Scene it: Watching ‘Sweet Tooth’ was like pulling teeth

A girl with the nose of a pig stands in front of a group of children with various animal body parts. She faces another child with horns growing out of his head.
Rather than adorable, the half-animal children in Netflix’s “Sweet Tooth” are unsettling, Rorye Jones PO ’23 writes. (Courtesy: Netflix)

Perhaps it’s because the show inescapably evokes the image of furries, or because the main character embodies all that is annoying about children; perhaps it’s because the last thing I wanted to watch when waiting to hear if my college would reopen for the fall was the depiction of a COVID-19 style pandemic. Regardless, Netflix’s “Sweet Tooth” just did not do it for me.

In fact, I was stunned to see the high ratings upon Googling it afterwards. The show is supposedly appropriate for most audiences (the creator suggested children 8 and up could watch, but the scene where two adults are tied to a chair and burned alive kind of negates that opinion), so maybe a bunch of preteens were behind all the glowing reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s the only acceptable explanation in my mind. 

I simply cannot get over how downright visually disturbing the half-animal ‘hybrid’ children are, while the show clearly intends for them to be endearing. In the style of the worst recent Disney live action remakes (think of the hyper-realistic yet disconcertingly emotionless animals in the 2019 version of “The Lion King” — yes, that bad), “Sweet Tooth” creators decided it would be a good idea to convincingly Frankenstein animal parts onto young children. 

From the second I saw the show’s protagonist, Gus, with a set of fuzzy pointed ears twitching under his blonde Bieber mop, I felt profoundly unsettled, and it kept going downhill from there. Looking at a little girl with a flesh-colored pig nose on an otherwise human face and newborns with patches of fur on their cheeks, I can’t help but think: What about these ‘hybrids’ are meant to inspire cuteness? 

Of course, one should never make character judgements based on appearance, but the “Sweet Tooth” animators made it really hard to inspire adoration on behalf of these selectively hairy, pointy-eared furries-in-training.

I don’t dislike Gus for his antlers, however; I dislike Gus for his inexhaustible ability to burst into tears and whining at any given moment. (Also, Gus calls his dad “Pubba,” which I find to be inexplicably irritating. Sorry.) This portrayal of kids is true to life, to be sure, but it’s still a piece of fiction: The writers could have made Gus the most angelic, mature child in existence, and it would not have detracted in any way from the storyline. 

After diving deep into the Rotten Tomatoes review section to find one that supported my own feelings, I agree with user Jabba T., who commented, “ … the story fails to engage, and you end up wanting to see the kid with antlers up on somebody’s trophy wall.” Jabba T. gets it.

The cast of creepy hybrids and irritating whiny dialogue aside, the series’ biggest crime is its shameless exploitation of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Sweet Tooth” is based on a comic book series from the mid-2010s, so the show’s writers very deliberately chose to adapt it for an audience watching during the COVID-19 pandemic, replete with masks, shots and panic. Instead of COVID-19, the show names it “The Big Sick.”

As audience members, seeing our present realities reflected in popular media can be cool at times. However, including a pandemic as a plotline might not be something we want to see right now given the amount of deaths, political woes and personal stress it has incurred in recent memory. Some time should pass before TV shows pick up deadly pandemics as entertainment to sell to the affected masses. At least give it a year or two, Netflix. Also, we should not like TV shows merely because we recognize elements of our world in them — the COVID-19 references are obvious, but the appeal of the lifeless plot is not. 

Honestly, it’s less that incorporating COVID-19 into the plot is morally offensive; it’s more that it’s something I simply don’t want to be reminded of when I’m attempting to unwind by watching a show. In fact, the last thing I want to see when trying to relax is a bunch of sad, masked loners carousing around the post-apocalyptic U.S. countryside, ravaged by vigilantes and the government alike — an only slightly distorted reflection of the year 2020.

Some shows are worth trying to watch once, just to understand the hype. If you fall victim to this line of thinking, I recommend watching only the first episode of “Sweet Tooth,” and then cut your losses by never wasting more time on the show. 

I thought the same thing and watched the whole show expecting miracles to happen, only to feel a deep sense of dissatisfaction and irritation aimed mostly at Gus. I am here to assure you that no, the plot does not ever pick up from here, and you may remain secure in the knowledge that it wouldn’t get better if you watched more episodes. You’re welcome.

Rorye Jones PO ’23 is TSL’s TV and film columnist. If you see her on campus, please feel free to assail her with unsolicited TV and film recommendations (actually).

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