When the website James Vandermemes launched earlier this week, it looked like a lot of other sites on the Internet. It features 27 animated GIFs of James Van Der Beek—star of such turn-of-the-millennium teen pop culture touchstones as Dawson's Creek and Varsity Blues—in various stages of emotional intensity: Happy! Surprised! Nauseated! And so on.
At first, it seemed to be just another variation on the single-serving, fan-created site devoted to the unintentionally funny facial expressions of pop culture figures: like Pete Campbell's Bitchface—which celebrates the Mad Men character's perpetually smug, sour facial expressions—or Faces of the Last Season of Oprah—which, as the name suggests, chronicles exuberant outpourings of emotion from the Queen of Media and her guests. A GIF of Van Der Beek crying during an episode of Dawson's Creek—known as "Crying Dawson"—is a staple of Internet message boards, so it was only a matter of time before someone launched a site devoted to his other emotive expressions.
But James Vandermemes differs from these other sites in one very important way: the site was created by Van Der Beek himself, with the help of the comedy site FunnyOrDie. He posed for all the facial expressions. He's in on the joke.
It appears Van Der Beek is following in the footsteps of other washed up celebrities-turned-Internet memes: trying to use his online ubiquity to show fans he has a sense of humor about himself—and, presumably, to resurrect his career. But, like others who have gone down this path before, his efforts will most likely fail.
Take the case of Chris Klein, another '90s teen heartthrob (he starred as a nice-guy football player in both American Pie and Election) who tried to parlay his Internet meme into a career comeback. When his bizarre, manic audition tape for the film Mamma Mia leaked online last May, it became a viral hit.
Within a few days, he tried to get in on the joke by posting a parody video of himself auditioning for Twilight, MacGruber, Brokeback Mountain and DreamGirls on FunnyOrDie:
But this video only reminded us of how deeply weird the real, original video was—and drew attention to the fact that he wasn't in—and likely wasn't even considered for—any of the films he jokingly tried out for.