In this last year we’ve dealt the cancellation of a lot of shows, but none seemed to hit us as hard as the cancellation of Sweet/Vicious. It’s a show that fundamentally changed all of us and made us want to change the conversations we were having about sexual assault. Sweet/Vicious changed my life – giving me the courage and strength to deal with my own sexual assault.
Being as it is something that we talk about frequently – how much we miss it, the way that it changed us, some of us say down and wrote about how we are feeling about the cancellation, what we miss, and how we hope that the show will be picked up by someone else.
In a world where writers often turn rape into a fetishist daydream, where the end result is the male hero enacting revenge porn on the men who “wronged him”, while the woman remains voiceless and bloodied (more typically dead), Sweet/Vicious gave the narrative back to the survivors. The sexual assault stories told weren’t meant to shock and awe in a way that did nothing but make spectacle out of women’s pain or show a woman’s “worst fear” as a voyeuristic means of controlling them. The stories were real, incredibly powerful, frustrating, sad, and honest, because they are happening to people all across the U.S., at a rate of one every 98 seconds, according to RAINN.
The show didn’t take the narrative from the survivors or show a rape and promptly move on to the next thing. This is also its power. The show’s willingness to dive into the difficult subject material, coupled with its voice of advocacy, allowed the issues of sexual assault to be raised in a way that made it feel safe – difficult at times, certainly, but like we had a gentle hand guiding us to understanding. Jules and Ophelia led us there, with heart, sass, and way too much vomiting. (Seriously, get it together Ophelia). Jules’ story gave other survivors a voice, a lens to teach lessons, enact her own version of revenge, and change the conversation about the structural dynamics of college campuses and rape that are most definitely being ignored EVERY SINGLE DAY.
For all its moments of “this would never happen” it had five that you knew had. The heart, the pain, the real stories, the fact that Jules was so badass about facing down armed men but faltered against her own rapist, and the heartbreaking sense of helplessness and frustration of having rapists walk free because of money, athleticism, and because people still believe that women are always asking for it, made the show so, so necessary and moving. We aren’t talking about the complexities of sexual assault stories enough. We need to, because through education comes understanding, and through understanding, compassion flows. (Hopefully the sort of compassion that changes laws and society’s perceptions of survivors).
Sweet/Vicious matters because survivors matter, because their voices matter, and because this show gave a perspective not meant to please the creepy need men have to show women as victims of violence in media as a lens to show men’s heroism. Survivors have power, humor, love, pain, and humanity in the wake of violence, and the show honored this. Humanity and love was the core of the story, and it was everything we need right now.
This year feels like it was an especially brutal one on the cancellations front – and the one that hit the hardest for me was Sweet/Vicious. The show caught my interest from the moment I saw the trailer debut during Teen Wolf’s panel at San Diego Comic-Con last summer, and when I saw the pilot during New York Comic Con that fall, I knew I would be hooked. Fierce, funny ladies with an amazing friendship and a badass mission to take down sexual predators on campus? What’s not to love?
While Sweet/Vicious stayed true to these core elements throughout the season, it grew into something so much more. By delving into the backstories (or should I say origin stories?) of Jules (Eliza Bennett) and Ophelia (Taylor Dearden), particularly Jules’ own sexual assault and the aftermath, the show conveyed essential stories week after week. It showed us that rape isn’t always a dangerous stranger in a dark alleyway – it can be someone you know and trust, in a space you feel safe in, and a quiet but no less horrifying and traumatic event. That even when there are systems in place for victims of sexual assault – counselors, rape kits, and policies on campus – you might not get the help you need or the justice you deserve. It showed us complex friendship dynamics, which sometimes meant fights and fallouts, but mostly meant so much girl power, empowerment, and support.
Jules and Ophelia were able to take down Nate, Jules’ rapist, but their work was far from over. I’m still so saddened by MTV’s decision to cancel a show that brought such critical issues to light – issues supported wholeheartedly by the cast and creatives online, who shared resources and interacted with fans week after week. Their passion and general awesomeness deserves to continue to be heard. Jules and Ophelia’s story should continue, too. I hope that another network will give Sweet/Vicious the second chance it deserves… but whether or not that happens, I hope that everyone will learn from the incredible season we were blessed with on MTV. None of the characters are just one thing, but if we can channel the strength of Jules, the supportiveness of Ophelia, the sunshine of Tyler, the heart and humor of Harris, and the empowering nature of Kennedy, we’ll be off to a good start.
I’ve been trying to think of an eloquent way to describe how upset I am over the cancellation of Sweet/Vicious but honestly the only thing I can say that sums it all up is : it fucking sucks.
Seriously, it blows. Like this show, there were so many great things about it from it’s storyline, to the cast, to the fans even! The passion this show had was incredible and something magical. It never failed to keep me entertained, wanting more and even feeling so deeply about characters. Somehow, it resonated with me. Maybe I’ve never been in Jules’s situation, but I’ve definitely been in Ophelia’s — where she was almost assaulted during the takedown gone wrong. Which was weird, because I never thought about it until it was shown on screen, until her reaction was the same as mine, and it hit home…really hard. It may be small and stupid, but it meant something to me, for however stupid it seems.
Being able to connect with a television character is always something special, but being being able to connect with a television character over a specific thing they went through makes the show all the more better. You feel not only represented, not only heard, but understood, even in the smallest way possible. You’re like, okay that reaction was normal. These characters may be fictional, but it doesn’t make you feel any less like you have someone who knows what it’s like. (CC: To Taylor Dearden and Jenn Kaytin Robinson for that scene, I love you, obviously).
For the start, Sweet/Vicious was highly, highly underrated — even by it’s own network. There was barely any advertisements or marketing going in with this. I rarely saw a commercial for it, there was almost nothing on their website and yet, through the lack of marketing, this show persisted. Their fanbase suddenly exploded around the same time as the premiere — maybe that had something to do with being right after Teen Wolf or the fact that for some reason MTV decided to put the first three episodes online, but who knows. Either way, it gained a beautiful and intense fandom who was generally so excited about the show and about the beautiful ladies involved. I think the fans were incredible, not only for their massive bravery in speaking out and sharing their stories over sexual assault, but also for the smaller things like making petitions for renewal or even asking Netflix to pick up the show. You can seriously see how much this show impacted them and how much they understood how necessary this show was.
And it was, this show was necessary. I think it popped up on everyone’s radar around the same time as the Stanford rape trial. It was timely and even though it had been in the works for a while, Sweet/Vicious kinda shook everyone awake like “hey, this is a thing! we’re gonna talk about it! on tv!” It still had the element of heightened reality, sort of playing like a superhero show at times, but at it’s core, Sweet/Vicious was about a very real, very serious topic. Sexual assault as a major theme needs to be tread lightly. It can be portrayed wrongly — either by being too light on the subject, or making it the butt of a joke. Yet, Sweet/Vicious managed to capture it almost perfectly. Again, I have never been sexually assaulted, so this is just my opinion. I think that they were able to weave together the seriousness of the issue with the lightheartedness of a superhero duo. Eliza Bennett and Taylor Dearden just click and make it seem real. They play off each other and I think it’s what I’m going to miss most about the show — their chemistry. Seriously though, they’re friendship goals.
The fact that this show was female led, female ran and just overall female, really resonated with me. Especially in this day and age where we need more female superheroes. And that’s what Jules and Ophelia were — superheroes. Maybe not taking down Ares like Wonder Woman, but doing what they can to protect Darlington. Plus, they’re the best kind of superheroes; the relatable kind. Like it was so cool to see these girls kicking ass and taking names, but it was even cooler to see that they were still able to be vulnerable. They were still human with emotions like kindness and love, but just wanting justice. Heroes are people who stand up for what’s right, no matter the consequences.
I mentioned how I loved that this show was almost entirely female, which is great because I’m a huge supporter of girl power. Which is why the cancellation of Sweet/Vicious was a kick in the vagina — yes mostly because we were losing a bomb ass tv show, but also because MTV had already cancelled ALL of their female-led, ran and produced shows. Loosely Exactly Nicole and Mary Jane had already been cancelled which made me fear for the worst.
Sweet/Vicious was an original television show, which is something we don’t see very often or at all from MTV. In my humble opinion, it is the best, original scripted show to come out of MTV in a very long time. To come out of television in general. Nowadays, I feel like I’m being bombarded with reboots (Twin Peaks, Gilmore Girls, ROSEANNE for God’s sake) or execs are giving season renewals to shows that probably should just stay one season (13 Reasons Why – there I said it) Sweet/Vicious was purely original content; it wasn’t a reality show or based off a book, or a comic, or a movie that they made into a television show ( Teen Wolf fans, you know it’s true.) It was a story that was raw and powerful, funny and refreshing, and completely it’s own!
Overall, this show was slept on. By MTV, by people, by the majority of television watchers. And honestly, who knows why. It’s upsetting and I don’t think I will ever be fully over it? I’ve never felt this strongly about a show or rallied so hard for a show to be renewed. Sweet/Vicious was ambitious and they hit their mark every time it came. It’s narrative was real and timely — something that affects everyone, whether you are a survivor of sexual assaulted or know a survivor. It had well rounded characters and hopes and dreams of a second season (I’m mad about never being able to see a musical episode or a party episode where all of them are dressed like the vigilantes) I really do hope it gets picked up by another network, or even goes online with Hulu. This show has such an important voice and it deserves to be heard.
Honestly, the only good thing — and I say good very lightly, to come out of this was how the show ended. There was really only one large cliffhanger which was when Nate was confronted by the president of Darlington’s son. (I’m pretending that Tyler will never find the piece of Jules’s backpack and they live happily ever after) Otherwise, we see the girls take their vagilante status to the next step, opening it up to the students of Darlington and Darlington responds! Would I love love love LOVE to see Jules and Ophelia take down more baddies? Uhm, hell yes. But unfortunately, we’re just left to imagine the kinds of take downs the girls do. I believe in them though, they’ll do just fine.
In the end, Sweet/Vicious was something honest and something other shows should look up to. From how to handle certain plots that can be tricky to portray accurately, from the seriousness of sexual assault and police bias, to the light-hearted stuff like relationships and friendships (MORE PLATONIC GUY/GAL FRIENDSHIPS 2K17) — these are all things Sweet/Vicious was able to make feel real. This show was completely itself and not afraid to be brave, so yeah it was kind of uncomfortable at times, but I’m so grateful for a show like this. There no sugar coating or trying to portray the world through rose colored glasses, it was just honest. And now, it’s filed under: Shows that shouldn’t have been cancelled, right under Freaks and Geeks. Hopefully it achieves a cult classic status (which I think it’s totally deserving of) and we can just have a Vanity Fair spread ten years down the line or do a reboot or something and check in on the girls later in life, right? Okay. Cool.
Wrapping this thing up with a huge thank you to Jenn Kaytin Robinson for creating this show, Eliza Bennett and Taylor Dearden for taking on the roles of Jules and Ophelia and bringing them into my life and for all the fans out there who have shared their survivor stories or are actively seeking ways to stop sexual assault. I love you all, you are all so awe-inspiring and beautiful and wonderful and lovable and wow just know that you are so strong. I’m proud of you all so much. Being able to recap this show and interact with fans online was something special and I will be forever grateful for it. Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.
You know, I had to slip a Wicked reference in there, come on now. Love you long time.
I think the thing that made Sweet/Vicious not just important, but crucial, is that it showed me that there are many different ways of strength, that friendship can be the foundation for rebuilding, and ultimately, that it showed me that no matter how hard things get or how defeated and scared you feel, you can overcome anything. It’s especially important because it showed me all these things within the context of something that happens to a young woman, someone I could relate to, even if I’ve never been in her shoes.
And that’s why the cancellation, to put it bluntly, sucks – it sends the message that female stories, and stories about sexual assault, stories about women finding strength within themselves and each other are not important enough and don’t deserve the same platform as perhaps superhero stories and over-the-top dramas do. And that’s a lie. These stories matter. These stories are not just good stories, they change lives and give people strength and TV is for entertainment, yes, but sometimes, not often, but sometimes, it can do more than that. It can change lives. Sweet/Vicious was that.
Which is why, my hope for the future is, best case scenario, someone picks it up. Worst case scenario, however, we at least make sure everyone remembers this show, even if we can’t get any more episodes. Because this show deserves it. We deserve it. Victims everywhere deserve it.
Sweet/Vicious is important because it acts as a bridge, a connection, between people that have never met each other but know each other. They know the fear, pain, and trauma of what has happened to these people they’ve never met because it’s happened to them. In their homes, in their schools, in their places of work. Assault has happened to them and only those who have experienced this can understand how valuable Sweet/Vicious is or understand the connection that it has established.
Sweet/Vicious talked to these people like they were humans, not broken remnants left over after their assault. It talked to them like they were still women, mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, and people. It didn’t strip away their identity and put the focus of the story only on the violence. They had lives, loves, and other issues that kept them going while they struggled to move past the assault. And to be completely honest, and as a victim of assault, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a portrayal such as the one of Sweet/Vicious with Jules. She was real, hurt, but still fighting to survive. Just like we do every single day. And it was inspiring.
Jules story was so damn beautiful and essential for survivors to see and I’m still baffled that MTV didn’t think this was enough to keep it on air. Survivors need stories like this to teach them that there is life after assault and that they will come out of this, fiercer than ever before. Taking away Sweet/Vicious helps paint this picture that stories like Jules aren’t important enough for us to have a conversation about. It makes it a secret, a shameful thing, that executives, producers, and companies don’t want to invest money in.
Going forward, I hope that networks get their heads out of their money sacks and think about what kind of legacy they want to leave and what kind of conversations they want to start. Sweet/Vicious is a conversation in the line of shows like 13 Reasons Why, hella uncomfortable but necessary for this day and age. If they take a risk and bring back Sweet/Vicious to our screens they’ll be forming that connection again, the one between survivors that have never met before, which is truly invaluable.
What are your thoughts on Sweet/Vicious? Do you miss it as much as we do?