Dummy Review: Thinly-Veiled Vanity Project Lives Up to Its Name

Based on writer and creator Cody Heller's relationship with Dan Harmon, Quibi's new dramedy Dummy stars Anna Kendrick as Cody (creative naming) who discovers her boyfriend Dan (Donal Logue) has a sex doll. If that wasn't enough to grab your attention, then how about the fact that the doll starts talking to her? Still not sure? Smart move. I know I said I wouldn't be watching, but apparently I'm a sucker for disturbing things so my editor told me I should give it a chance, so here we are. They say not to judge a book by its cover (or a show by its trailer), but in some cases, it lives up to be just what it says on the tin. She didn't even bother to change the names. This is a vanity project that maybe has an audience for two, and that's Harmon and Heller themselves. I should've seen it coming when Heller never even bothered to change the names. It's like an inside joke that isn't worth the time trying to figure out.

My best answer as to why it exists is that Quibi wanted names, and a show about Harmon by his current girlfriend seemed like a big enough celebrity draw, though I'm not entirely sure how or why. Maybe the fact that she cast Kendrick to play herself, and she attracts the 20-something male audience? Honestly, your guess is as good as mine, but those would explain the off-color "wannabe feminist but really problematic" tone of the comedy.

Anna Kendrick stars in Dummy, courtesy of Quibi.
Anna Kendrick stars in Dummy, courtesy of Quibi.

I know how movies go and Quibi is really just a movie script broken down into beats, which equate out to chunks of a story less than 10 minutes or so apiece. As such, a movie has to have characters start off in a place that's not great so there's something to learn and somewhere for them to grow to by the end of it, be that good (the hero) or bad (the villain). Quibi did Dummy a real disservice here by only having the first four episodes available – where basically none of the characters are likable and the women are caustic, annoying, and crass leaving the boyfriend as the only endearing character.

This series might get better and the characters less problematic by like episode 7, but I will be shocked if anybody sticks with it long enough to not hate everything about it. I really don't want to judge a creator for the content they have their name attached to, but this leaves me seriously questioning Heller and her intentions. If this is how she sees herself, is this an accurate portrayal, meaning that both the characters of Cody and Barbara (the talking sex doll) are her own views and her personal monologue? If so, maybe this script should have landed in her therapist's hands and not on the development desk – it's full of faulty logic that isn't addressed, caustic language and situations without a valid reason or payoff, and incessantly annoying, irritating characters. What pains me is that I'm pretty sure these issues will get better with the character arcs as the series progresses and they may even become likable, but I cannot stick it out to that point to save my life. I really can't. It's caustic, frankly triggering series that wants to bill itself as feminist, but really isn't. That would be okay if it just wasn't feminist, but it goes too far in the opposite direction, often proving the complaints of men against feminists while driving away any women who happen to be watching.

I am so over this show by not even the end of the second episode. It more than implies that a female writer isn't respected nor hot because she wasn't harassed by her agent who was brought down by "me too" charges. And what's worse is that it's not coded as wrong or over the line – and that's a big problem because it's so easy to believe terrible things like that and then wrap your self-worth up in little things that are incredibly untrue. This is a problematic take, despite being written and created by a female writer and based on her experiences.

Dummy Didn't Get Better By Chapter 3

And yet, as a dutiful journalist and reviewer, the three-episode rule is still in full effect, so I pressed on. And let me tell you, it only got worse. So bad that I nearly stopped mid-episode (and that's impressive given that episode 3 is only 6 minutes long) and deleted the entire Quibi app of my phone. On the way to fix the tear in Barbara's arm, we have a fun car-ride banter between Cody and Barbara, where Barbara talks at length about how Cody isn't funny, Dan doesn't like her, and she can always hear them having sex. She then goes on to tell her that her bedroom role-playing (which involves rape play) makes her not a feminist and kink-shames her for the consensual role play sex she has with her boyfriend. The worst part about all of this? It's played off for comedy. I'm supposed to laugh at a girl getting berated by her subconscious/talking sex doll for something that is so very often used as a healthy way to work through mental and emotional trauma inflicted by a similar event.

But sadly, the problematic comparisons to traumatic violence against women don't end there, and it's only a six-minute episode. They finally arrive at their destination: a sex shop so Barbara can be repaired. The repair guy hoists her up on a winch and strips her so he can properly evaluate the damage and wear. This is a normal event, until the sex doll (who only Cody can hear) starts screaming, crying, and begging her to make it stop. Something about a sex doll who has been presented as a human-like character in her own right, even given a name, in distress, crying about being poked at and prodded is very creepy: too uncanny valley in the "being taken advantage of and having things done against your will" department. Honestly, I know both Cody and Barbara are supposed to be feminist, but this crosses so very many lines, and not for any reason. Yes, we're supposed to feel bad for Barbara, but there are a thousand and seven better ways to do that than with a rape-like scene. It's caustic without a good reason, and it's not funny, effective, or meaningful. It comes across more for shock value.

Now that I mentioned it, none of the first three episodes of this show have been funny at all. If it's supposed to be a raunchy, mature comedy, where is the humor? All I'm picking up on is sadness, emotional trauma, and unresolved demons from the writer, who is clearly using this as a therapy tool to process something. Perhaps being involved with a male writer whom she feels like she can never live up to comedy or writing-wise? Whatever the case, this is not a series for public consumption. I hope the involved parties in that relationship found the processing capacity they needed from this show because I don't see how it can be mistaken for anything resembling entertainment. And if these scenarios genuinely entertain you, maybe you should get that looked at.

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About Eden Arnold

Having spent far too much time in front of the television growing up, Eden has lots of opinions about television (as well as movies and everything else). She puts this to good use along with her journalism degree and writing experience with by-lines over the years in many print publications, books, and online media outlets. You can find her on Twitter at @Edenhasopinions
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