Holiday Rom-Com ‘Dash & Lily’ Does the Genre Proud

The Netflix series provides viewers with imperfectly perfect escapist TV.

Contains spoilers for Dash & Lily.

Watching eight holiday-themed episodes of Dash & Lily makes me long for the day when we’re allowed to leave our homes again — at least without masks. It’s almost impossible to watch the Netflix holiday rom-com and not dream about living in a post-pandemic world, especially if you’re like me and tend to put everything on a pedestal.

I dream of the day when I can finally visit New York City, the setting of Dash & Lily. Every year, without fail, I tell myself — and anyone willing to listen — that I’m going to visit New York. Once I’m in NYC, I’m instantly going to be the person I’ve always wanted to be, someone who’s outgoing, enjoys working at coffee shops, and lives in the moment.

Fast forward to 2020 and those plans were once again put on hold — because all plans have been put on hold, until further notice. I’m tired of watching shows and movies and daydreaming about how lovely it would be to walk outside, without the risk of a deadly virus. Although I’m a rom-com addict and gobble up shows such as Emily in Paris and Dash & Lily, I’m ready to start living my life again — we’ve all been living vicariously long enough through the eyes of make-believe characters. And I’m also ready for my articles to not have references, subtle or not, to a fucking pandemic that has swallowed 2020 whole.

Getting back on track, Dash & Lily is a perfectly splendid show that provides the ideal holiday escape. It holds a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, if you care about those types of things. There are countless reasons to love this Christmas romance. For one, the series pits a cynical Dash (Austin Abrams) with an optimistic Lily (Midori Francis). Dash & Lily is far-fetched, like all rom-coms, but it’s not too cheesy. Privilege bursts at the seams, without feeling cringe-worthy.

‘Dash & Lily’ is more about finding a partner than the contemporary raunchy rom-com that celebrates sexual desire and liberty.

At the heart of it, Dash & Lily is about two people who’ve never met. But they manage to form a relationship through a game of makeshift Truth or Dare, assisted by a red notebook. Dash and Lily dare each other to do mostly harmless tasks in holiday-themed New York City. The catch: They’ve never met and they’re not allowed to use the internet during these challenges. They, instead, trust each other enough to complete the dare, as well as leave the shared notebook at a predetermined location.

Although they’re both alone, they arrive at this state via different circumstances. Dash is alone because his divorced parents are traveling for the holidays — and he cleverly tells each parent that he’s staying with the other. Lily finds herself mostly alone on the holidays because her parents are in Fiji and her grandpa is in Florida. But alas, her older brother Langston (Troy Iwata) is there to watch over her. Lily has never been kissed and loves Christmastime. Dash hates Christmas and has more relationship experience as he’s still crushing on his ex-girlfriend.

I love a good raunchy rom-com. Friends with Benefits is probably my favorite, but Holidate was a pleasant surprise and it wasn’t afraid to show how nastyyy some rom-coms can get. Dash & Lily is a young adult series, so the raunchiness is rightfully toned down, yet the story isn’t afraid to visit sexual situations. But unlike a lot of “hip” rom-coms nowadays, Dash & Lily is more about the journey of finding a partner than bedding a total stranger.

‘Dash & Lily’ is a Christmas movie that spreads holiday cheer.

Although I’ve never been to New York City, there’s something special about Christmastime in New York. (Trust me, I’ve seen enough rom-coms to spot this effortless enchantment.) Dash & Lily could have easily taken place in, say, Denver or Chicago, but New York City is the perpetual dynasty when it comes to cities. (It’s the place people constantly asked me if I was from while I studied abroad.) Friends have told me that garbage and bad odor flood NYC during the summer, and I’ve seen the 2020 pictures that have depicted it as a ghost town. In a normal year, however, New York City and the holidays provide the perfect setting for a fairytale in the making. After all, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere — and that includes love.

I’ll never argue with people who claim Die Hard is the best Christmas movie, let alone a Christmas movie. It’s a fine movie that happens to take place during the holidays. I don’t care to label it not-a-Christmas-movie. If I can get people to listen to Christmas music and watch holiday movies with me, the definition is the least of my concern. Having said that, Dash & Lily is a holiday movie through and through. The show doesn’t just take place during the holidays — it’s a show that spreads holiday cheer while providing some Christmas magic.

Dash and Lily challenge each other to leave their comfort zones throughout their quests. They’re both stuck in a funk, trying to manage the holidays as lonely singles. Each episode takes the characters on a truly unique adventure. And, against all odds, they not only find love, but they manage to change for the better, which is so hard to do when you’ve been a certain way for your entire life.

Our lives have been flipped upside down and many of us have created bad habits in the process as most of us are stuck inside becoming more antisocial with each passing day, month, holiday. But like all good romantic comedies — and, face it, movies in general — Dash & Lily reminds viewers that people can change if they really want to. Best of all? Despite Dash & Lily not being perfect, the show creates what I can only imagine is a high-spirited and genuine modern New York. And that setting makes me happy. For everyone else, perhaps it can provide imperfectly perfect escapist TV.

Just a guy who likes to cruise the aisles at the local 7-Eleven | tslowry.writer@gmail.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store