‘Dash and Lily’ sparks the childlike magic we’ve been missing

Sunday, November 15, 2020 - 5:14pm

NOSELL

Netflix

Though we haven’t officially made it to the holiday season just yet, television is already preparing for what Dash (Austin Abrams, “This is Us”) calls “the most detestable time of the year.” 

Netflix’s new holiday-themed romantic comedy “Dash and Lily” follows the conventions of every stereotypical, Hallmark Channel Christmas story. However, through its cleverness and thematic complexity, this adaptation of a YA novel of the same name proves itself to be enjoyable and compelling for both teen and adult audiences alike. 

The show’s idealized and unrealistic exaggeration of the holidays’ significance is extreme, yet embraceable. Shots of an overcrowded New York City covered in twinkling lights and Christmas trees remind audiences of a simpler, pre-COVID time in the warmest way possible. Appreciating the lighthearted and digestible nature of “Dash and Lily” rather than nagging on its predictability allows for a brief escape from a daunting reality into a glamorized winter wonderland. 

Small nuances like the scribbles of childlike fonts across the screen to signify different dates and perspectives emphasize the show’s wholesome, innocent nature. The entire plot establishes itself so unrealistically that it forces viewers to get in touch with their inner child, which we’ve all been missing during the pandemic. Minutes into the show’s pilot episode, Dash discovers Lily’s (Midori Francis, “Bless This Mess”) journal-slash-scavenger-hunt in his favorite bookstore, The Strand. Without even a little hesitation, Dash begins to follow all of her clues. It’s a moderately stalkerish “coincidence” that Dash is the one to pick up a journal meant specifically for a teenage boy who holds extensive knowledge of a specific bookstore, but it’s just one of many questionable things the show asks you to buy into. 

Regardless, Dash’s quest is entertaining, and felt reminiscent of the classic children’s adventure stories audiences know and love. The whimsical and exciting sequence of his analysis of clues is paired with classic YA humor such as picking up a book titled “The Joys of Gay Sex.” This combination of inconsequential suspense and light humor keeps the fast paced plot moving and viewers engaged.  

This discussion of sexuality, though brief and comedic in nature, places this story directly into our modern society. Jokes regarding Dash’s sexual orientation are respectful and completely playful. The embedding of text messages and cell phones into the story and visual design of the show makes it clear that today’s teens are the target audience, without feeling forced. Meanwhile, the central setting of a bookstore connects the holiday experience to feelings of nostalgia and imagination, both of which often feel muddled in our COVID-19 world. This fusion of nostalgia and modernity creates the perfect concoction of comfort and familiarity that feels necessary in a holiday season different from any other. 

Families are unable to physically get together, local businesses are shutting down left and right, stores are unable to hold the typically obscene capacity of holiday shoppers and holiday cheer seems to be at an all time low. The last thing anyone needs right now is a reminder of the weight this year has brought onto our shoulders. “Dash and Lily” instills a sense of childlike magic and excitement in viewers who have missed out on any sort of serenity for almost a year now. It is entertaining and whimsical enough to deserve a healthy viewership, and more importantly, viewers of all ages and backgrounds get the chance to escape to an exciting, innocent and idealized picture of New York City in the height of holiday spirit and joy.

Daily Arts Writer Emily Blumberg can be reached at emilybl@umich.edu.   

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