Sweet/Vicious: A Show Directly Criticising Rape Culture In American Colleges

Jules: I know how to do things most people don’t. There is stuff happening out there and no one is doing anything about it. People are just getting away with awful things. I’m trying to make some of that right.

Ophelia: That’s the plot of Batman.

Having already axed female-led comedies Loosely Exactly Nicole and Mary + Jane, it seems as if the crime-fighting duo of Ophelia and Jules is next. Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s Sweet/Vicious is the kind of earnest portrayal of rape culture in colleges that deserves a second season. However, due to ratings and MTV (understandably) wanting to make maximum profit from their scripted series it looks as if that might not be the case. Teen Wolf, one of MTV’s biggest scripted successes, is finishing its last season this year and The Shannara Chronicles and Scream have both been renewed for a respective second and third season. But if there might be a place for Sweet/Vicious on the network for a sophomore run, here’s why you should watch it.

The series chronicles Jules, a sorority girl who is raped one drunken night by her best friend’s boyfriend. In realising that if she reports the sexual assault it won’t be taken seriously, she takes matters into her own hands as a vigilante. Ophelia, a weed enthusiast and hacker, crosses paths with her and the two begin an unlikely comradeship. The show tackles rape culture on American campuses, sexual assault committed by females (although not female-on-male rape or male-on-male rape) and dealing with being a survivor. Jules feels alive when she becomes the duo vigilante team Sweet/Vicious with Ophelia, but otherwise feels empty since her traumatic experience.

It’s an honest, unflinching portrayal of something that has scarcely been shown on a mainstream network like MTV. While it acknowledges that the law may not always be on the victim’s side, due to victim-blaming and, in Jules’ case, an athlete committing the crime – it does encourage seeking help. Group therapy didn’t work for Jules but it certainly helps a lot of victims to be able to talk about their experiences in a comfortable space without stigmatising the topic.

One critic described the show as “Arrow” meets “Geek”. Sweet/Vicious features a bisexual lead character, a WOC as the head of a sorority and men who understand and comfort . It does not hate on men or use sexual assault as an insensitive plotline to accumulate attention. The scripts are embedded with humour and heart, blended seamlessly by the chemistry of the lead actresses Eliza Bennett and Taylor Dearden. There’s a certain satisfaction in watching their takedowns when justice has been denied by bigotry and the finale brings me back to watching Emily VanCamp on Revenge. If Sweet/Vicious manages to convince MTV to have a second run, I hope Jules and Ophelia come back with bigger, badder and better takedowns. There’s definitely strong potential for the series to deliver an equally- if not even grander – captivating season.

Author: Leandro Henriques

A pocket-sized Gemini with a lot to say.

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