On April 22nd, MTV will be premiering a new show called Faking It. According to MTV, “Faking It is a new romantic comedy about two best friends who love each other — in slightly different ways. After numerous failed attempts to become popular, the girls are mistakenly outed as lesbians, which launches them to instant celebrity status. Seduced by their newfound fame, Karma and Amy decide to keep up their romantic ruse.” I have so many feelings about this.
First of all, I hate so much about the premise. Especially the way it was originally pitched: a show about two best friends who were outed as a lesbian couple despite the fact that both were straight and, when they found out that being lesbians made them super popular, still decided to keep up the ruse. This was a terrible idea with not much to redeem itself, but the premise has since changed to make it so one of the girls is actually queer.
Even so, “girls pretending to be gay to get attention” is already a frustrating stereotype, and it also gives viewers the impression that being gay is a trendy thing that makes you popular when in most schools, it’s a scary thing that could get you bullied. We regularly hear news stories about queer high school students being bullied and discriminated against, and we also regularly hear anti-gays arguing that we don’t have it that bad and that therefore don’t need equal rights. While there are some schools where being gay might make you a cool kid, there are still many, many more where it’s a major liability. I’d honestly rather watch a show about two girls who actually are outed as a lesbian couple that follows how that affects their popularity at school. It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of that depends on what you look like — would being gay have made these girls so popular if they weren’t already thin, white, cis and conventionally attractive?
“This particular trope — ‘friends/co-workers pretend to be a couple to get [a thing]‘ — isn’t new, and it isn’t new for a reason, which is that it’s a compelling scenario with a lot of built-in drama and sexual tension,” Autostraddle’s TV editor Riese told me. “It’s an actual trope, after all. Buttttt these stories always seem to work out better when it’s a fake heterosexual couple. When there’s a movie or TV show about a couple pretending to be gay, it tends to be awful, like I Now Declare You Chuck and Larry and Boat Trip. But then there are little diamonds in the rough, like the Tello series Roomies. My one wish for this show would be that it actually lampshades itself by going in the direction that heterosexual fake-couple stories always go in, which is that the two people involved end up falling for each other and becoming a real-couple. If that’s what happens in this show, then I might actually not hate this show!”
Faking It reminds me a lot of another MTV comedy, Awkward, where a conventionally good looking girl with several friends and all the best looking guys at school in love with her has an accident that gets mistaken as a suicide attempt. She then has to deal with the awkwardness and identity crisis that comes from being labeled as a girl who tried to kill herself. Again, a much more interesting show in my opinion would have been one about a girl who actually does attempt suicide and has to deal with the social ramifications of that. Why does MTV prefer to deal with things like teen suicide and LGB issues by creating fake scenarios instead of real ones? I guess it’s a good way to seem edgy and hip without actually doing anything.
However, showrunner Carter Covington, a gay man, said that he thinks the show has a chance to do some very positive things for LGB students. He says he sees a shift in the way younger people are viewing and treating their LGB peers and seemingly wants to promote more of that. Covington, who says he was initially offended by the idea of the idea of the show, decided to do it after working on The Trevor Project’s crisis hotline.
I had a caller one night who said, ‘I’m worried that my friends are only my friends because I’m gay.’ I was shocked. That idea seemed so foreign to me given the world I grew up in, but this kid explained that he went to a very tolerant high school where being gay was like a badge of honor. That’s when I realized there are schools out there where being gay is no longer a problem, and tolerance is viewed as an asset.
Covington said that he agreed to do the show because he thought “Faking It could work if we set it a high school like that and had one of the girls actually have a crush on her best friend.” So if one of the girls is queer, that gives me a glimmer of hope.
But I’m not all the way on board just yet.
I do think it’s good to have a show that explores the idea that sexuality is fluid for many people. The truth is that there are lots of people who identify as straight and don’t realize that they have any same-sex attraction until they find that one person or are otherwise opened up to that possibility. This could be something that the show deals with. However, while it could be interesting to see the journey of the one girl who develops a crush on the other, please, please, make the “two best friends pretending to be a couple to get popular” storyline only last one season. The premise already strains credulity, and to try to stretch it out over multiple seasons would be painful. Maybe we could see a second season where the girl who actually is a lesbian meets a girl who can return those feelings.
“I predict that halfway through the first season or at the start of the second, the queer girl will go to a concert or coffee shop and meet a girl who is a hard-core out-and-proud queer,” said Riese, “and then she will be torn between her best friend she’s always been in love with who is still not sure if she’s ready for a relationship with a woman and this other girl who is totally ready to commit and be gay but doesn’t make her feel head-over-heels like her best friend does. E.g., Kim/Sugar/Saint in Sugar Rush, Claude/Ellen/Lucy in All Over Me. Or slight variations on this theme where the allegedly-straight girl doesn’t actually consider dating but does tease the fuck out of her queer best friend, like Ali/Emily/Maya in Pretty Little Liars and probably your own life.”
The show could also gain some points if it starts with the girls thinking that pretending to be lesbians makes them popular, but then quickly realizing that it also opens them up to bullying and discrimination. I honestly don’t think I could handle a show that had the premise that being queer in high school will lead to nothing but universal love and acceptance. My dream scenario would be that the premise would be quickly undermined and the two girls would learn a lesson about appropriating lesbian identities and that it’s not as easy a life as they thought.
Also, I have to wonder about the actual queer girls who undoubtably go to this fictional high school. In an ideal world, the main characters’ fake relationship would encourage actual lesbians to come out at the school and the show would possibly shift it’s focus to them. In the real world, the show is more likely going to ignore real lesbian relationships in favor of this fake one that is more scandalous and glamorous.
Faking It premieres on MTV on April 22 at 10:30 PM PT/ET. I think I’m going to cross my fingers and give it a shot. Although the premise leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I do feel like it has the potential to bring up some interesting and important questions. I’m just not sure MTV should be the ones to ask or answer them. At this point, I’ve become so frustrated with the way television treats queer women that I’m starting to give up a little. Like our very own Brittani said, “I feel like I don’t care enough to be angry. Let’s just all accept our fate and start a kickstarter to redo The L Word shot for shot.”