January 28, 2013

Top 5 Racist Moments On 'Dawson's Creek'

The relentless referring to Bodie as “My sister’s black boyfriend.”

At first I felt bad for Joey Potter and her sister, Bessie. Capeside’s attitude toward Bessie’s relationship with Black Man Bodie was obviously emotionally taxing for the entire Potter clan. It just didn’t seem fair that Joey’s “sister’s black boyfriend” was treated like yet another stain on the Potters’ already filthy reputation. Why couldn’t Capeside be more progressive? But then I was like, “Hold up. Who exactly is the one referring to Bodie as the “black boyfriend” 24-7? It’s you, Joey. Why can’t you call Bodie your sister’s [no racial descriptor] boyfriend or — better yet — call him by his name?” Joey might’ve thought she was above all the simpletons of Capeside and their backwards ways, but that trick rolled her eyes and said “…and my sister’s black boyfriend…” in almost every episode of Season 1, count it.

Grams vs. Bessie re: Interracial Baby

Dawson's Creek
Dawson’s Creek

During a storm, the Leerys open their home to basically the entire cape, including a very pregnant Bessie and her baby daddy, Bodie. Grams, who’s married to God, spends the entire evening giving the stank eye to the young couple until Bessie calls her out on her nonsense. Bessie’s all, “Tell me, what do you have more of a problem with — the fact that we’re not married, or the fact that he’s black?” BURN. Grams, who is supposed to love all of God’s unwed creatures, couldn’t bounce back without being a total hypocrite, and Bessie informed Grams that no matter what color that baby turned out to be, he was going to be loved. Take that to the bank, Gramsy.

The spray-paint incident.

Joey gets the opportunity to paint a unity-themed mural at school, and chooses to incorporate the Chinese character for ‘possibility’ into her painting. The mural is kept from the public until an unveiling ceremony, where it’s discovered that someone has totally vandalized Joey’s work. “Fuck possibility and Chinese people,” this vandalism seems to say. When the culprit — a rich douche by the name of Matt — is found out, you’re kind of in shock because he is exactly the kind of bro who would go on to graduate high school and get a Chinese character tattooed on his back in celebration.

Matt transforms from immature xenophobe to full-on racist.

Later that same day (or episode), the beloved Principal Green calls Pacey and Matt into his office because, in an effort to defend Joey’s honor, Pacey gave Matt a smackdown in the school parking lot. The boys wouldn’t explain the origins of the fight until Dawson showed up, ready to shove Matt out of his cozy racist closet. When Principal Green questioned Matt’s aversion to possibility, Matt told him he found the mural “offensive,” and then delivered the jaw-dropping line, ““I’m rich. I’m white. That’s all the possibility I need.” Homie, WHAT? At long last, Matt was expelled — but this incident led to the hands-down most racist moment in Dawson’s Creek history…

The Principal Green witch hunt.

The truthers are to President Obama as the rich, angry Capesiders are to Principal Green. Matt’s dad and a bunch of other uppity honkies made such a stink about Matt’s expulsion that they called for Principal Green’s head — and by head, I mean job. And the school board was like, “Hm. OK, no sweat.” They told Principal Green to either let Matt back into school, or to pack his bags. Principal Green was like, “Matt sucks, literally no one wants to go to school with him, and I’d rather lose my job than subject more students to that insipid wastoid.” Then the students had a revolution led by Joey (they grow up so fast!), the purpose of which was to prove that Principal Green was the best principal Capeside had ever seen. Problem was, it didn’t matter that Principal Green was an awesome principal because he was too damn black (or ‘militant,’ as the Capeside parents called him) to be in charge of all those rich, possibility-having white kids. The students who fought for Green won a few battles, but ultimately lost the war. This is the most racist Creek moment because no one ever says outright that Principal Green is being targeted because he’s black (I do believe someone mentioned he’d be better off in an ‘urban’ setting, though). This episode, and the way its characters dance around the obvious, shows us how quiet and sneaky racism can be. In a redeeming moment, the students line up against their lockers to applaud Principal Green as he takes his last walk down the halls of Capeside, leaving us with the faint promise that not all hope is lost for the ethnically homogenous students of Capeside High. TC mark

Stephanie Georgopulos

Steph is a former editor at Thought Catalog and a current writer at Studio@Gawker. Her work has appeared on Glamour, …