‘Faking It’ – Follow Up
MTV’s Faking It, which officially airs April 22, released the pilot a few days early. With initial concerns, now that an episode is out, it seems like a great time to follow up. First and foremost, overall, Faking It isn’t nearly as terrible as it seemed it would be based on early interviews and the trailer.
Though Faking It maybe isn’t the disaster it could have been, there are still some really major concerns with this show. Faking It erases the struggle that many, many LGBT teens face in school. For example, in Faking It’s alternate universe, the “outcasts are the in crowd,” which includes the LGBT kids. Even though the LGBT kids are cool, it appears this can only happen in an alternate universe like Faking It. In the real world, gay kids are relegated to outsiders—not normal equals—to everyone else in the real universe. Perhaps intentional or to predict a future post-homophobia universe, this is a slipperly messaging slope.
The sunshiney acceptance of the LGBT community in may be taking an easy way out because the show doesn’t have to touch on the difficult real struggles for LGBT kids in school—no bullying, struggling for acceptance from their peers, or the danger of being outed by their classmates. Speaking of outing, Shane (Michael J. Willett) takes it upon himself to out Amy and Karma’s fake lesbian relationship to the entire school. Here, outing gay kids is not only really cool, but also painted as something that should be done to attempt to push kids out of the closet. For those who don’t understand the reality of that situation, a forced outing can be downright dangerous. That’s not touched on in the pilot of Faking It, and that’s a little worrisome.
On the other hand, while Faking It obviously blows over important facets of LGBT life, the oasis and escape from those same often harsh realities isn’t unwelcome. On another level, it’s also subversive and shows a world where complete acceptance isn’t so bad–it’s actually pretty good–for everyone. In fact, Lauren (Bailey Buntain), the would-be popular mean girl, just looks ridiculous, a fun comment on the actual ridiculousness of popular cliques. As unrealistic and bubble gum happy as the acceptance is, it does provide a hope for the future, and a little escape while the show is on.
There has also been a lot of talk on social media that Faking It is the first show that features a teenage lesbian couple whose relationship is portrayed and shown openly on TV, unlike, I don’t know—Glee. The fact that Faking It puts the lesbian storyline at the center of the show is definitely great and progressive. But while it has been heavily hinted that Amy (Rita Volk) questions her sexual orientation, Karma (Katie Stevens) is going to carry on a “secret” relationship with Liam (Gregg Sulkin) for at least awhile. That means this isn’t an authentic queer couple, at least not yet. As a matter of fact, with Amy only questioning and Karma chasing Liam, at this exact moment, there is no actual representation at all.
If Karma doesn’t ever reciprocate Amy’s feelings, Amy will need her own love interest, as Karma already has a heterosexual love interest right out of the gate. If it stays this way, Amy becomes the sad, pitied stereotypical lesbian from pre-1960 cinema days. That won’t do much to celebrate queer women, and it’s not good enough anymore to say, “we’ll take what we can get.” LGBT women deserve better than that. If Faking It is only setting up a whole season of pain for Amy, then it’s in trouble.
It’s also a little concerning that organizations like GLAAD or Advocate (mostly from the perspective of gay men, NOT queer women, whose opinion really should lead these conversations) pat the show on the back for referencing The Trevor Project, casting an openly gay actor for Shane or having just more LGBT characters on screen who don’t face bullying. While these things are great and certainly steps in the right direction, it’s not enough to write off any of the legitimate criticisms and concerns that may develop along the way. In other words, representation is not a bank account that can be balanced. Some positive steps forward for the LGBT community can’t be thrown in just to get a free pass for any offensiveness and call it even. We’re at a point where more nuanced criticality can and should be used going forward.
It’s still too early to tell which direction Faking It will go—off the deep end of backwards and terrible, or towards something potentially really positive. There has been many great reviews about the show and word on the street is Glee takes a kick in the nose in an upcoming episode. All good signs. (Though “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” plays when Amy and Karma first kiss in the gym, a troubling link to Glee’s less than stellar treatment of Santana’s coming out in season 3. But, I digress…) In addition, the cast members speak on LGBT issues with class and understanding, and the creator and many people working on the show come from a place of personal experience. There just don’t seem to be any queer women involved.
Though cautiously optimistic, proceed with a little bit of caution. Faking It now has a lot riding on its claims of revolutionary representation for young LGBT women in particular and it could still go awry. So far though, despite a few problem areas, the signs are pointing mostly in a positive direction.