'Sweetbitter' Bites Its Way Into #MeToo Era of TV

Sweetbitter has all the ingredients of a smash-hit. Based off Stephanie Danler's 2016 best seller with the same name, the show already has a built-in fanbase eager to see it come to life. More than that, Sweetbitter redefines what it means to be a strong female character in the #MeToo era.

Sweetbitter follows Tess (Ella Purnell, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children), a 22-year-old that moves to New York City in 2006. Tess winds up landing a job at a popular downtown restaurant, where she learns how to navigate the ups-and-downs of her world. Her new life is doused in sex, drugs, good food and oh-so-much alcohol.

Not everyone is on board with the series, with some saying a female lead who is confused about her life and sleeps around isn't the type of role model women want to see amid the #MeToo movement. As of late, television has birthed strong female characters like Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, Annalise Keating in How to Get Away With Murder and Offred in The Handmaid's Tale. But Sweetbitter's Tess is under construction. She's not necessarily goal-oriented and doesn't have it all together, like most young twenty-somethings. Purnell argued that's what makes the series authentic.

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"It's the most relatable role I've ever played," Purnell, 21, said at Sweetbitter's Tribeca Film Festival press junket April 25. "She's a very vulnerable, honest and open person, which I find beautiful and so admirable."

"Find me a 21-year-old that's got it figured out," Purnell argued. "It's beautiful, it's complex and there's so much more to explore from the book," she said about the series.

In the show's pilot, Tess succeeds in landing her restaurant gig, but she struggles to keep up with the rest of the staff. Tess isn't a quitter though, and she's eager to earn her place in the chaotic world she's chosen.

The show kicks off at the point in life when you're "waiting for your life to start and you don't realize it's actually already starting," producer Stuart Zicherman said at Sweetbitter's press junket. "The people that [she is] meeting are going to change [her] and form [her] identity."

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Purnell suggested the mistakes Tess makes are the most interesting part of Sweetbitter. "It's hard to invest in a show where the main characters are awful, but that's kind of what's endearing...She's going to do drugs. She's going to sleep with the wrong guy," she said. "That's [what it's] like being 21."

Sweetbitter premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on STARZ.

ella purnell, sweetbitter
Ella Purnell is pictured in a still from STARZ's "Sweetbitter" pilot, airing May 6. The series is based off author Stephanie Danler's 2016 book of the same name. STARZ
'Sweetbitter' Bites Its Way Into #MeToo Era of TV | Culture