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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dash & Lily is a series about two high schoolers who connect with each other via a journal they leave in public places in New York City during the holidays. The series' tone is light and sweet, leaning hard on twinkling lights and Christmas magic and hard-to-believe coincidences; it's also quite charming. There's some drinking, like when Dash pours himself a large snifter of his dad's brandy, and when older friends of Lily's drink from a flask; there's also a morning-after party scene where two characters appear to be hung over. Lily's older brother (who might be a teen or young twentysomething) uses Grindr to find hookups; he falls in love with one date and the two are touchingly affectionate and supportive of Lily in the rest of the series. One scene hints that Lily's interrupted the pair in the middle of oral sex; scenes between Dash and Lily veer more towards sweet kisses and getting-to-know-you flirting. Language is infrequent: "hell," "asshole," "bitch." Dash & Lily's cast is diverse in terms of race, ethnicty, age, sexual identity, and socioeconomic status, it feels natural in a big, bustling city and no one makes a big deal about their differences. Adult authority figures are somewhat absent -- Lily's grandfather and great aunt appear to give her advice and love after a few episodes, but Dash's parents are largely unavailable. Communication and courage play a major part in the series, with characters finding out how to seek and find the things they want in their lives.
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What's the story?
Based on the Dash & Lily series of young adult books by authors Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, DASH & LILY takes place in current-day NYC, where high schoolers Lily (Midori Francis) and Dash (Austin Abrams) are both having difficult Christmases when they make contact with each other via a red journal Lily leaves in The Strand bookstore right next to her favorite novel of all time, Franny & Zooey. The journal contains clues to Lily's identity, and dares that Dash must complete before she's willing to reveal more. It looked like it was going to be a lonely Christmas for both of them, but if they can find a way to find each other, that might just change.
Is it any good?
It lands like a Hallmark holiday movie for the YA set and might be insufferable if it weren't for this series' authentic appeal, mostly personified in the form of its two gorgeous, lovable leads. Midori Francis just glows as Lily, a high schooler whose traumatic past of bullying and exclusion has left her gunshy towards seeking new friend her own age, particularly of the male, romantic variety. And Euphoria's Austin Abrams is simply adorable as a boy whose family troubles and romantic disappointments have rendered him slightly prickly towards his peers. Both lonely at Christmas, both looking for something to fill their lives yet afraid to reach out and get it; of course these two are destined to come together, but getting there sure is fun. Particularly when we're spending time in Lily's life, where her sweet, supportive big brother Langston (Troy Iwata) gives his sis advice in between falling in love with his own Grindr-hookup-turned-adoring-boyfriend.
Dash & Lily's setting is also pleasingly festive. Has there ever been a Christmastime New York City captured on film quite like this? Instead of sticking to cliched locations like Rockefeller Center and Macy's Santaland (although those two iconic locations do make brief appearances), Dash & Lily mostly sets its tale of relatable Christmas magic in everyday places like The Strand bookstore, strung with holiday lights, and the Two Boots pizza parlor. Of course, the gimmick that brings Dash and Lily together (eventually) is ridiculous; leaving clues for each other in a Christmas-red notebook is so cutesy it's saccharine, and viewers will be forgiven their Grinch-like thoughts that the whole scheme basically relies on leaving an object in public for 10 million people to not steal, but it's hard for said cynical thoughts to linger under Dash & Lily's charm offensive. May this sweet series become a Christmas classic of its own, hopefully with equally enchanting seasons to come.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether it's OK to show teen sex and drinking in series aimed at teenage viewers. Do shows like Dash & Lily present a realistic view of teen life, or is anything exaggerated for entertainment? What would the real-life consequences of the characters' behavior be?
Does Dash & Lily make being a teen look like fun? Is it realistic? Do the teens you know look and act like this? Do they have these types of problems? Does a show have to be realistic to be enjoyable?
If you've read the Dash & Lily book series, how does the Netflix series compare? What was left out of the series? Was anything added? What do you think about the differences? Which is better?
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