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'Buffy' nostalgia recap: Dawn is actually the worst

Season 5 | Episode 2 | “Real Me” | Aired Oct 3, 2000

I have a Buffy confession: For many years, I was a Dawn defender. This is not to say that I was a fan of Dawn; I just always thought she got a bad rap. She was annoying, yes, but she was a teen, and when her episodes first aired, I was a teen. Maybe that was some instant camaraderie. Maybe I was projecting. Maybe I just still really loved The Adventures of Pete and Pete and Harriet the Spy, and I wanted to give Michelle Trachtenberg the benefit of the doubt.

Whatever the reason, the result was the same: I didn’t hate Dawn. Maybe I was really at a place in my life where I found her tolerable, or maybe I tolerated her through some strange, inexplicable, subconscious force of will, but I didn’t hate her. A few years ago, I did a full rewatch of the entire series; I still didn’t hate her, but I challenged myself to pack in all seven seasons into a month. So maybe everything was such a blur that I didn’t have time to hate her.

This week, I rewatched “Real Me,” aka Dawn’s first true episode, and I really, honestly, truly almost attacked my television (picture the destruction of the printer in Office Space). It wouldn’t be fair to the television, though, and it wouldn’t have addressed the real problem. I couldn’t stop cringing. It was uncomfortable to watch through the cringing. After enough cringing, my discomfort boiled into a tiny ball of hate, and I named it Dawn.

Let me count the cringes (those that I remember; I guess it’s possible that I blocked some out as a coping mechanism):

  • Dawn’s voice: Was it always that shrill? I didn’t remember it being that shrill. Good thing she doesn’t narrate the whole … oh, wait.
  • Messing up Buffy’s training: What was with that? Buffy was in the zone, training for Slaying and other such world-saving, and Dawn just prods at her like a kid trapped in a long car ride and asks to go home? I get that it sucks to be the teenage baby sister of the Slayer and have to watch as your amazing sister does amazing things, but if she can’t do those amazing things, the world ends. Also, to quote the great social commentator Stephanie Judith Tanner: How rude!
  • The milk: What in the world was with the milk? The whole breakfast dance in which Dawn acts as though she is the center of the universe and everything (including cereal bowls and final splashes of milk) revolves around her is infuriating. Buffy is a saint for keeping her cool about it.
  • School-supply shopping: This one is kind of Joyce, but it’s still annoying. I love that Giles kind of hates Dawn too, though.
  • How she handles crazy people: The crazy man physically touches her and says scary things, and she doesn’t bother screaming for help or even really mentioning the encounter to anyone. She can’t keep quiet when she’s bored and wants to go home, or when she’s trash-talking Harmony (more on that later). But when she actually needs to be the center of attention, nothing.
  • Needs a babysitter: Dawn is, what? Fourteen? Fifteen? By all accounts, she shouldn’t need a babysitter at all. She’s completely incompetent, though, so actually, good call, Joyce.
  • She has a crush on Xander: OF COURSE she does.
  • She doesn’t understand Willow and Tara’s relationship: No teenager is that sheltered or oblivious.
  • She invites Harmony in: There’s no excuse for this. I know she has a crush on Xander and she’s trying to impress him and be in his corner, but she’s also supposed to have grown up with the Slayer. I felt like the camera should have zoomed in on her shrugging to the tune of a womp womp when this happened.
  • She goes outside when vampires are known to be lurking: No.
  • She gets Anya hurt: NO.
  • She threatens to get Buffy in trouble: For Slaying in front of her … to save her life … after she got herself captured as bait.

Now that I’m watching season five at a reasonable pace as an adult, I fear Dawn will only continue to annoy me more and more. Oh, Dawn.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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