Rant: Because Faking It isn’t Real, or Helpful
I admit, I have watched MTV for a long time. A LOOOONG time. I watched music videos and loved the VJs, and had my favorites. I watched the original Real World when it aired in 1992 (even though I had to hide it from my parents- they didn’t think it was appropriate as it was a little too extreme for our area). I watched when Real World: San Francisco was lauded for AIDS activist Pedro being honest about his story and his life. I have watched numerous episodes of True Life, watching teens document their real stories, and Catfish: The TV Show, where the dangers of online dating are exposed. I even watched the short lived WWE Tough Enough, where contestants were trying to become wrestling stars. I’ve seen 16 & Pregnant, Teen Moms, and other shows, and seen MTV become more television than music. It’s not on my favorite channel list on Roku, and I don’t tune in that often. I admit that I haven’t been able to get into Teen Wolf or Akward, but I haven’t really tried.
Across my Twitter stream the other day came #BanMTVsFakingIt, listed by some people that I actively follow and some I just browse. I follwed the thread, and then got curious. Faking It is a new teen show launching this week. Accoring to the New York Times:
Katie Stevens and Rita Volk star as Karma and Amy, best friends desperate to crack their school’s inner social circle. (As usual, there’s no obvious reason — looks, charm, body mass — why they shouldn’t already be there.) Karma is the more desperate of the two, and the show opens with her latest scheme, to generate sympathy by pretending to have been blinded by a sudden-onset brain tumor.Within a few minutes of screen time, a better solution falls into their laps: They’re mistaken for a lesbian couple, and Karma realizes that they should play along: Being a brave, public same-sex couple in liberal Austin makes them instant celebrities.That’s enough of a hook to make the show stand out, but it takes a further step (spoiler alert here) by making one of the girls realize that maybe she’s not just playacting her new sexual orientation. It’s a slightly melodramatic twist, though it raises the stakes from teenage farce to something with a little more emotional resonance.
Here’s the thing: Are parts of Faking It problematic? Sure. But when it comes down to it, I believe this show will do more good than harm. I am ecstatic over the kissing scene at the end of the pilot (I’ve watched it ten times). I’m even more ecstatic about the additional kisses shown in the Season 1 teaser. In a world where Glee dragged its feet for nine episodes (seriously?!) between confirming Brittany and Santana were a couple (S3, E4) and actually showing them kissing (S3, E13), it is a joy to have a show like Faking It, which shows Karma and Amy kissing in its teaser trailer.
When we watch Faking It, there will be no waiting around for the two queer/”queer” girls to show up on screen. They will be on screen in every scene. Karma and Amy’s story is not the subplot to a larger story about straight characters. (They are not Glee. They are not Pretty Little Liars.) Karma and Amy are the story. If the Faking It writers handle these characters responsibly—and I’m praying they will—we have a beautiful, heartening journey to look forward to.
“Ten years ago, we would have never been able to put this show on telly,” said U.K.-born Gregg Sulkin (Pretty Little Liars, Wizards of Waverly Place), who plays Liam, Shane’s straight best friend who develops a crush on Karma. “This is a great opportunity for us to show the world that times have changed. This is the future, this is where things are headed, so get on board or get out of the way.”
The young cast’s universal attitude toward the message Faking It espouses — Be true to yourself and people will love you because of that — reinforces a perceptible moral shift among twentysomethings who have grown up in a world with representations of the LGBTQ community omnipresent in pop culture.
The pilot has already “aired” everywhere in the free world.
The first episode airs April 22 on MTV.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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