Sweet/Vicious is a show about rapes on a college campus and the two women, Jules (Eliza Bennett) and Ophelia (Taylor Dearden), who teach those rapists a lesson. This education comes by way of feet, fists, and in one memorable scene, a Taser to the crotch. That’s the basic premise, but this show also manages to be insightful, funny, and even romantic at times. It’s a combination that makes Sweet/Vicious the most enjoyable scripted effort from MTV since Teen Wolf.
I should warn you about spoilers here. MTV released the first three episodes of Sweet/Vicious online. I plan to spill much of the tea about all of them. Spoiler-hating readers stop here.
Jules is Batman
If you read comics (or watch comic book movies), you know that every vigilante story starts with tragedy. Bruce Wayne’s parents, Matt Murdock’s dad, Peter Parker’s uncle, they all died in service to the various heroes’ crusade against injustice. In the case of Sweet/Vicious, Sorority sister Jules’ rape at the hands of another student is her “Martha Wayne” incident. She leaves college for the summer, learns to fight like a total bada$$ and returns. Then, between classes and sorority scavenger hunts, she dresses like a ninja and seeks out lowlife rapists.
While she’s beating up frat boys and catfishing teaching assistants who victimize women, Jules doesn’t go after the one guy who attacked her. Instead, she still sees him around campus. She’s forced to interact socially with him on a regular basis. In one scene in episode three, stuck in a vulnerable position, in her pajamas, in the room where he raped her, Jules must sit there as he and another character have a conversation. It is a terrifying moment. The mundanity of a polite conversation about love and mutual respect in a relationship swirls around a woman so obviously torn between fight or flight.
Having her get revenge on this piece of human garbage would be the easy move for the writers. It would probably be fleetingly satisfying for revenge-hungry viewers too, but it wouldn’t be honest. In reality, confronting the person who violated you is the hardest thing for any victim to do. Watching Jules suffer through this part of her recovery makes Sweet/Vicious horrifying but compelling viewing.
Ophelia is Batgirl
Though the show is tackling heavy issues, and rape is at the very top of the list of things that are never funny, Sweet/Vicious still manages to find the humor in almost every non-rape-related situation. Jules partner in a$$ kicking, Ophelia, is the primary source of laughs. While Jules is driven to fight criminals by tragedy, Ophelia, like Barbara Gordon who dressed up as Batgirl the first time for a costume party, stumbles into Jules’ life by accident.
A slacking, computer-hacking, bong-smoking, layabout, Ophelia joins in because it’s cool and she admires the work. Ophelia is less Batgirl and more Bat-Mite in the early episodes. She’s trying to help but instead ends up causing death and destruction.
While Jules uses the violence as a coping mechanism and to regain the power stolen from her, Ophelia is seeking purpose to her life. She finds her particular skillset (and side-job as a drug dealer) offers much-needed organization to the heretofore haphazard crusade against the worst humans on campus.
The chemistry between the two lead actors is perfect while the same isn’t true of the characters. This pairing is awful but also somehow very real. They don’t “Join Forces in a Common Cause,” they’re thrown together by some cosmic Lifetopia app and manage to make it work. In the process, they become something resembling friends.
The Sweet in ‘Sweet/Vicious’
When not kicking rapists’ a$$es, Jules meets a boy she likes at a party. She can’t get close to him because of her ongoing issues with intimacy after the rape. He’s also involved peripherally with one of the Sweet/Vicious duo’s takedown targets which further complicates the already impossible romance. He’s a genuinely good guy, one of only two we meet in the show’s first three episodes. The other is Ophelia’s best friend and boss at the record store (google “LP record”). He also manages to find a date. After putting aside his preconceptions about one of Jules’ drugged-up sorority sisters, he finds she is pre-law and genius.
The sisters are used mainly for comic relief. At the same time, they offer up valuable lessons on female survival on a rapey college campus. One of the funniest and subtly teachable moments comes when a couple of Jules’ sisters do mushrooms. The sorority is expecting a VIP guest any minute. Instead of just kicking the pair out, they make sure they’re in a safe place with someone to watch over them until the drugs wear off. There’s also a smart bit about how sororities should host the parties on college campuses (contrary to tradition) because they have more control over their safety in their house than elsewhere.
I can see shades of the ABC Family show GREEK in some of the college stuff, but Sweet/Vicious is wholly original. It’s engaging television. I suggest you stream all three available episodes now at MTV.com or on the MTV App. If you’re a more traditional viewer, MTV airs the first episode Tuesday, November 15 at 10pm right after Teen Wolf.