By Kate Emswiler
“These movies aren’t real. It’s ‘take 22′, the girl’s bored and the guy’s gay. It’s celluloid propaganda.”
—Joey Potter (aka Katie Holmes) of “Dawson’s Creek” episode 3, season 1 (original air date: February 3, 1998)
Marge: “I can’t go along with this, Homer.”
Homer: “Marge, when I join an underground cult, I expect a little support from my family.”
—”The Simpsons” episode 13, season 9 (original air date: February 8, 1998)
I recently saw that Netflix was streaming “Dawson’s Creek”, and for a tender and ridiculous trip down nostalgia boulevard, I highly recommend re-watching the first season in all its awkward, poorly lit, boom-mike-in-the-shot glory. Though as a warning, it’s so terrifically ’90s, your face might get stuck twisted in perma-cringe.
I’d remembered Katie Holmes‘s character, Joey, being glib and glum, but I’d forgotten how sassy and snappish she was. In the third episode of the first season, “Kiss”, she berates Dawson for believing in “movie magic,” insisting that real romance is not the way Hollywood depicts it. Dawson calls her bitter and cynical and insists that when she actually falls in love with someone, she’ll believe in the “magic” too.
Smart-mouthed Joey just rolls her eyes and says, “You used to be bitter and cynical, too. You were far more interesting.”
Then, of course, she meets a charming, wealthy guy (named Anderson, natch), and she pretends not to be a waitress so that she’ll fit in with his Nautica-clad world. She allows him to believe she’s a privileged boarding school student named “Deborah Kerr…son” and they nearly have a reenactment of the rolling-in-the-sand kiss in “From Here to Eternity.” Suddenly, life is like a movie: magical. And yet, at what cost? She can’t be herself, she submerges her identity to fit into this guy’s life. Sassy, independent-thinking Joey Potter disappears into “Deborah Kerrson” and she’s not living honestly or freely . . . all for some guy.
In the end, “Deborah” and Anderson part ways, and though he gives her his number, Joey lets the paper slip from her fingers as she and her pregnant sister (mom’s dead, dad’s in jail) drive away from the docks in a pickup truck. She goes back to Joey Potter’s life where she might be poor and cynical, but she gets to be 100% herself.
Sound familiar? I couldn’t help but think of the recent “TomKat” split and Katie’s bold departure from Scientology, an organization she bought into (or pretended to) for a while before snapping out of it and returning to reality.
Now check out this interesting coincidence:
Five days after this particular episode of “Dawson’s Creek” aired, “The Simpsons” delivered yet another fantastically scathing episode of its own, mocking Scientology and other similar cultish organizations. Titled “The Joy of Sect”, it’s an excellent send-up of these groups and their brainwashing techniques, featuring a cult of “Movementarians” and their mysterious, all-powerful “Leader”. Despite being thick-headed (or perhaps because of it?), Homer actually proves difficult to convert, though nearly all of the other Springfield citizens are taken into the fold, until the whole town is basically owned by the Movementarians.
Homer finally becomes a believer, along with the rest of the family – except for Marge who heroically saves her family from the clutches of the cult. Homer, shaken free from the sect after a drop of beer lands on his tongue, helps the rest of the town to see the group for the sham it really is, with their “Leader” being nothing more than a con man inside a poorly constructed “UFO”.
They say art reflects life, and here we are now looking back fourteen years at this weird coincidence. Now Katie can go back to being more of a Joey Potter and less of a Movementarian. And if I were in her (probably un-Joey-like) shoes, I’d take some comfort in Homer’s reflection: “And to think I turned to a cult for mindless happiness when I had beer all along.”