Jennifer Kaytin Robinson was ahead of her time. In November of 2016, MTV premiered her show Sweet/Vicious, which focused on sexual assault survivors taking their power back. Then, in April of 2017, less than a year before the #MeToo movement would shake up our culture and conversations around sexual violence, MTV canceled it.
"Do I think Sweet/Vicious would be a bigger thing now? Yeah," admits writer-director Robinson, who has since moved on to several big projects, including a comic book (yes, really). "But do I think that the show would be different because there would be a lot of added pressure, in terms of the way that executives looked at how to build the show based on what is happening [in our culture]? Yes! We were able to make the show that we made because everything wasn’t as noisy, and everyone didn’t think that they were a professor of #MeToo."
Sweet/Vicious was a black comedy about college students Jules (Eliza Bennett) and Ophelia (Taylor Dearden), two vigilantes fighting in a battle against sexual assault — and other forms of injustice — on their college campus. Taking down abusers is a personal mission for one of the characters: like a reported 11.2% of all college students, Jules is a sexual assault survivor.
Sweet/Vicious aired for 10 episodes on MTV from 2016 to 2017. You won’t find it on any streaming sites (it can be purchased on iTunes), but don't take its lack of a Netflix deal as a sign that fans and critics aren’t passionate about it it. Sweet/Vicious received rave reviews (it currently holds a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes), though, admittedly, far too few of them. Search Sweet/Vicious on Twitter and you'll find the show's devoted fanbase, many of whom discovered the series after its cancelation — for some, the show validated their own experiences with sexual assault and misconduct.
there was a gem of a show a couple years ago called Sweet/Vicious. it was about a rape survivor trying to cope by beating up rapists. it was cancelled. all episodes have been released. do yourselves & the survivors in your life a favour and check it out.https://t.co/Dfg8y4y6lE— sophie (@svanbastelaer) October 6, 2018
Despite a Twitter campaign after its cancelation, Sweet/Vicious did not go the way of shows like Brooklyn 99, which received a pickup from NBC after Fox gave it the axe. However, in October of 2018, it was announced that Sweet/Vicious would get a very unexpected new life, via a different medium.
In was in the midst of Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing — in which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford stated that the future Supreme Court justice attempted to sexually assault her while they were both in high school — that it was announced that the brave superheroines of Sweet/Vicious would receive their very own comic book, courtesy of Black Mass Studios.
The timing wasn't coincidental.
"I was watching the [Kavanaugh hearings] and I was sobbing all day,” says Robinson. “It was then that I got an e-mail from Black Mask saying ‘We should adapt this now.' [Our amazing artists] worked over the weekend to… get the artwork for the comic book out there right away."
Robinson says she’s lucky to be a creator in times where the news can often leave people in tears.
"I feel like not a lot of people have an outlet where they can just dump their guttural rage and I do, so I’m going to use it," she adds. "I hope that people can dig in and sink their teeth into this comic book in a way that is both escapism and catharsis."
Robinson has more up her sleeve. She’s just finished writing and directing her first feature, Someone Great, headed for Netflix sometime next year. It features all your favorite people — like Brittany Snow, DeWanda Wise, and Lakeith Stanfield —and stars Jane the Virgin's Gina Rodriguez, who's also a producer on the project.
While it's not exactly Sweet/Vicious, it is a story about a woman finding herself, a bit later in life than the college-aged students of the MTV series. Loosely based off a time an ex dumped her on her birthday, Robinson calls it "a coming-of-age story," adding:
"It's coming of age in your twenties into your thirties, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen that movie before. I feel like there’s mid-twenties, early twenties, late teens, but this is really about 'oh, we’re actually adults now.'"
"I think it’s a different flavor than the other movies," she says, comparing it instead to a mash-up of "Girls Trip and 500 Days of Summer."
It is, however, easy to see the similarities between Someone Great and Sweet/Vicious, despite the lack of ski masks and vigilante justice.
"I really wanted to make a romantic movie, about a woman who is able to come out the other side of her relationship and be her own white knight, rather than [have it be about] the promise of another man being there," she tells me. "It’s really about a sisterhood [between three friends, played by Rodriguez, Wise, and Snow] and how much love and support is there. It's [that friendship that ultimately gives] Gina’s character the strength to feel okay with choosing herself."
Should Someone Great make a splash on Netflix, perhaps the streaming platform should consider making Sweet/Vicious a home there, too. Robinson already has her wheels turning.
"When the show got canceled, one of the first things I said was ‘I actually would love to do this as a Netflix movie,'" she says. "When I write the comic book, I write it with an eye to adapt it into a contained story [that would be great for a movie version.] I think it would be so fun — a really fast-paced, Batman-y, feminist ass-kicking movie."
It might just be the catharsis we need.