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The importance of ‘Sweet/Vicious’, ’Dear White People’ and college on television

Sultana Qureshi
Sultana Qureshi

An eighteen-year-old currently in the middle of her gap year

Jakarta | Tue, May 30, 2017 | 12:46 pm
The importance of ‘Sweet/Vicious’, ’Dear White People’ and college on television

Logan Browning in 'Dear White People.' (Netflix/File)

In 2016, a show appeared on MTV. A show about two college students acting like vigilantes and taking down known rapists and sexual assaulters on their campus.

Despite the rave reviews, Sweet/Vicious was canceled after a single season.

Sweet/Vicious is not without its fans, of course, but it was never able to gain enough traction to take off. Some are hoping that the show will be picked up by another network, like streaming service Netflix.

Also known as the home of Dear White People.

While Sweet/Vicious and Dear White People are two very different shows, they both take place on a left-leaning and prestigious college campus. They are also two shows I happened to binge before leaving for university.  

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And as someone who’ll be stepping onto their own college campus for the very first time this fall, it’s been especially disconcerting to hear the real life news that comes out of schools that are just like my own. From racist incidents to sexual assault to even murder. I’m forced to wonder: will I, a woman of color, be safe on my own campus? Or am I willingly walking into the lion’s den?

Originally, shows like Sweet/Vicious and Dear White People made me nervous. They are fantastic shows and both deserve many more seasons, but it felt like looking into a crystal ball. Within them, I saw the next four years of my life and the all the prejudice and fear that would surround me.

Though after a while, that began to change.

They still make me nervous, no doubt about it, but they also reminded me of a truth that I had been forgetting.  For every bigot or “bad guy”, there are people who are willing to make things right. There are a Jules and Ophelia out there, willing to stand up to sexual assaulters. There are a Sam and a Reggie out there, willing to stand up to racism.

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I want to be one of those people. Seeing who I can become within the next four years has been liberating, and how can I plan to sit around when other students are willing to make a change?

To be like Jules and Ophelia, who go after rapists because their school won’t take sexual assault victims seriously, is difficult and scary and empowering all at once. I am still afraid in some of the worst ways, but I am reminded that I am willing to be scared if it means standing up for what is right.

Neither show is or will be my story to tell and nor are they perfectly told as is, but they are both too important to keep hidden. Gone are the days of Animal House, because in a world where there is turmoil amongst the supposed best and brightest, college campuses need to be truthfully portrayed.

Sweet/Vicious joins a league of great shows that were pulled off the air too soon- Freaks and Geeks, Veronica Mars, Arrested Development- and it’s a shame. Sweet/Vicious was a desperately needed show, both by me and by television as a whole. But at least now I know that if I am indeed walking into the lion’s den, there will be lion trainers waiting there for me. (asw)

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