The majority of the people I have met who have been victims of sexual assault use humor to cope. This does not mean they don’t have bad moments, or days, or weeks. This does not mean they don’t have to deal with the PTSD from that event in their lives. All it means is that they are trying their best to deal with the scars in their own way.
So when I saw two girls who had just accidentally murdered a sexual predator, sitting in a car with the dead body in their trunk, singing “Defying Gravity” together – I was not put off. I laughed. It was meant to be funny despite their histories and the magnitude of their current situation. I was hooked on the show because of that moment.
Despite MTV’s reputation for sometimes only having mediocre content, they released a show titled Sweet Vicious in November of 2016. It was the perfect time to have a show like this.
The show centers around two women, Ophelia and Jules, who team up as vigilantes to bring justice to the people who have gotten away with sexual abuse on their university campus. The show is funny. It can get a little campy and cliché, but it has never once failed to get its point across to its audience. It is real, truthful, raw, and emotional. It deals with all situations; every single reaction to sexual assault is shown from grief, to disbelief, to refusal to believe. It depicts how relationships and individuals can be broken from one act of violence. Though the majority of the show does center around female victims but there is a scene that includes a male victim of sexual assault.
The show covers every basis of the problem from inaction from authority to the police and the university hiding the problem. It covers how varied the reactions of people can be toward the news. And amidst the humor, it shows the very distressing reality of what it can mean to have been a victim of sexual assault. And while the show is about sexual assault, they are very sex positive in the situations where the act is consensual.
Jules happens to be a victim. Her past is what led her to become a vigilante and take down sexual abusers. She is a strong individual who can hold her own. And she is still just as strong when it becomes too much for her and she breaks down because of the memories she will never forget. Every single day she has to remember because her rapist was someone she once considered a friend. He is someone that was a part of her life and, for the time being, is still a part of her life.
Sweet Vicious shows the struggle of trying to find justice and how people are always skeptical of what really happened. Victims are discredited and eventually people grow tired of the constant battle and give up. Jules deals with this by herself. She goes to the university but they are no help. She does not feel like she can tell her best friend or anyone in her sorority for fear of backlash and changing all of their relationships. That eats away at her. The audience sees her struggle and harsh journey throughout the season.
We live in a society where rape culture is alive. The biggest news story last year surrounding sexual assault was that of the Stanford swimmer. I will not mention his name because he needs no more attention. He was convicted of three accounts of felony sexual assault and only served three months of an already small jail sentence because any more time “would have affected his future”. Yet, no one stopped to think that the girl, his victim, would have to live with that night for the rest of her life. That case is an example of huge injustice in the justice system. This case is unfortunately not uncommon. A teacher raped a student. A father raped his daughter. A male raped a female multiple times over a period of years. The list goes on. Somehow, the judges for each and every one of these cases suspended the sentences the prosecuted were to receive.
Any form of sexual assault is a violent crime and too often, the perpetrator does not get a punishment to fit that. The victim is blamed. Women are told they are asking for it; that it’s their fault. Male victims are told it was not rape and they should have enjoyed it. The people who have sworn to protect have turned their backs with statements such as “boys will be boys.” Not only does this statement invalidate that a crime has just happened but also shows how little stock are put into cases where a male has been raped.
People are working to change this through protesting and getting information out to people who are ignorant of the facts. But, right now, this is the type of culture we live in.
Now the second half of the first season has just returned with the beginning of 2017 and though there are plans for a season two, there has been no confirmation of one. This series is so important. It is empowering. Sweet Vicious is teaching and educating young people in the way in which they learn: through media and furthermore humor. What a shame to see a show that could really impact change, leave the network because people are still not open to talking about the things that need to be talked about most.