The Endearing Jewishness of Hulu’s ‘Dollface’

The show stars kickass Jewish actresses Kat Dennings and Esther Povitsky.

With Season 2 of Hulu’s “Dollface” here, I find myself reflecting on the Jewishness woven into this series. The show is already a fun, cute and funny take on the importance of friendship, with plenty of memorable laugh-out-loud moments.

One scene that will live forever rent-free in my brain is when Jules Wiley (played by Kat Dennings) is pressured by her best friend Madison (Brenda Song) to ask her boss, Celeste (Malin Akerman), for a raise — without apologizing. Jules goes in, determined to demand her worth as a hardworking, feminist woman. The meeting goes south fast when she accidentally shatters Celeste’s Instagram-worthy glass desk. As her boss gapes at her in shock over the million shards of glass lying at her feet, Jules awkwardly stammers, “My God, Celeste, I am so sss— um, that is to say, this was generally regrettable by me.” The cherry (or matzah ball?) on top, though, is that there are some great Jewish actresses involved in this show, as well as some actual Jewish moments in the narrative.

First of all, let’s start with the star of the show, the fabulous Kat Dennings. Her given name is Katherine Victoria Litwack, and her family is Jewish. Every time I find out someone as smoking hot as Kat Dennings is Jewish, it brings me so much joy and satisfaction because it helps bring up the average for the rest of us (admittedly not difficult, because there are so many hot Jews out there, but I digress). Kat has said that being Jewish “is an important part of my history, but, as a whole, religion is not a part of my life.” (Mood.)

In “Dollface,” Kat’s character does not seem to be Jewish. Jules is, however, incredibly relatable in a wry, witty and charmingly awkward way. Her journey through a break-up and subsequently trying to rekindle the female friendships she’d let lapse alternates between pure vulnerability and a cathartic satire of the female experience.

In case you’re feeling like this was a missed opportunity, fear not: There is a Jewish character in the show! Her name is Izzy (more on this in a moment) and she’s played by the adorable, dynamic and hilarious Esther Povitsky. (Esther has referred to herself as a “half-Jew,” since her parents are interfaith.)

Izzy is Jules’s intense, socially awkward but somehow endearing work colleague who lied that her name was Alison so she could fit in with the other two Alisons at work. Madison helps her come up with a dramatic cover-up story so that she can finally come clean to the Alisons about her name really being Izzy Levine. Jules’s other best friend, Stella (Shay Mitchell), describes Izzy’s personality by telling her, “You’re kind of like if drugs were a person.”

I do, however, have mixed feelings about the way Izzy’s Jewishness is portrayed. Part of me connects to the hilarity of the Jewish jokes that come up, and part of me wonders if they go too far. For example, in the Christmas episode of season one, all the friends gather for the annual SantaCon convention they love to attend. Madison and Stella both wear sexy Santa dresses, and Izzy enters, dressed in a blue Santa hat and velvet jumpsuit along with fake peyot (Hasidic earlocks) and a bushy beard. She also totes a large blue Santa bag filled with fresh challah, each with her number written on the bottom in Sharpie so she can toss them to cute guys and say, “Challah at ya girl!” Even typing this, I chuckle — I kind of love the idea of Jewish baked goods as a punny opening line. But it’s also such a bizarre stereotyped version of a Jewish person during the winter holidays that I’m not sure I should find it funny? At any rate, the challah does play an integral part in that episode, exposing a man who claimed he could not have murdered someone at a Panera Bread because he has Celiac disease, all the while absently nibbling on the challah. (If you want it to make more sense, go watch the show.)

Overall, though, Izzy has far more depth than just the token Jew, and her Jewishness is not generally the central focus of her character or the jokes. (And while I don’t plan to show up to any Christmas festivities dressed as Hannukah Harry anytime soon, I might explore the challah icebreaker, because anything is better than being almost 30 and trying to meet people on dating apps.)

The show creator and producer, Jordan Weiss, also happens to be Jewish, so maybe that’s why we get a show with two such kickass and dynamite Jewish actresses.

Overall, it’s an enjoyable and amusing show, and I’m really excited to see what hilarious gags and shenanigans the characters get up to in this new season (and yes, also to drool over how attractive Kat Dennings is).

Kate Hennessey

Kate Adina Hennessey (she/they) is the Education Director for an LGBTQ-founded synagogue in Atlanta. When she isn't writing about feminist Jewish things, she is posting her art on Instagram, going to therapy, and reading tarot for her friends after D&D sessions.

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