An intriguing, if potentially inflammatory concept is the draw for MTV’s new summer comedy, Faking It.
Let’s bitch it out…When I heard about Faking It, my first reaction was “oh no.” The idea of two teenage girls “faking” a lesbian relationship for the sake of popularity was really offensive (socially and personally). Once I got off my high horse, however, I realized that I needed to sample the show before passing judgment. Perhaps the series, created by Carter Covington (Greek) would surprise me and feature all kinds of commentary and subversive analyzes of sexuality and high school popularity. After all, the idea of straight-identifying kids actively choosing to play gay is kind of revolutionary even in this day and age (just look at the truly unfortunate statistics around teen suicide and bullying. No one chooses to be gay…no matter how popular MTV makes it seem).
So how does the pilot turn out?
Well, honestly it’s a mixed bag. Some of the immediate issues are quickly (and simplistically) wiped away because the show is set at a fantasy high school in Austin, Texas where you have to be different to stand-out because everyone is so accepting. Taking that and the outstanding popularity of out gay teen, Shane (United States of Tara‘s Michael J. Willett) as the foundation, it’s clear that we’re very firmly in the realm of fiction right from the get-go. From there, it’s a bit of a logic jump to understand why Shane thinks our protagonists, Karma (Katie Stevens) and Amy (Rita Volk) are lesbians, or why he thinks it’s appropriate to guide them out of the closet by publicly outing them at a party in front of everyone, but let’s just go with it.
Once the ruse is underway, things move a bit too quickly as Karma quickly drives the agenda. By the second act she’s already agreeing to run for Prom Queen(s) and pose for photospreads, which seems hasty and really unlikely. More problematic is her burgeoning crush on Twilight-clone Liam (Gregg Sulkin), on whose lips she falls about two seconds after coming out. And herein lies my biggest issue with the series: the writers aggressively avoid examining what it means for these girls choose to use sexual orientation as a popularity tool, focusing instead on conflicts (as the season long teaser at the end of the episode tells us) like threesomes and “secret boyfriends.”
By the end of the episode, I had to wonder why Amy, the “butch” half of the couple (who is hilariously anything but), would agree to this ploy. I appreciate that she wants to make Karma happy, but the fact that neither girl stops to consider how offensive or insensitive their actions are until the resident mean girl calls them out on stage at the homecoming announcement is pretty tone-deaf. Of course, in order to have a series, the girls have to follow through. Judging from the teaser, keeping up the fake relationships will test their friendship and prompt Amy to question her own sexuality, so there’s still potential for a deeper, more worthwhile narrative under the faux-titillation of seeing attractive twenty-something girls kiss.
In the pro column, some of the jokes are funny/clever, and there’s an appealing freshness to the cast (who could easily be attending the same school as the casts of Awkward. and Teen Wolf). Amy is clearly easier to connect with because she is more sympathetic. Karma, on the other hand, I found far too shrill and fame-hungry throughout the pilot – I mostly agreed with her when she tells Liam that she’s outgrown Amy, hoping that she and Liam would jump ship for their own series on The CW.
Unfortunately the number of legitimately clever and heart-felt moments are significantly smaller than the cliché and occasionally even offensive jokes (Karma’s desperation that Liam see her as the lipstick half and his desire to convert a lesbian in particular made me grit my teeth).
I may check in on Faking It to see if Covington can balance the show out during its abbreviated eight episode first season, but for now, I can’t in good conscience recommend it.
What are your thoughts on the pilot? Did you find it tone-deaf and offensive or it a slight, silly comedy? Did you sympathize with Amy more than Karma? Are you concerned that the political overtones appear to be coming more from the homophobic, conservative cheerleader (Bailey Buntain)? Sound off below.
Faking It airs Tuesdays at 10:30pm EST on MTV