Dollface is a new Hulu Original Series starring Kat Dennings, Brenda Song, Shay Mitchell, and Esther Povitsky. The show follows Jules (Dennings) after her boyfriend of five years breaks up with her, leaving her alone and confused about how to move on with her life. Jules decides to reach out to the friends she left behind when she first got together with her now ex-boyfriend. As she tries to rekindle those friendships, she finds that true friendship takes a lot more than just deciding to show up in someone’s life.
In Dollface, we see the world through Jules’s eyes. Her larger-than-life imagination vibrantly colors an otherwise mundane world where a bus full of future cat ladies drives past a desert of guy’s girls, brunch is akin to Sunday church service, and an argument between two good friends literally splits the earth apart. This view from her perspective lets us understand her ambitions and opinions with saturated lucidity, but it doesn’t help the fact that she’s one of the less likable series protagonists. Dennings always does a great job of bringing characters to life, and when sitcom protagonists don’t have their act together, it’s entertaining to watch their journey through the trials and tribulations of growing up and learning about themselves and the people around them. The problem is that Jules’s imagination salves the lack of clever or even funny punchlines throughout the rest of the show.
The series takes the shape of a classic sitcom but boasts progressive aims, which is a difficult combination to execute well. Since Jules realizes she has neglected her friendships over the years, she feels more alone than ever. Her biggest fear is that she’ll become a lonely cat lady, embodied by an actual anthropomorphized cat dressed in a bus driver’s uniform. By showing Jules as a cat lady in the making and also separate from the wasteland of guy’s girls searching for validation from absent men, the show barrels directly past the point that these two groups actually construct a mutual landscape of women reinforcing hopeless gender norms and patriarchal support. Dollface dissonantly attempts to pit these groups against each other which reveals its blindness toward a nuanced understanding of progressive emotional bonds within a gendered context.
There are great sitcoms and T.V. series about women and their friendships, but Dollface falls short of joining them. At the end of each episode, Jules chooses to solve her problems the way she wanted to in the first place. Each episode shows her ask for advice, upend people’s lives, and eventually learn to trust her own voice. It’s true that this is the sequence of events that most people have to go through to learn about themselves and mature, but watching the way it unfolds in Dollface comes as a searing reminder that other sitcoms accomplish this kind of character development without using tired jokes or stereotypes and predictable set-ups. There’s plenty of emotional awareness to this show, but only a degree of emotional depth. That’s not to say that there’s none at all, just that the show seems like the result of an immature concept. Dollface is the perfect show to watch while you’re bored in a waiting room and forget about as soon as you leave.