‘Dash & Lily’: a fun take on a tired genre

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Netflix

Lily reads Dash’s latest addition to their shared notebook, eager to learn more about him. Netflix’s “Dash & Lily” is an enjoyable Christmas romantic-comedy, despite falling prey to certain pitfalls of the genre.

I hate Christmas romantic-comedies. While I usually love rom-coms, their Christmas versions are downright insufferable. If I have to watch another movie set in a Hallmark™ small town where the cynical Christmas-hater falls for someone who, despite being way too old to believe in Santa somehow still does, I think I might scream. These movies cover up a bad plot with fake snow and mistletoe, and I’m sick of it. With that in mind, I have something to confess: Netflix recently released a Christmas show called “Dash & Lily,” and I love it. 

The series revolves around Dash, the aforementioned cynical Christmas-hater, and Lily, who doesn’t seem to believe in Santa but loves Christmas nevertheless. For the rest of the article to make sense, you need to know a few key things: (1) Dash and Lily both love books, (2) they both live in New York, (3) they frequent the same bookstore called The Strand and (4) they’re both teenagers, despite suffering from I’m-played-by-an-actor-who’s-25 syndrome. 

With some encouragement from her brother, Lily leaves a notebook with challenges, like a book scavenger hunt, at The Strand, hoping that a teenage boy will find it. Luckily, Dash (and not some 50-year-old weirdo) finds her notebook, and decides to play. They pass the notebook back and forth, writing notes, giving dares, and getting to know each other without ever meeting. And (shocker) they start to fall in love. 

I usually couldn’t care less about the characters in most Christmas rom-coms, but after watching the first couple episodes, I was hooked. Perhaps because we got eight 25-minute episodes, I got to know Dash, Lily, and their world way better than in most other Christmas movies, and there was enough time to have an interesting plot without sacrificing character development. I found myself genuinely curious about what was going to happen next (to the point where I watched the entire season over the weekend). 

And maybe this is the part of me that loves rom-coms in general, but watching Dash and Lily develop feelings for each other through the notebook was adorable. I couldn’t help but root for them to get together, and any time one of them did something to mess up their relationship (mostly looking at you, Dash), I felt genuine annoyance. 

Honestly, as outrageous as the premise is, that’s exactly what makes “Dash & Lily” fun. It’s light-hearted and ridiculous, so far removed from real life that it’s the perfect distraction from all the joys of 2020. Dash and Lily don’t have to stay six feet apart or wear masks. Dash and Lily are blissfully unaware that COVID-19 even exists. But more than that, in a time where everything feels serious, “Dash & Lily” is anything but. 

As they prance around New York City, their biggest problems are annoying, but refreshingly simple. Whether it’s Dash’s quest to return Lily’s red boot with nothing more than the label on the inside or Lily’s dare to go to a “Challah Back Boys” concert, “Dash and Lily” is full of hijinks that will turn that frown upside down, or at the very least, straighten it out a bit.

It was also nice to see diverse representation that didn’t come off as tokenistic. Lily’s brother, Langston, was in a relationship with a guy, but that wasn’t his only character trait. His scenes with Lily were sweet, and he faced normal relationship issues like trust and long distance. Lily herself is half-Asian, but she’s granted her own, developed personality. It might seem like a small thing, but it was nice to see a Christmas movie love story involving someone other than your usual Hallmark™ 5-foot-9, blue-eyed, blonde model.

Unfortunately, this is a Netflix original, so of course it’s not perfect. Both Dash and Lily come off as “I’m not like other kids” teenagers. There’s nothing wrong with individuality, but Lily’s character seems to think her dedication to originality makes her better than other girls her age. And Dash acts like he’s too cool for “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” instead choosing to watch “a depressing French film about murder.” 

I will say that you definitely have to be in the right mood to enjoy “Dash & Lily.” If you detest Christmas movies more than I usually do, this probably isn’t something you should invest your precious time in. If you don’t mind romance movies, but you’d prefer them to have a more serious tone or insightful message, I’d recommend you skip this one. 

That said, I still think it’s worth watching. “Dash & Lily” isn’t going to change your outlook on life, but hey, it’s fun. The fake snow isn’t egregious, and the mistletoe is used tastefully. So give it a shot, and maybe you’ll find yourself with a little extra holiday cheer.