Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gobble Gobble 2012: Dawson's Creek "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"

The pilgrims and the Native Americans put aside their differences for the first Thanksgiving to eat and give thanks for their wonderful bounty. A table was prepared and the pilgrims and Native Americans broke bread together, drank together, and dined harmoniously. Grade schools teach its students about the picturesque first Thanksgiving. It is a symbol of equality and tolerance. Children learn about the value of kindness and acceptance, giving and sharing, and loving their neighbor as much as their family. It is an old and false tale, though. The truth is darker. Whether the first Thanksgiving happened as told, the truth remains the Natives were murdered, forcibly assimilated into Christian society, taken from their lands, and placed on a trail of tears as the colonizers conquered their new lands.

The Dawson's Creek gang, friends and family both, gather in the Ryans' front yard for a Thanksgiving feast. During dinner, the teenagers give thanks for family and friends, and smiles are exchanged, peaceful dining follows. In the moment they are glad to break bed together and enjoy the company of those they admire, respect, love and cherish. Beneath the smiles and gratitude is an undercurrent of tension. Andie can't look Pacey in the eye even months removed from a painful break-up. The Leerys chat and laugh like old friends as they prepare to tell their son the truth about their marriage, specifically that it's no more. Pacey's at the table because his own family is unbearable. A Witter holiday dinner consists of insulting Pacey for failing in every way a teenager can fail. Jen Lindley is taken by surprise when her mother greets her in Grams' guest room. Jen needs nearly all four acts to absorb, process, and accept the truth of what led her to Capeside; in the same way one needs to absorb, process and accept what really happened when Columbus sailed the ocean blue and landed in North America.

The holiday season is a lonely time of year, stressful too. Families are reunited; so, too, are familial tensions. Helen Lindley drives to Capeside for Thanksgiving dinner because she doesn't want to be alone for the holiday. Jen smiles throughout the teaser as she and Pacey joke about their new sex-pact agreement. The girl is strolling the aisles of a tiny Capeside grocery store, picking up items for dinner, at peace after nearly a year of internal war with herself. She was in a place of suicidal torment at season two's end, only to find peace through Jack McPhee, her Grams, other friends, and widespread acceptance by her peers (she was made cheerleading captain precisely because she rebelled against the established norm of high school, killing the Queen Bee with a microphone and some honesty). Jen worked through her issues until she realized she really hadn't. Helen broke her steely resolve, and Jen's tortured look of seasons one and two returned.

Jen's tortured look turns to pensive and then to intense and then to forgiving as the story unfolds. Jen can't seem to confine herself to the small space of the house early in the episode. Her posture is tight, her expression is tight, and if it weren't for Thanksgiving she'd probably bus it to NYC because it's somewhere her mother isn't. Joey gently encourages her to try to heal the fracture in her relationship with Helen, thinking of her own mother whom she wished were around for Thanksgiving. Jen listens to Joey and turns pensive. "Why?" Why is the question of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Why would a mother exile her daughter to small town Massachusetts because of being caught in the act in her parents’ bedroom? What is the truth, and will it grant Jen peace? The answer is complicated, self-involved and more about a mother's hatred for herself than her daughter.

Children of divorce hear they're not to blame for their parents’ separation. Children observe what happens around them and feel responsible for whoever's unhappiness. The exiled Jen in season one had a tragic makeup. Michelle Williams played her so sadly, a girl who saw and felt too much in her young life. Jen wonders what's wrong with her to make her parents hate her enough to send her away and never visit. Jen and Helen don't enjoy dinner. Helen leaves the table after Jen's thanks. Jen follows her to communicate about their issues. Jen later tells Pacey the abridged version of the story: "Like mother, like daughter." Helen feared Jen becoming her. Helen gave birth to Eve (long story for the uninitiated; not worth writing about) as a teenager, gave her up for adoption, found Mr. Lindley and began a sad tale loneliness and self-hatred. Helen didn't want to poison her daughter with own unhappiness and her ruinous marriage. Jen forgives her mother; she needs it. The woman's essentially dead inside, unable to cry or emote. Jen's the Lindley to offer the possibility of peace in the end. Grams protectively hugs Jen as Helen leaves. Jen knows the pain of self-hatred and spares her mother from the brunt of it. Jen changed. Helen can, too.

Welcome to TV With The Foot's Gobble Gobble 2012 which offers nothing more than the usual review content under a silly name. I'll write about four Thanksgiving episodes until the Thanksgiving Day. "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" is less about actual giving of Thanks and more about personal acceptance in the face of uncomfortable truths. Thanksgiving is a convenient way to bring the characters together in a natural way. Dawson's Creek, like many shows, scattered its characters in the seasons, so it was rare when everyone was together. The episode ends as the five friends, Dawson, Joey, Pacey, Jen, Jack and Andie sit around a fire, reconnecting, laughing, and putting their issues in the past until next episode when the nonsense returns. Holidays are a reprieve from the normal. It's a chance to gather with loved ones, reconnect, and forget about one's day-to-day routine. The Dawson's Creek Thanksgiving dinner is surprisingly low on melodrama, and its highlight is the fireside hang-out in the end, the last peace the characters will know before Joey and Pacey start liking one another romantically.

The characters eat well. Mrs. Leery bakes two extraordinary looking pumpkin pies. Pacey brings a can of cranberry sauce, unawares of his future culinary success in Boston in less than two years. Dawson doesn't use the cutting knife as a murder weapon. He's generally contained except for the scene when he confronts Helen about Eve, a woman he met at the start of their conversation. The character sucked at first impressions. The Leerys didn't share the pies. No one talked to Bessie, Joey's sister. Joey barely talked to anyone, though Dawson wanted a mind-blowing three hour conversation that Joey (actually Katie Holmes) was not excited about it. The teens drink coffee in expensive glasses to close the episode.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Make a review about the final episode

About The Foot

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.