Post-Dawson, James Van Der Beek went postmodern.
James Van Der Beek, the early-aughts heartthrob who played sensitive teenager Dawson Leery on Dawson’s Creek from 1998–2003, turns 40 on Wednesday.
Post-Dawson, Van Der Beek went postmodern, in a string of self-referential comedic projects that poked fun at his sweet teenage image, from web videos to a TV series. In honor of his Van Der Birthday, here is a brief history of the Beek’s brilliant self-satires.
The star first had some fun with Dawson when he made a brief cameo in 2000’s Scary Movie, which parodied the genre of its title as much Van Der Beek has satirized his own image.
Dawson’s Creek might have been free of social media, cyber-bullying, or any other internet-based forms of teenage drama, but like so many other pop culture products of the ‘90s, it eventually found a second life online — specifically in the form of the Dawson Ugly Crying meme.
The sarcastic reproductions of his saddest face ever did not escape Van Der Beek’s notice, but luckily, he had a sense of humor about it. In a 2011 Funny or Die video entitled “Vandermemes,” the star acknowledged his unique place in the cultural consciousness: “If you’re under the age of 20, odds are good you know me best from a five-second clip of me crying that’s circulating the internet.
“The more I saw the website comment sections mocking the sadness of others, the more I realized what the internet was really demanding: more intense emotional close-ups of my face. So I started a website where you can find short clips of me emoting dozens of other feelings.” And so James Van Der Memes was born.
At jamesvandermemes.tumblr.com, the actor delivers on that promise, fulfilling all your GIF needs with a whole host of expressive Van Der Clips, including “Slow Clap,” “Check Please,” “Disco Dancin’,” “The Katie Holmes Smile,” and “CSI: JVB.”
Van Der Beek didn’t stop with “Vandermemes.” The actor went on to do more self-satirizing videos with Funny or Die, including “A–hole for Hire,” in which he vows to make reparations for the unrealistic expectations he, as Dawson, gave millennial women about men.
“You may not have watched [Dawson’s Creek], but your girlfriend did,” an apologetic Van Der Beek tells the men of America. “And for years she’s been secretly comparing you to an unrealistic standard. Dawson was sweet, kind, loving, eloquent, generous, romantic.” But luckily, James Van Der A–hole is here to make things right.
In the 2011 music video for Kesha’s party anthem “Blow,” Van Der Beek lends an ironic smolder to an elegant unicorn-filled party that ends in a rainbow-laser shootout. “Well, well, if it isn’t James Van Der Douche,” Kesha says to the star halfway through the video. He replies sharply, “I don’t appreciate you slander-Beeking my name, Ke-dollar-sign-ha.”
His self-deprecating comedy Van Der Peaked, however, when he starred in the short-lived but critically admired sitcom Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23, which ran for two seasons, from 2012–2013. As the best friend of the eponymous B—-, the star plays a hilarious fictionalized version of himself, an arrogant has-been clinging to fame and exploiting his decade-old heartthrob status for whatever it can get him.
“I love doing it,” Van Der Beek told EW before the series premiered. “I love the ego assassination that comes with it.” That’s the Van Der Spirit!
So happy birthday, James Van Der Beek! We know 40’s a big one, but please, try not to cry about it.