Dawn Summers cries a lot. Dawn Summers complains a lot. Dawn Summers screams and locks herself in her room a lot. Dawn Summers screams a scream that makes your head want to explode. Dawn Summers annoys you a lot.
BuzzFeed published a Buffy the Vampire Slayer poll. In it, people are asked to vote on their favorite season (my answer was season 5, duh), favorite member of the Scooby gang (my answer was Buffy, DUH), favorite reoccurring female character (ANYA IS ALWAYS THE CORRECT ANSWER), and least favorite character—you can assume who is winning that last one. I, like any sane person, voted NOT for Dawn (I voted for Veruca, because she's the most boring and made Willow cry a lot). Adam or Warren would've been my answer if they'd been an option. But Dawn Summers is currently beating Principal Snyder, Riley Finn, and Parker freakin' Abrams. Dawn currently has 31% of the votes—while 2nd place Riley Finn has 21%. I have trouble hating any character in Buffy because, to me, the show was perfect and everyone served their purpose (yes, even Kennedy).
The one year I went to the magical nerd kingdom known as San Diego Comic Con, they had a "Once More With Feeling" sing-a-long. It was the last thing on Sunday and I was exhausted as hell from meeting awesome people and throwing my money out the window—but super excited to go to a Buffy-related event. They handed out fake Mutant Enemy monsters, parking tickets, and other props—and they encouraged you to shout things out and to, of course, sing-a-long. It was so much fun! But every god damned time Dawn was on screen, the crowd would yell "Shut up, Dawn!"
And, did we forget Dawn Summers is also a teenager? A teenager who, all in the same year, loses her Vampire Slayer sister, her mother, and finds out she isn't real and that she was created by monks! So, like, think about how annoying you were as a teenager and then remember you never found out you weren't real—unless you did because then, uh, I'd like to ask you a few things.
Joyce Summers dies and everyone cries. Dawn has a literal breakdown in front of her classmates when she finds out—and then, when trying to see her mother one last time in the morgue, a vampire attacks her. A god damned vampire attacks her in the morgue two feet away from her mother's dead body. Think about how brutal and scarring that must be—then maybe try and chill when she cries or sneaks out or screams her terrible scream with the pitch of one thousand dying banshees.
Only a few months before her mother passing, she learned she wasn't real. She literally was created by monks and given false memories. And, as a fun added bonus, she finds out she's "the key" that Hell-demon Glory needs to open a portal back to her Hell-dimension, which will unleash a shit ton of demon onto Sunnydale. Then her mother dies. Then her superhero sister dies. Then demons mostly take over Sunnydale. Then her sister comes back to life and is miserable. Then she has her first kiss—and her first kiss ends up being with a vampire and he tries to kill her. Life in Sunnydale isn't easy, but it's especially not easy when you're still going through puberty and your entire family is dead and you find out you're not real and you literal have demons lurking in every single fuckin' corner of your life.
Dawn is also a young teenager—she hasn't even graduated high school by the end of the series. Now, I know Joss Whedon spoiled us in those first few seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All the teens we saw were more adult and way more capable than most teens are. Cordelia, Xander, Willow, and (duh) Buffy all held their own with witty banter while fighting demons. But, Dawn still has some witty banter—and she could probably survive a fight with a vampire unlike, well, adult aged me (and probably you). She has the cutest relationship with Tara (RIP babygirl)—the Scooby who understands feeling like the outcast of the group the most. She's even one of the first non-demons to treat Spike with any sort of respect on the show. And by the final episode, she's actually a useful member of the Scooby gang—she researches with Giles and helps Xander fight the final fight.
So, next time you're re-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the nine thousandth time (really not that much of an exaggeration at this point in my life), and Dawn starts screaming and you're about to yell, "Shut up, Dawn!"—remember: she's supposed to be Buffy’s younger, kind of annoying sister. And then remember what you were like as a teenager and maybe direct that "shut up, Dawn' at yourself (but, ya know, with your name instead of hers—unless your name is Dawn. Then, well).
Dawn Summers has been through some shit. Dawn Summers screams and cries a lot—and so do you when you watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So cut Dawn some slack, OK?