By: Eric Lucas
Faking It tells the story of Karma and Amy, two best friends desperately seeking popularity and acceptance in their new high school. When they are mistaken for lesbians, their popularity skyrockets, and they decide to play along, faking their lesbian status to stay in the spotlight. Complications arise when one of the girls begins to fall for the other as their deception presses on.
The half-hour dramedy, to premiere April 22 on MTV, will explore themes of identity, tolerance, budding sexuality and homosexuality. And, as you might expect, such sensitive subject matter from the network that brought us Jackass, Jersey Shore and Punk’d has generated no shortage of controversy and skepticism. Comments on social media indicate two main schools of thought when it comes to Faking It. There are those that see the show as having potential to draw positive awareness to the struggles faced in the LGBT community; and there are those who fear MTV will exploit the subject matter and fail to portray these issues in positive or enlightening ways.
A conversation with Carter Covington, the show’s creator seems to suggest the former school of thought will hold true. “I recognized that this concept in the wrong hands may be developed in a way that might be offensive”, explains the show’s openly gay creator. “And I realized I have a lot at stake here.”
“[MTV] didn’t bring much more to me than the title and the basic concept; two girls pretending to be lesbians so they can be popular. And I thought, if that were the only thing in the show… I worried it could be like Bosom Buddies. It needed something more in my eyes, to really feel like a series. I also am of the belief that female friendships, especially at that age, between long time best friends, have a sort of emotional love- not necessarily a sexual love- but an emotional one that male friendships wouldn’t have at that age. I was intrigued by exploring that. So I pitched the network my take on it, that if one of the girls really struggled with her sexuality, it’d have a much deeper resonance and feel much more current. They got really excited, and here we are.”
The story is set at a very progressive high school in Austin, Texas- a school where the more you stand out, the more you fit in, a place where a gay couple would be celebrated, much like the show’s two heroines. I wondered where this mythical, Oz-like place was, and Covington assured me they exist in liberal metropolitan areas like Austin TX, LA or NYC. “Do I think it’s a common high school?” he muses. “Absolutely not. And I recognize that most of the people in high school who watch this show will go to school the next day in a very different place than the high school they watched in our show. I think it gives people a vision of what high school could be and if it’s a small step in moving high school culture in that direction, I’ll be very pleased.”
It seems to be an interesting time for gay characters on television. Modern Family’s Cam and Mitchell, a couple as genuine and heartfelt as any straight couple; Game of Thrones’ Loras Tyrell, one of the most skilled and renowned knights in the Seven Kingdoms; and Shameless’ Mickey Milkovich, a young man struggling against upbringing in a tough neighborhood as well as an overbearing father who has no qualms resorting to violence when it comes to his distain for homosexuality. “We’ve made huge strides… When I was young, gays were the serial killers [Laughs]. And it wasn’t until Ellen, and Will and Grace that we started to see the shift where gay characters were portrayed as fun and humorous, and that really correlates to how attitudes have changed in the country.”
Despite the progress, Covington admits that there is still work to be done. “I’d say gay characters are underrepresented… I look forward to the day where gay characters are treated on every show like every other character in that they’re given the same level of respect and attention to detail. We’re seeing a lot of shows that are at that level, but there can always be more!”
It’ll be interesting to see if Karma and Amy will rank among these influential gay characters. Faking It has the potential, if done right, to enhance attitudes towards the gay and lesbian community, as well as shining light on the real process of young teens struggling with their identity and sexual orientation. Taken in the wrong direction, it could trivialize these very real struggles, take attention away from important issues and portray homosexuality as a choice, which could be potentially damaging to the LGBT community’s image.
But it seems the show is in the capable hands of a writer who wants the subject matter treated with respect while helping to enhance perceptions of the LGBT community. That should comfort any skeptic, at least until tomorrow night’s premiere. However it turns out, we’ll be watching.
Faking It premieres Tuesday April 22, at 10:30 pm EST on MTV.