Parents on teen dramas seem to go one of two ways: They are either more like friends of the younger characters or they are totally absent and don't seem to be around at all. Sandy and Julie Cohen were the first kind: cool parents on The O.C. who were always there for their children. The parental figures on Gossip Girl were both types: Dan and Jenny's dad, Rufus, was kind and involved, but the other wealthy parents seemed to ignore their children a lot of the time.
Those teen dramas aired in the 2000s (The O.C. premiered in 2003 and Gossip Girl in 2007). What about parents on a teen drama in the 1990s? How did they act?
One classic '90s show is Dawson's Creek. Chances are, many loved watching best friends Dawson and Joey, along with their friends Jen, Pacey, and Jack. We might recall that the teenage characters seemed to act a lot older than their actual age (and it's true that the actors looked older, too) and that there were some really interesting storylines.
Let's take a look at this beloved show and some of the things that the parental figures did over the show's six seasons. Here are 20 Dawson's Creek parenting styles that are so '90s it hurts.
20 Jen's Parents Send Her Away At The First Sign Of Trouble Instead Of Helping Her
In the pilot of Dawson's Creek, Jen Lindley moves to the beautiful small town of Capeside and meets Dawson and the other teens. She got in trouble back in New York and instead of helping her and motivating her to get her life back on track, her parents sent her away to live with her Grams.
This is totally a '90s parenting style as '90s parents were very hands-off. When we think about it, this makes sense: today, parents like to involve their children in their lives. Back then, as we can see on this teen drama, there were many moms and dads who wanted that child/parent separation. In Jen's case, it was pretty extreme, and she couldn't even live with them.
19 Pacey's Parents Literally Forget His Birthday, Which Would Never Happen Today
Could we imagine a parent forgetting their child's birthday today? There is no way, right? Moms spend so much time planning their kid's birthdays, from a special breakfast to the perfect presents to a fun party. It's hard to even believe it but in the second season episode of Dawson's Creek called "Crossroads," his parents literally forget his birthday. (His best pal Dawson forgets it, too.) This is so '90s and would never happen today.
As Kidspot.com.au says, there were no "Pinterest" birthdays during this decade: "Back in the ‘90s, we were more than happy with whatever our parents plopped in front of us. Just so long as it was minimum 60 percent sugar and we got the biggest slice, it didn’t matter that it was lopsided and only decorated with one M&M."
18 None Of The Parents Seem To Notice When The Teens Stay Up All Night Cramming For A Test
In 2019, parents always know where their children are. If your teenager was studying for a big test, you would probably help them out. Maybe you would quiz them on a regular basis or at least help them make a study schedule.
In the second season episode "The All-Nighter," Joey and Dawson and their classmates stay up all night to study for a big test. It's a fun and dramatic episode... but when we look at it beyond its entertainment value, it's definitely an example of a '90s parenting style. How did none of the parental figures on the show notice where the kids were?
This was what happened back then: as someone posted in a Reddit thread, one thing about the '90s was "Going over to your friend's house unannounced & vice versa."
17 Dawson's Parents Are Good Enough But Sometimes Care More About Their Relationship Than Him
Dawson's parents, Mitch and Gail Leery, are an interesting couple. They have a lot of problems and get divorced at one point, and it's honestly heartbreaking to watch. But when they're together, they're madly in love and Dawson is even kind of grossed out by how often they kiss in front of him.
Dawson's parents are also very '90s because while they're decent enough parents, they seem to focus more on their relationship than him. This is totally different from today when it's more common to focus on your kids a lot. You make your kids your whole world and you really want to help them out all the time.
16 Pacey's Parents Have Nothing To Do With Him... Ever
Pacey Witter is a wonderful character: sweet and quirky and a core member of the group. He also happens to have really bad parents who honestly never think about him or give him the time of day. The fact that they ignore him is a very '90s parenting style.
According to We Have Kids, a parenting style from the 90s is "Uninvolved Parenting." The website explains, "These parents are usually not very involved in their child's day to day life and are generally unresponsive and don't communicate well. Children with permissive parents are said to have very low self-esteem and do not do well in school or with their peers." That last bit is particularly true for Pacey as he's insecure and really doesn't like studying or learning.
15 Dawson's Parents Are Very Chill And Don't Ask Anything Of Him, Making Them Seem More Like Friends
Dawson's parents definitely act more like his friends than his parental figures. They're very chill and don't ask very much of him.
This also seems like a parenting style from back in the day that just wouldn't work today. It's tough to imagine parents being that chill and casual around their children. According to We Have Kids, another type of parenting "from the last three decades" is "Permissive." The website describes this type: " There are often very few rules and the parents are somewhat indulgent. They offer leniency and often act more as a friend than a parent." Gail and Mitch Leery do sound very permissive.
14 Joey And Pacey Leave For The Summer To Sail On A Boat, Which Parents Would Never Be Cool With Today
In the season three finale, Joey and Pacey are so in love that they leave for the summer to sail on his boat. This is not only a very dramatic storyline that we would expect to see on a teen drama like Dawson's Creek but it's also something that seems very '90s.
Joey's big sister Bessie and Pacey's parents don't seem to have a problem with this, and the teens are allowed to go. According to a CNN article called "Longing for the carefree parenting of yesterday?" parenting was a lot different back in the day. As the article says, "Another difference between parenting then and now, moms say, is a loss of freedom and independence during childhood."
Joey and Pacey's summer storyline is a perfect example of a '90s parenting style. Talk about giving them "freedom and independence."
13 Joey's Caregiver (Her Big Sister) Doesn't Mind Her Sneaking Off To Climb Through Dawson's Window All The Time
One of the most well-known aspects of Dawson's Creek is the close friendship that Joey and Dawson share. She always climbs through his bedroom window and they hang out, usually watching movies and talking about life.
The fact that Joey's caregiver, her big sister Bessie, is cool with her doing this is definitely a parenting style from the '90s. What about rules and curfew? It would be so hard to imagine parents allowing this today. Parents in the 2010s are much more aware of how fast teenagers grow up. It doesn't always seem like Joey lets her sister know where she's going. She definitely acts much older than she is.
12 Jen's Caregiver, Her Grams, Is Way Too Strict At First, And That Wouldn't Fly These Days As Parents Are More Balanced
When Jen moves to Capeside, she lives with her Grams, who is a very difficult character at first. She's extremely strict and has so many rules that it doesn't seem like she and Jen will ever get along.
According to We Have Kids, one parenting style from the "past three decades" is Authoritarian: "These types of parents are incredibly strict and have a zero tolerance for misbehavior. They leave little room for affection or nurturing and do not practice a lot of positive reinforcement."
Grams definitely sounds like an Authoritarian type of parent. Thankfully, though, she and Jen do eventually bond and Grams lightens up a bit.
11 Dawson Is Dating Pacey's Older Sister, Gretchen, Which Most Parents Would Wonder About
Would parents in 2019 (or any time in the past decade or so) be cool with their teenager dating someone who is a few years older? We can say "no way" and yet this is something that happened on Dawson's Creek.
When Dawson started dating Pacey's older sister, Gretchen, his parents didn't seem to have a problem with it. Did they even notice? It doesn't honestly seem like it.
This is pretty baffling and it seems like another example of a '90s parenting style. Things seemed more "go with the flow" than they are today and as we mentioned previously, it was a lot more "carefree and independent."
10 Jen's Mom Doesn't Tell Her About Her Half-Sister Until She Randomly Visits Capeside
Today, parents talk to their kids a lot and treat them with respect. That wasn't the case with Jen's parents on Dawson's Creek -- or at least with her mother, Helen.
In the season three episode "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner", Jen's mom comes to Capeside for Thanksgiving and Jen finds out that she has a sister. It's pretty wild that Jen wouldn't have known this before then. This is another example of a parenting style from back in the day because we just can't imagine this happening today. How could you not tell your kid something as important as this?!
9 Joey's Caregiver/Sister Is Totally Cool With Her (A Teen Girl) Going To Another City For A Date
In the third season episode "A Cinderella Story," Joey goes to Boston because she wants to date a boy named AJ who she had met. This means that a teenage girl literally traveled to another city for a date. What?!
This is definitely a '90s parenting style because the whole "carefree and independent" thing is coming up once again. Her big sister and caregiver, Bessie, is totally fine with this. If this show was on the air today, we bet that this wouldn't happen (or at the very least, Joey wouldn't have been allowed to go or would have gotten into big trouble.)
8 When Joey Might Be Pregnant, Her Sister Gives Her A Big Lecture/Seems Annoyed
Teenage pregnancy is a complicated subject and it's true that no parent wants to be faced with it. In the fourth season, Joey is worried that she's pregnant, and when Bessie learns that this is what's going on, she actually lectures her. Bessie says that she can't get Pacey to help her with the baby if she has one, which is harsh.
It seems strange that Bessie would approach this subject so intensely and negatively. Why not offer Joey the support that she needed? If this show was on the air in 2019, Bessie would have totally helped Joey out and it would have been a very different conversation. Bessie seems to be another example of the "Authoritarian" parenting style.
7 Dawson's Parents Get Divorced And Act Very Immature (And Today, Co-Parenting Is A Thing)
No parent wants to get divorced and explain to the children what's going on. No parent wants to do this whole thing alone and change the family unit. But, of course, divorce is a reality and so parents do have to deal with it.
On Dawson's Creek, Dawson's parents split up for a time, and they honestly act very immaturely about it. They don't seem to check in with their son and they're more concerned with each other than how Dawson is doing.
This in stark contrast to today. We're much more interested in co-parenting and attempting to make it a good, seamless transition.
6 The Parents Don't Notice When The Teens Follow Senior Ditch Day
In the fourth season episode "Eastern Standard Time," it's Senior Ditch Day at Capeside High and the teenage characters decide to go along with it. Even Joey (who is basically a goody-two-shoes) decides to ditch and she and Jen go to New York.
This is nuts when we think about it because how did their parents not care that, number one, they were skipping school, and number two, they were literally going to another city?
Today, teenagers definitely have more rules, and school is seen as something that is very important. Skipping would be a big problem, and we bet that Joey and Jen would accidentally post something on social media and then their parental figures would know where they were.
5 All The Parental Figures Seem To Expect Jen, Dawson, Joey, And Pacey To Be Super Grown-Up (And Don't Really Treat Them Like Teens)
When talking about Dawson's Creek, a lot of people say that the characters not only look super old (and more like college students than high schoolers), but they act super old, too.
It's true that a lot of the dialogue is mature and maybe not even super realistic. It's also true that the parental figures seem to treat the teenagers like they're so much older than their age. They honestly expect them to be grown-ups. For example, when Bessie has a baby, she can't fathom why Joey would be upset that now there's a crying baby in the house and she has to study and do well in school. Bessie thinks she should just accept it and grow up.
4 Dawson's Parents Don't Convince Him Not To Drop Out Of College
If we're a fan of Dawson's Creek, we might have been confused when Dawson dropped out of college. After all, all we heard about was how obsessed he was with Steven Spielberg and how much he wanted to be a filmmaker.
Dawson leaves college and he wants to be in Boston where his pals are, which makes sense. What doesn't make sense is that his mom and dad don't try hard to convince him to stay in school.
Gail and Mitch Leery are definitely "carefree" parents, if we use the term from the CNN article mentioned previously, and it's very clear in this circumstance.
3 Dawson's Parents Have A Baby... And Don't Really Think That Would Be Tough Since He's In High School
Sure, Dawson is a kind person (there is even a famous meme of him sobbing that proves he's an emotional and nice guy), but even kind people have their limits sometimes. When his parents have a baby and he's in high school, that doesn't seem like a parenting choice that a couple would make today.
First of all, that's a huge age difference, and second of all, Dawson isn't so grown-up that he doesn't need his mom and dad around. He really does need some more parenting and it seems pretty nuts that his parents wouldn't realize that and focus on him more.
2 The Parents Don't Really Give Life Advice To The Teenagers: Instead, They're Wrapped Up In Their Own Personal Drama
We could also say that the parents on Dawson's Creek don't give the teenagers much life advice. There is a little bit of this in the first season -- Mitch Leery likes to tell Dawson about love and dating -- but the teens seem left to pretty much fend for themselves.
It doesn't seem likely that most parents today would so wrapped up in their own personal lives. These days, when you have a baby, your whole identity is changed and you really do change the way that you live and think. You always want to know where your kids are and what they're doing especially since you got them a cell phone at a fairly young age. According to Today's Parent, "The reality, though, is that many kids are getting their first Internet-enabled smartphones around age 10." And for another thing, you know that you can't be your teenager's BFF because you need to help them during this time.
1 Once The Group Leaves For College, They Don't Have Much Contact With Their Families (Today, Kids Are Closer With Their Parents)
The fifth and sixth seasons of Dawson's Creek focus on the group of friends as they go to college (or, in Pacey's case, get a job and become an adult).
It's true that when you go to college and move out, you don't see or talk to your parents as much as you once did... but would you really have almost no contact with your family?
Although Dawson does talk to his parents and interact with them even after moving away, it doesn't seem like the characters are very close with their families during these two seasons. This is something that might not happen today. Kids are much closer with their parents thanks to technology and being able to text and follow each other on social media. (Those definitely weren't around in the '90s.)
Sources: Kidspot.com.au, Wehavekids.com, Reddit.com, Todaysparent.com, Cnn.com