‘Faking It’ – A Lesbian Nightmare
MTV announced this week it will air a new comedy series starting April called, Faking It. The premise of the show centers on two high school friends who are mistakenly outted as lesbians, and then they run with it, exploiting their mistaken identity as a lesbian couple in exchange for popularity. This raises so many red flags; it’s hard to know where to begin.
Show developer, Carter Covington, doesn’t think Faking It will be controversial. He says: “For the young people today, this show is not going to be controversial. I genuinely think it’s going to feel like, an exaggerated version, of course, but very much based in the world they live in now.”
What Covington doesn’t seem to realize is he missed the boat completely. It’s not the content that’s controversial, but the way it’s done. Girls getting together, making out to attract (male) attention (new popularity because of it.) All that bullshit is not TV news. Lesbians have a long history of being exploited for sweeps week ratings and fulfilling the fantasies of men who think two women together are hot—even better when they’re straight women, because hello, threesome! No thanks.
Convington never considered two male protagonists, which might have been a little less offensive and if done well—actually groundbreaking. He says, “Female friendship is a very unique bond that I don’t know is replicated in male friendship.” What he meant to say was he didn’t consider male protagonists because women have a mass appeal to male viewers and the long standing appeal of two women together for all the wrong reasons. Covington took the easy target of women couples instead of breaking down any real boundaries by showing two straight men faking it as a gay couple.
It’s also problematic that Covington perpetuates the stereotype that really close female friendships are in some way sexual. Oprah and Gayle already debunked this tired myth about female friendships, and it would be nice if we could move on to something different all around instead of making young women have to defend their platonic friendships exhaustively.
While Convington claims this show is about identity and figuring out who you are, the need to do this by trotting all over lesbians is tasteless. There are real young queer women out there and watching girls ‘fake it’ exacerbate fears for young women looking for authentic romantic relationships. It’s hard enough to come to terms with being LGBT in high school without the complication of ‘fakes’ playing with emotions.
Though inspired by calls Convington received while at the Trevor Project from young LGBT people worried their friends only liking them because they were gay, this hardly represents the dominant feeling among LGBT teens or the cultural climate. Great strides have been made, but nearly half the country still opposes equality for the LGBT community. This show isn’t going to help, either.
While yes, as Covington states, this kind of TV content on the surface is no longer controversial, there is a difference between being progressive to break down barriers and simply re-branding old tricks. Faking It does the latter, masquerading as positive and edgy, but really, it’s a cheap new twist on old tropes—exploiting lesbians.
The whole idea about lesbianism being just an act until finding the right man is still a very real thing in real life. Faking It, by glorifying that performance between these straight girls, only exacerbates that damaging and still prevalent idea about lesbians. Lesbianism is an act for popularity and to get men to look at you. That could not be further from the truth, and that’s not how I want to be portrayed.
Which brings me to the next tidbit from Faking It: “an interesting love triangle between two best friends and [some dude].” If this isn’t the worst storytelling nightmare, I don’t know what is. The large majority of (real) lesbian storylines, on even the most LGBT friendly shows—Grey’s Anatomy, Pretty Little Liars, Glee—at one point or another have a man involved with the lesbian characters, not just the bisexual/fluid ones. Again, perpetuating that women, even women who identify as loving other women, somehow can’t exist without a man interfering.
There is nothing interesting about a threesome—sorry, love triangle—between two fake lesbians and a man. As a matter of fact, shows like Glee have love triangles–squares, hexagons–down to a science, even for their LGBT characters. Faking It’s version sounds like just another horrible stereotype with a modern twist. The fact that these are straight women and not actually lesbians does not give the show a pass either. Fake or not, they are portraying a lesbian couple, so what they do matters.
Maybe Faking It will somehow redeem what already looks pretty exploitive and progressively backwards. It’s hard to say without seeing an episode, and I would love to be pleasantly surprised. But based on developer Carter Convington’s ill-informed thoughts about female friendships and lesbians and his inability to identify what’s really controversial about the show, it sounds to me like Faking It will be a lesbian’s worst nightmare.
Correction: Carter Covington was incorrectly attributed as the creator of Faking It. Covington developed the premise based on the original creation of Dana Min Goodman & Julia Wolov.