Why we’re still crushing hard on Joey Potter

In January 1998, a little teen drama called Dawson’s Creek premiered on the now-defunct WB and drew national attention almost immediately for its controversial storylines, witty dialogue, and attractive new actors in the main roles. Among these fresh-faced cast members were James Van Der Beek in the titular role of a sweet teenager whose dream was to make movies for a living, Joshua Jackson as the swoon-worthy roguish best friend Pacey, and Michelle Williams as the mysterious new girl in town, Jen.

And then there was Joey Potter, “the too-tall girl from the wrong side of the creek” with a crooked smile and fiery attitude who eventually became the reason so many viewers (including I) tuned in at 8 p.m. EST every Wednesday. Joey was the epitome of the girl who had to work hard for what she wanted, and Katie Holmes played her just right for us introverted girls with big dreams to look at her, feel inspired and not intimidated, and know we have the strength within ourselves to achieve anything we want.

Here’s exactly why Joey Potter has been one of my biggest fictional idols since 1998, and consequently why she is the star of this week’s #WCW!

She put her family first

Joey’s background is less than ideal when we first meet her. Her mother passed away from cancer when she was 13 years old, and she lives with her pregnant sister Bessie and Bessie’s live-in boyfriend, Bodie. Throughout the show, Joey has to wait tables to help make ends meet, all while attending high school (and keeping her grades extremely high), babysitting her nephew, and eventually helping her sister run a bed and breakfast out of their home after their drug-selling father burns down their restaurant.

Joey isn’t immune to the occasional complaint about her situation, but at the end of the day her family comes first and she’ll do anything to ensure they’re safe and happy. She gives her father the benefit of the doubt and chance after chance to prove he wants best for her and her sister. And even though he continues to disappoint her, she always forgives him – because she knows she only has one dad.

She never compromised her morals or goals for anyone

As much as Joey wanted what was best for the people she loved, she also made time to ensure she was on track for her own goals – namely, to get out of her hometown of Capeside and to make a life for herself. While many of her classmates partied, she worked nights and studied to save for college and get the best grades possible to give her the greatest chance of getting into a great school. And it worked – she graduated as class salutatorian, was accepted into the prestigious Worthington University (with a little financial help from her best friend Dawson), and became a writer and editor in New York.

Lesson learned? Even the most family-focused person needs to take time to remember themselves. Remember that you only have one life, so live it accordingly.

She is one half of the best TV couple of all time

You can’t talk about Joey without talking about her other half, Pacey Witter. Pacey and Joey were the golden couple of early-2000s television, and for good reason: they were polar opposites with amazing chemistry who fell head over heels for each other when they least expected to, giving the rest of us relationship goals for the rest of our lives. Luckily, Pacey and Joey’s relationship was wrought with a lot of realistic tension, which made it that much more interesting to watch and relate to. They taught us, at the very least, that the best relationships are worth fighting for.

She told it like it was

Joey wasn’t exactly a fan of beating around the bush. Arguably the most brusque character on the show, what she possessed in introversion she made up for by telling those closest to her exactly what she was feeling and why, even when (and maybe especially when) they didn’t want to hear it.

She also was the reality foil to Dawson’s idealist, which made for an interesting dynamic between the two of them. By the end of the series, her more cynical view prepares Dawson a little better for the real world, while Dawson helps Joey see that not everyone and everything is out to get her.

She broke out of her shell on her own terms

There’s no denying that Joey had her flaws – stubbornness probably being the main one. But Joey wasn’t one to succumb to peer pressure, most of the time. A usually serious and level-headed character, Joey does eventually learn to let loose, but she does it when she feels comfortable and safe, and when she feels like her work is done. She is OK not being seen as reckless or daring, and prefers to observe from the sidelines most of the time. As an introvert who always dreamed of getting up on stage to sing and sometimes actually can now after a couple of drinks, I raise my glass to you, Joey Potter.

She went to Paris

Joey may have given up the chance to go to Paris at the end of season one in favor of staying behind with Dawson, but she eventually gets to her dream destination. The last scene of season 6, before the separate finale, shows Joey walking around the City of Light, finally at peace with who she is and knowing she did the work it took to get there. We could all learn a little from Joey here, especially those with similar type-A personalities: No matter who you are, you deserve to pause and revel a little in what you have accomplished. Because it’s probably a lot more than you’re giving yourself credit for.


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[Image via the CW]

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