Heroes and villains are Dawson Leery’s bread and butter. He loves a good morality tale – or even a good jump scare. Movies and the way they make people feel are everything to him in Dawson’s Creek. He would probably know a thing or two about classic archetypes.
In literature, classic archetypes are those character types that appear over and over. They’re most often associated with “the hero’s journey” in myths and legends, or these days, in epic fantasy movies. While Dawson’s life, chronicled throughout the early 2000s WB drama, isn’t an epic fantasy, it does feature a lot of those classic archetypes.
Dawson fills three archetypal roles. Some fans of the show would argue he isn’t the real Hero of the series since he doesn’t appear in every episode; that honor belongs to Joey. The show, however much it veers off course, is Dawson’s journey. His quest isn’t to defeat a monster but to realize his dream of filmmaking.
Dawson also, however, fills the role of the Innocent. This is the character who is naive to the ways of the world and lived their life in a sheltered bubble, the person who has a lot of growing to do. Of course, Dawson’s innocence is also part of his approach to filmmaking, which is why he also fills the role of Creator. His earnestness and love for morality plays becomes part of the mark he wants to leave on the world as he brings his own visions to life.
One of the most common roles filled by the Hero amongst the archetypes is that of the Orphan, but Joey fills it instead. Having lost her mother to cancer and her father to prison, Joey lives with her big sister but still feels completely alone. She has to find her place in the world, and she does that amongst her friends.
She also fills what’s traditionally a romantic role – the Companion. Often a love interest for the Hero, the Companion is someone the hero turns to for emotional support. Joey and Dawson try a romantic relationship, but it doesn’t work out. They still, however, proclaim they’re soul mates. Like Dawson, Joey also finds herself with a story to tell. She doesn’t leave her mark on the world through movies or television. Instead, Joey takes the Creator role to several different mediums – song, painting, and writing – before she chooses one.
The Caregiver is a parental figure in the Hero’s life. Dawson has parents. His parents even frequently give him advice and play a role in his development, but Grams fills this role even more than they do because she becomes everyone’s Caregiver.
Grams takes such a turn from the character the audience meets in the pilot episode. Initially, she is stern and unwilling to bend, but she eventually becomes the person all of the main characters can go to for help. She allows all of them to stay in her house when she moves with Jen and Jack to Boston for school. Grams is there for holiday dinners and to babysit Dawson’s little sister. She becomes completely selfless for this group of young adults.