Mild Dollface gay spoilers below!
Until I started Dollface, it had been a while since I felt I’ve been able to see my own life and friendships reflected in a comedy show I thoroughly and genuinely enjoyed. (I see myself in sci-fi all the time but let’s face it, being cursed to hunt revenants isn’t what my life looks like; even when I do see myself and my relationships reflected in characters.)
Growing up, I was younger than the target demographic for Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and Happy Endings. I thoroughly and genuinely enjoy shows like Yellowjackets, but I’m a far cry from my teenage years. Shows like Pivoting and Workin’ Moms are about adult friend groups but their lives don’t look like mine, mostly because of all the children involved. And shows like The Bold Type and Good Trouble are about young adults entering the workforce for the first time, which I’m past. But this season I’ve noticed a trend of shows about people in their late 20s/early 30s, already set in their jobs or realizing they have to change fields, still looking for love and figuring things out, that just happen to line up for me as someone in her 30s still figuring things out; we’re not as sloppy as we were in our 20s but that doesn’t mean chaos doesn’t break out from time to time. Our problems are a little more mature, and so are we…mostly. Recent shows include but are not limited to, How I Met Your Father, Grand Crew, and, the show we’re here to talk about today, Dollface.
I am ashamed to say I was very late to Dollface. As in, I didn’t watch Season 1 until two weeks before Season 2 came out and I was being bullied by Hulu into giving it chance. In Hulu’s defense, they were right. I love Kat Dennings, Shay Mitchell, and Brenda Song. I love shows about friendship. I love to laugh. I don’t have a good reason why I put it off for so long but I watched the first season in one sitting on a Saturday, and did the exact same thing when Season 2 came out. The show is funny and clever, plus it’s both different from other shows on TV while also feeling familiar. It has a fantasy element to it but only as a way to let us into the inner workings of Jules’ mind and subconscious, and as someone with a rich and colorful imagination, I can relate to that, too.
Season 1 follows Jules in her quest to re-learn how to have female best friends after years in a relationship with a man who she made the center of her universe. She had lost touch with Stella (Shay Mitchell) and Madison (Brenda Song) and while they rekindle their relationships, they adopt a newbie into the group, Izzy (Esther Povitsky), all while trying to navigate dating, work drama, and just…life. It’s funny and heartfelt and just a blast to watch.
I was nervous about Season 2; they had a lot to live up to, in my humble opinion. But they managed to keep the same vibe, the same humor and heart…plus, they made it gayer. Which is always a win in my book.
Spoilers for Season 2 incoming!
Season 2 begins in Summer 2021, breezing over the pandemic, lightly acknowledging it happened, optimistically pretending like it’s over even though sadly by the time this aired it was February 2022 and still going strong. Shay Mitchell’s Stella is trying her hardest to be a badass business bitch, but putting boring men in grey suits in their place is exhausting, so she storms to a bar and meets Liv, played by Lilly Singh, who is amused by her energy and lets her serve herself.
They hit it off immediately, the chemistry palpable. I don’t want to have the “should queer people play queer people” debate because I think it’s more complicated than the definite “trans people should play trans characters” rule I think should be carved into the Hollywood sign because so many “straight” actors who played queer ended up coming out after they were allowed that safe space to explore and think about that BUT ANYWAY like I said that’s a conversation for another day. I WILL say that when this particular queer Filipina actress and queer Indian actress play queer characters who are flirting with each other…it felt good. A win for queers the world over.
When Stella’s friends join her at the bar and eviscerate a man who tells them to smile, and then Izzy starts taking over the TV and they relish in having a bar all to themselves and not have to deal with men shouting about sports. Stella gets a brilliant business idea, and wants to work with Liv to turn the bar into a bar tailored for women. Now, of course this leans into some stereotypes that are a little eye-rolly, like how women hate sports and love The Bachelor, but if you think about it more like Stella wanted to open a bar that caters to her and her friends and then anyone else who would like that too, it’s a little easier to swallow. It’s not like they end up policing people about gender at the door, and the bar is called the Gi Spot after Lilly’s last name and everyone has a g-spot; plus, it’s not like they’re policing gender at the door. I personally wouldn’t hang out there but I also wouldn’t hang out in a sports bar while sports were on so to each their own.
Over the course of the season, Stella and Liv get closer as they work on the bar, smashing walls then smashing…well, each other.
Later, when she’s hanging out with her friends, Stella tries to find a natural way to bring it up, first talking about a potential client of Madison’s (Lotus Dragon Bebe, played by Poppy Liu, who played queer on the iCarly reboot and is queer and non-binary IRL) saying that they, as Asian women, should be embracing their own sexuality. When that segue doesn’t work, she tells them about her progress at the bar, mentioning sleeping with Liv between other tasks. When Jules gets too excited, Madison looks confused, and Izzy awkwardly says she’s capital P Proud, Stella says one of my favorite lines of the season, “Award for best performance by a supportive straight group of friends goes to….”
Stella and Liv’s journey continues through the season, having some moments that are more light and fun like Stella thinking she needs more toppy energy and buying a giant strap-on before realizing she’s actually a power bottom. It’s cute and fun and I think there’s something so special about the fact that Shay Mitchell, specifically, is playing this role. Somewhere around this point in the season I thought…Emily Fields swam so Stella Cole could fly.
Eventually Stella starts spending more time with Liv, and Liv’s son (who is named Bruno which is how I know this show wrapped filming before Encanto came out), and when that starts going well, they decide to be official girlfriends. Eventually they do run into some drama, because Stella had to watch her mother date men that came and went from her life and she’s worried about doing that to Bruno; and she likes Liv, but she’s not sure if she’s ready to have a kid, even though she did skip the Molly at a music festival so she wouldn’t be hungover when hanging out with Liv and Bruno the next day.
She pushes Liv away, until she realizes she has a pattern of blazing hot and fast and moving on instead of relishing in a slow burn. She tells Liv that she’s decided that one way she can avoid hurting Bruno is to decide to break that pattern. Stella chooses Liv. But Liv got spooked; she doesn’t want to be a hard decision, a challenge to overcome. So Liv doesn’t choose Stella back.
But they are still going to be partners in the bar, so if we are blessed with a third season of this brilliance, I have a feeling we’ll see more of these two.
I don’t know if it’s because this show has so many Canadians or what, but there are so many actors in it who are either queer in real life and/or have played queer before. Including but not limited to Michaela Conlin who played bisexual scientist Angela Montenegro on Bones and lesbian comedian Julie Goldman. The actress who plays Izzy also played queer(ish) in iCarly, and even Liv’s gay baby daddy Lucas is played by gay actor Colton Haynes. (Actually another one of my favorite lines of Stella’s is when she tells Madison Liv and Lucas made Bruno in a “maybe we’re bi” moment in college and Madison says maybe she needs one of those, Stella says, “No, you are deeply straight. I do not mean that as a compliment.”) There are also random queers scattered throughout the show, like Owen Thiele’s Q and a travel agent who tells Madison she once had a two-year “one night stand” with a woman named Soledad. It’s all just so…good!
Also don’t even get me started on the acting. Brenda Song is amazing but we’ve known this since Suite Life. Kat Dennings has impeccable timing always (during one particularly chaotic moment she just chimed in with, “Did you know you can just buy a broadsword on Amazon?” and I cannot explain to you why that simple line broke me but I had to pause the show because I was cry-laughing.) The way the four of them interact in different combinations just feels so natural and familiar to how I relate to my own friend groups (even though my friend groups have a cap at one token straight person instead of the reverse) in a way I don’t see on TV a lot. The show isn’t just about four friends navigating their jobs and relationships, it’s about four friends with jobs and relationships navigating their friendships, and I find that subtle shift really compelling.
And can we talk about Shay Mitchell?? Now, listen, I was an Emily Fields superfan and I once waited for an hour in a crowded Macy’s just to catch a glimpse of Shay Mitchell signing autographs even though I couldn’t afford to buy one myself, but of all the positive things I could dig deep and say about Pretty Little Liars, “The acting!” is not one of them. And I tried to watch #YouOn
LifetimeNetflix and I’m sure she’s great in it but I was so blinded by rage I could hardly tell. But Shay??? In this????? She’s phenomenal??????
It has me wondering if Shay has just improved with age like a fine (and I do mean FINE) wine, or if PLL was just such a beautiful disaster it was hard to see the diamond in the rough.
Either way, my love for Shay Mitchell has only grown brighter and stronger even though it never went out, which is yet another reason I hope hope hope we get more of this bisexual badass in a third season.