AMHERST, Mass. – Lori Bindig, a doctoral student in communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, recently had her master’s thesis published by Lexington Books. “Dawson’s Creek: A Critical Understanding” offers a detailed analysis of the late 1990s TV show’s representation of gender, race, class, sexuality and consumerism and draws larger conclusions about the social implications of these messages.
“Dawson’s Creek” chronicled the lives and relationships of four high-school students living on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The book uses examples from episodes as well as academic commentary to explore how various issues are represented on the show and ultimately concludes that “Dawson’s Creek” reinforced, rather than challenged, the social status-quo when representing controversial issues. “I was looking for how feminist or how anti-consumerist the show was,” says Bindig. “There are a few radical moments, but overall it was conservative in its messages about sexuality and unquestioning in its support for materialism and consumerism.”
Bindig initially set out to focus on just one topic, but found as the project took shape that the subjects were too intertwined with one another to examine alone. “In the media, as in life, all of these issues really bleed into one another,” she says. “How do you discuss gender without talking about sexuality? Or class without mentioning consumerism?”
“Dawson’s Creek” premiered in 1998 and anchored the fledgling WB Network for six seasons while acting as a launching pad for various commercial endeavors such as clothing, books, soundtracks, calendars and posters. In its first season, the show was ranked No. 1 among teenagers and people age 18-34 and No. 2 in the 18-49 market in cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. By the final season, the show had been ranked the No. 1 among girls ages 12-17 nationwide for several years.
Bindig earned bachelor’s degrees in American studies and musical theater and a master’s degree in communication from the University of Hartford. She edited and refined her manuscript while studying communication at UMass Amherst under Professors Sut Jhally and Erica Scharrer and is in talks to write a book on another landmark teen drama, “The O.C.”