Why Sweet Tooth Created a Friendlier Apocalypse

Nancie may have preferred a gorier death in Sweet Tooth, but the series doesn’t have a lot of gore to pass around. Despite taking place in a dismal post-apocalyptic society ravaged by a virus, the show based on Jeff Lemire’s comic of the same name doesn’t feature a lot of violence. Sure, there is plenty of implied gore, like when the Big Man Tommy Jepperd (Noso Anozie) uses a bear trap as a melee weapon (that was rad). For the most part, however, Sweet Tooth avoids the uncomfortable conversations about humanity’s penchant for violence raised by its comic source material and other post-apocalyptic storytelling.

According to Schwartz and fellow executive producer Jim Mickle, that was all by design.

“That question came up of, ‘who is this for?’ You start to look at (other post-apocalyptic) shows and I couldn’t really find a similar thing,” Mickle says. “Then as time went on the world was in a dark place and it was like ‘do audiences want to spend the next few years being thrust into a world onscreen that was going to be so melancholic?’”

The world has indeed become a bit more melancholic since Lemire’s comic about a world-ending virus and the arrival of animal-human hybrids was first published in 2009. Back then AMC’s The Walking Dead had not yet premiered its first episode and the post-apocalyptic storytelling renaissance was a ways away…perhaps because the apocalypse itself felt particularly far away. 

Now, the world that Sweet Tooth’s cheerful first season arrives into is coming off the heels of a pandemic that many viewers could be forgiven for thinking inspired the show. It did not, of course, given the timelines involved but the series still felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic anyway, having to halt its New Zealand production mid-filming. In 2021, it seems like there’s always an apocalypse of sorts underway somewhere, which is something that actor Neil Sandilands (who plays the villainous General Abbott) notes.

“I get a little bit clumsy around those ideas of ‘post-apocalyptic’,” Sandilands says. “What is that supposed to mean, ‘dystopian future’? Who says we’re not living in the apocalypse right now? Is this utopia that we’re living in now? Everything around me seems pretty messed up.”

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