When Sweet/Vicious debuts next month, the MTV audience will be introduced to a unique take on a difficult, but extremely relevant, topic. The offbeat poppy comic-book story (starring Eliza Bennett and Taylor Dearden as protagonists Jules and Ophelia, respectively) is not a cookie-cutter drama or comedy -- and while there are lighthearted moments between the characters, the scripted series will be tackling the serious subject of abuse (including sexual assault) on college campuses.
A brief synopsis of the upcoming program, debuting on November 15: Jules and Ophelia take on double lives as students/news gatherers by day and wannabe superheroes in disguise at night exacting revenge on those who have committed reprehensible deeds (you can watch them in action above). The girls meticulously plot out who they will teach a lesson to and why, all while shining a light on a serious matter that has not been the centerpiece of a television series. Until now -- thanks to Sweet/Vicious creator Jennifer Kaytin Robinson.
"I just don’t see myself on TV right now," Robinson tells MTV. "I don’t see young women who are broken but who can also be fighters. I really wanted to write a show that would not only showcase women in a way that made them survivors but also in a way that made all the side characters on other shows the main characters on this show. We've got a survivor of sexual assault [Jules] and the weird, weed-dealing loner who suffers from depression and anxiety [Ophelia] -- and then you have Kennedy, who is African American and the head of a sorority. It’s not even talked about -- it’s just a thing. It’s an inclusive environment that never feels mean, and when characters meet who aren’t in each other’s worlds, they’re not mean to each other. I think if we saw more of this on TV, things would change.
"The other part of me just wanted to see girls kick ass. I just wanted to see them kick ass and not say sorry for it. And just be unapologetically themselves and unapologetically amazing."
And they are. The important tale -- mixed with sharp dialogue and fight scenes (that sometimes involve a bit of gore) -- is gripping. Robinson and executive producer Amanda Lasher compare the fictional backdrop to a college version of Gotham -- and it's a heightened reflection of what's unfolding in society. And it's clear (I visited the Los Angeles-based set several months ago) that everyone who is working on Sweet/Vicious feels a personal attachment to the project and a responsibility to represent instances inspired by real-life events.
"Every day, there would be a new headline about a different case that felt like it was resonating with what we were working on," Lasher says. "We collected the headlines, and the tonnage is heartbreaking."
"We’ve done so much research, so it’s an amalgamation of everything we’ve done and everything we’ve read because every story is so heart-wrenching," Robinson adds. "It’s hard to say, 'This one is based on this.' And out of respect for the people who lived these stories, we made sure that nothing felt exact to anything, because it shouldn’t. Those are real stories -- they're real people with real struggles. We wanted to make sure it felt true to how they felt, but no one is going to say, 'They took my story.'”
Ultimately, Robinson and Lasher want the audience to obtain a better understanding of sexual assault -- through the eyes of Jules, Ophelia and the rest of the talented cast.
"I hope survivors and all women in general watch this show -- and if it’s a girl who was afraid to speak up and didn’t know her options, now she'll know her options," Robinson says. "Or if it is a girl who did speak up and her friend didn’t understand, maybe that friend will watch this show and be like, 'Oh my god, I really didn’t understand.'
She continues: "We hope that this is something that people of all ages, genders, races and sexual orientations will watch, and we hope that they'll feel more heard. On the flip side, if it's someone who was intolerant before because they were not educated, maybe they will be a little bit more educated now."
Be sure to stay with MTV News for more Sweet/Vicious updates before the series premieres on Tuesday, November 15 at 10/9c following Teen Wolf.