* BadassDecay: The Joey of season 1, who beats the living hell out of a jock with a lunch tray when he sexually propositions her in the cafeteria is a far, far cry from the indecisive, insecure Joey of later seasons.
* CreatorsPet: Dawson himself, arguably. For the first three seasons, he was touted by the other characters as being a golden boy who others should strive to be like. For a great number of viewers, he came off as an entitled, coddled man-child a lot of the time. His flaws were very rarely acknowledged in-show and even ''encouraged'' (such as his actions during the boat race in Season 3 that could've killed Pacey--his father justified it as him fighting for love). His characterization was so awful that the writers seemed to set out to redeem him in the next season, practically making him a saint. He was almost a non-entity in the final two seasons, which switched focus from him to...
** Joey, who went from being the EnsembleDarkhorse to a CreatorsPet in some fans' eyes as the show progressed. She lost a lot of the traits that made her popular with fans in the first place, becoming a more standard leading lady as her prominence increased. In spite of that, similar to Dawson's problem, her flaws went unacknowledged and characters continued to go and go about how amazing she was and that she had "It!" (mentioned on the main page).
* DesignatedHero: Dawson again. Despite being the title character, he frequently acts like a spoilt, self-centred JerkAss, especially in Season 3. He's furious when Joey - who he previously rejected - falls in love with Pacey, and forces her to choose between her new relationship and their friendship. He then alienates Pacey and tries to win Joey back in an increasingly manipulative and underhand way. (Including almost killing Pacey in a sailing race, lying to Joey about reknewing their friendship and tricking her into going to the prom with him). All of this is treated as a normal competition to 'win the girl'.
** Even worse when you remember the situation Joey and Pacey are in. Dawson ''knows'' that his parents are a surrogate family to the virtually orphaned Joey. In forcing an ultimatum, he's cutting off the only stable family she's ever known. ''And'' he's aware that Pacey suffers emotional abuse from his father and has crippling self-esteem issues. He's desperately searching for love and support, but Dawson does his best to tear him and Joey apart because he can't get over himself.
* DieForOurShip: Jen in Season 1-2, and either Dawson or Pacey (depending on your preferences) from Season 3 onwards.
* EarWorm: I DON'T WANT TO WAIT. FOR OUR LIIIIIIVES TO BE OOOOVVVEEEEEERRRRRRR
* EnsembleDarkhorse: Pacey originally was just supposed to be Dawson's goofy sidekick, but his role grew more prominent in the second season and beyond. An even better example is Joey--Katie Holmes went from last billing to second billing between the first and second seasons, she was the center of the show's most well-known love triangle, and is the only character to appear in all episodes.
* FanPreferredCouple: Dawson/Joey, to begin with, and later Pacey/Joey.
* MemeticMutation: [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLgI-qbrWVo Dawson weeping]] over 90s FirstWorldProblems.
* {{Narm}}: Anytime Joey sang! Also, the above expression Dawson made at the end of Season 3 dubbed "The I Ate Poo Face".
** The episode "Downtown Crossing", where Joey is mugged and spends the entire experience exchanging sarcastic banter with her mugger. He's so charmed by her "it" that he follows her down the street and gets hit by a car. She ends up at the same hospital and sings "Close To You" by the Carpenters to him as he flatlines. Aside from being bizarre in tone, it's wildly irresponsible; Television Without Pity peppered their recap of it with warnings that, in real life, fighting back against a mugger and trying to snark at him when he's holding you at gunpoint is more likely to end in him killing you than falling for you.
* RetroactiveRecognition: Jensen Ackles before Smallville & Supernatural; Brittany Daniel before TheGame; Ali Larter before Heroes, the Final Destination & Resident Evil series; Jason Behr before Roswell; Chad Michael Murray before One Tree Hill.
* TheScrappy: Main characters aside, a big example was Eve Whitman, a stripper who weeded herself into Dawson's life in Season 3. She was so widely despised that despite major potential storylines she brought to the show [[spoiler: (being Jen's half-sister and giving Dawson his first blowjob)]], her character was written out abruptly in the second half of the season and all the above mentioned plot points were [[RetCon retconned]].
* TearJerker: After an episode of emotional abuse, Pacey breaks down in tears wondering why his dad doesn't love him.
---> Pacey: "When did you give up on me? When I was 5? 10? 12? I'm 16 years old, Dad! ''(Starting to cry)'' And I'm here and I'm not provin' that but I'm trying so hard for you. It's your job. It's your job to love me no matter who I am or what I become because you're my father!"
** Made worse because his dad is lying ''right there'' but unconscious.
** One of the earliest scenes where the show starts to turn Jack gay. Long story short, a classroom incident sees that one teacher forces Jack to read in front of the whole class a poem he wrote. It's about how he's struggling with feelings for other men, and he gets so upset that he starts crying and walks out.
** Despicable thought she was, Abby's death is quite sad - both the immediate scene where it's revealed that she didn't survive her fall from the pier (the previous scene is the rest of the cast having fun at a wedding; it then cuts to Jen wrapped in a police blanket, watching in tears as they zip up the body bag) and her funeral scene, where her mother realises that absolutely no one has anything nice to say about Abby.
** The final scene of season 2, when Jen comes back to live with Grams and brings Jack with her. "There's someone else who doesn't want to be alone any more either", and Grams' calm acceptance of him, is a massive tear jerker.
** Everything around [[spoiler: Jen's death in the finale, particularly her video to Amy and the moment where Grams realises that Jen has died.]]
* TooDumbToLive: [[spoiler: Mitch, who takes his eyes off the road for a good 5 seconds, while driving at night, approaching what is later revealed to be a relatively sharp bend. Why does he do this? To pick up his dropped ice-cream. His death is blamed on the fact that the driver of the other car was asleep at the wheel, but honestly, he kinda had it coming.]]
* UnpopularPopularCharacter: Pacey.
* {{Wangst}}: Oh God. Basically every main character except (maybe) Pacey.
* TheWoobie: '''Pacey'''. Horribly played straight especially in the season 4 episode "The Te of Pacey".
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