Like many throughout the pandemic, I turned to a lot of media this summer. I re-watched old shows and also discovered new ones. One show that I found this summer, thanks to my amazing sister who has the best taste, is the old MTV show Sweet/Vicious. I haven’t felt this deeply moved by a TV show in a while, and really want to share it with everyone.
Sweet/Vicious is a dark comedy about an unlikely duo of young women that come together to avenge survivors of sexual assault on their college campus. Jules Thomas, a sorority girl with a double life as a vigilante and Ophelia Mayer, a weed-dealing computer hacker, end up in each other’s lives by chance and team up to fight systems of injustice. From the moment they sang “Defying Gravity” together in the pilot (rightfully called the blueprint, because it is the blueprint for wonderful television), I knew I was going to love this show. As a college student, I very rarely get to see TV shows that really capture what it feels like to experience college. High school is a more common setting for young adult fiction, and while I understand that high school is a pivotal time in a young person’s life, I feel like college stories are often overlooked, and it meant a lot to me to see women my age portrayed in this show. The worldbuilding is a perfect combination of comic book level drama and being very rooted in realistic circumstances. College is the perfect setting to examine the show’s topic of sexual assault because college are microcosms of society at large. Through their vigilante justice, we hear the stories of a variety of survivors, and get to explore the topic of sexual assault in all its complexities.
The writing is a perfect combination of serious and witty, dealing with tough issues with grace and compassion. The topic of sexual assault, which is a common one throughout the series, is never sensationalized or exploited. The show provides a trigger warning at the beginning of each episode, which is something I really appreciated. There are references to David Foster Wallace as well as references to Frozen. It’s the perfect dichotomy of intellect and goofiness that further adds to the relatability and believability of the characters and the world the show creates. The characters aren’t stereotyped or pigeonholed. The female characters specifically are flawed, complex, well-rounded characters. They are strong and vulnerable, badass and feminine. The side characters are also fleshed out and explored beyond just their relationship with Jules or Ophelia. The characters feel like real college students: we see how their double lives as vigilantes impact their grades and social lives, we see how their trauma shapes their interactions with each other and the world around them. We see these two women who are each dealing with their own issues make each other better while trying to make the world better too. The creative team behind Sweet/Vicious is also phenomenal and it’s no wonder the writing felt so real and true to young women, as the creator, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, has also worked on projects like Someone Great and the new movie Unpregnant on HBO Max (which I am so excited to watch!), that center young women and portray them as complex, well rounded individuals. [bf_image id="q6e2et-14w9jk-fy1g0w"]
The show was unfortunately extremely short-lived and I think its timing had a lot to do with why it didn’t blow up. It came out before the MeToo movement really hit the mainstream, in November of 2016 (a pretty eventful month), and I truly believe if it had come out a couple of years later, it would’ve become extremely popular and successful. Sweet/Vicious was a female-led show that had amazing characters and witty dialogue, dealt with tough topics in an effective and compassionate way without sensationalizing or simplifying, which was then unfortunately canceled by a male-led executive team. It’s especially sad that this show isn’t accessible on any streaming platforms, because as we’ve seen, a show being accessible like that can really catapult it to success, even years later. The season finale really did position them to continue and grow their fight for justice, and the creator has said in interviews that she was hoping to explore more stories about LGBT+ survivors as well as survivors of color. The show addresses not only sexual assault, but hazing and racial profiling. It comments on the justice system at large, and in a time where we’re all questioning the justice system and the institutions that perpetuate injustice, this show hits especially close to home. I’m sad I only discovered this show years after it came out, and I’m even sadder that it’s not accessible on a streaming platform so it doesn’t really get the chance to be as widely loved as I truly think it should be. I will never shut up about this show because I really do think it deserved better than it got. Jules and Ophelia will live on in a comic book based off of the series, and I hope that the comic book prompts more people to fall in love with these characters and these stories. Jules and Ophelia will always live on in my heart, and I hope they live on in yours too. #JupheliaForever #SaveSweetVicious.