyone's pretty perfect, outwardly. To Green, with Love expertly acknowledges the white-bread charm of Capeside, while finally exposing the lingering social prejudices that sit quietly for the most part, but become ever-present whenever something actually rattles the town to its core. It's that horrible realization that there's still a lot of hate out there, or at least a belief that a certain type of person is "less than".

This is an important discussion to be had, but there are obviously overriding problems that are difficult to swallow, particularly the fact that the episode ends with the permanent removal of the two black characters on the show that actually do anything of importance. You can also argue that the show is acting weak in merely raising an important issue before quickly retreating, but I admittedly give the writers credit for at least addressing something uncomfortable. It's also commendable that the prejudice as depicted isn't showy or movie-of-the-week-ish. It's just that subtle exaggeration of issues purely because somebody involved is of color, Principal Green painted as Public Enemy #1 after permanently excluding a wealthy, white asshole for demolishing school grounds.

Race itself is barely mentioned, outside of a thinly-veiled allusion to Green being better suited to "urban campuses", but the show does a good job of reflecting that ugly undercurrent. It's a situation where Green could never win. Hang around and you're still portrayed as a villain going against tradition. Stand your ground and defend your position and you're painted as an angry black man, the very stereotype people are aching for you to become.

The outcome, in which Green steadfastly defends his actions but resigns anyway, is muddled in terms of what kind of message it's trying to push, but the journey there was at least believably depicted. It's unfortunate though that both he and Nikki are now gone, Nikki's relationship with Dawson turning out to be something of a non-event. I hate to go there, but you have to wonder why the show wasn't interested in pursuing that, since her initial run really seemed so much to indicate something looming in their future... Meh.

It's also great seeing Joey evolve in confidence and strive to make her voice heard, while Pacey's last-minute gesture (purchasing a wall for her to paint) is overwhelmingly romantic. Gale's subplot, as thin as it is, at least brings her some personal closure to the newscaster issue, and allows her to look to the future with a firmer hold on who she wants to be.

To Green, with Love isn't at all perfect, the race issues themselves probably inspiring a grander statement than the one depicted on-screen if the writers were really willing to push the story, but the very fact that the series is willing to show the ugliness beneath the idealist, picture-perfect vision of Capeside that so often looks so utopian reflects a show that is willing to grow and explore deeper stories than merely who's dating who. And that can't not be a good thing. B

Guest stars
Robin Dunne (A.J. Moller); Bianca Lawson (Nikki Green); Obi Ndefo (Bodie Wells); Jessica Collins (Sherry Eisler); Lawrence Pressman (Dr. Byron Fielding); Michael Hagerty (Matt Caulfield); Obba Babatunde (Principal Howard Green)
Writers Gina Fattore, Greg Berlanti Director Ken Fink


  1. I haven't ever seen DC, so sorry I never comment on these, but I just saw Bianca Lawson in your screen grab and just had to talk about how strange it is that she hasn't aged AT ALL since the Buffy days. Seriously, in Pretty Little Liars she's still playing a teenager, and she fits right in.

  2. Heh, I know, right! I remember her on Saved by the Bell even before she did Buffy. The fact that she's still playing a high schooler is hilarious. Has anybody done that besides her?