TV Review: MTV’s “Faking It”

Like many people, my initial exposure to MTV’s show Faking It was the controversy it raised as a result of its subject matter. And, again, like many people, I avoided the show altogether. But after reading a little more into what the show actually involved, I gave it a chance. I found myself watching all of season one in one night, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Faking It is not a perfect show, it’s far from it. But it’s much more than I was expecting from MTV. We’re talking about the MTV that gave us the debacle that was the American version of Skins. The MTV that introduced the world to Teen Mom. The very same network that is still derided, a decade later, for their decision to stop running music videos. So, needless to say, I went into Faking It with very low expectations.

To explain why my expectations were so low to start with, I have to give the basic premise of the show, so here goes.

Faking It is about two (very close) best friends who decide to fake being lesbians to become popular.

There it is, the basic premise. This is something that could have easily been done by following a formula, and thereby offend a large amount of people; but Faking It takes this premise and turns it on its head.

Karma, a girl who is unhappy with her social standing in high school (big surprise) enlists her reluctant best friend Amy to pretend to be her girlfriend after the two are (mistakenly) outed at a house party. The two girls quickly find themselves thrust into popularity at their Austin, Texas high school. Soon They are nominated to be homecoming queens, and it’s at this nomination ceremony where everything changes.

At the behest of the large, cheering crowd, Amy and Karma kiss to prove their “Relationship” is the real deal. And while Karma is ecstatic that their kiss was believable, Amy finds herself reevaluating her feelings for her best friend. And thus ends the first episode of Faking It.

This seems, again, like it could go very, very wrong. But, fortunately, for the most part, it doesn’t. What first sets this show apart is the acting, especially from Rita Volk, as Amy. The rest of the cast does a decent job, most are relatively believable, but Volk stands out all on her own. She captures the role of someone suffering from unrequited love perfectly, and she really sells her character.

The writing also isn’t too bad, and while some jokes fall flat, most of the dialogue is solid, and the characters are varied. So, let’s start with what else this show does right.

Aside from the acting and writing, there’s the characters themselves.

Every character feels like their own person. You’ll never hear Amy saying something Karma would say, and vice versa, and, most importantly, no character is truly a stereotype. Sure, they have stereotypical qualities, but those are (wonderfully) parodied with each passing episode. But I think the best characters are the ones you’d normally root against.

Amy has a very Christian, and very rude stepsister named Lauren. And she is wonderful. She’s mean, and crude, and just an all around bitch, but she’s not a bigot. Her Christianity is just a part of who she is, and it’s not overall part of what makes her a bad person, the writers are content with letting her actions play that out. But at the same time, she is sympathetic. We see her soften around her gay best friend (because of course she has one), and she’s even sometimes nice to Amy. Which brings us to the “Good” characters.

I have to admit, at first glance I hated Karma. She’s just the kind of attention seeker that makes you find her insufferable, and sometimes downright nasty. But, her attempts at popularity do make her somewhat endearing, and when she’s around Amy, she shines. We see how warm and decent she can be when shes with her best friend, and, as a result, we see part of what Amy loves about her. Karma is very, very flawed, but deep down, she’s a kind and decent person.

Amy is by far my favorite character on the show (followed closely by Lauren). She is somehow both deeply insecure and strangely confident. She balances out Karma’s oddities quite well, and brings some of her own to the table. When she gets angry, or sad, we see her make highly regrettable decisions, and we see her beat herself up for it. Seeing her pine after her best friend is pretty heartbreaking, to say the least, and extremely relatable.

Which brings me to the relationship between Amy and Karma. These two best friends are insanely close, and with the chemistry that Rita Volk and Katie Stevens have, it’s no surprise that they’re mistaken for lovers. You can see the history these two have whenever they’re together, it really makes their friendship believable. And as something that’s the crux of the show, it speaks for the talent of the two actresses that they can pull it off.

Enough about what this show does right, what does it do wrong?

Well first off, as an MTV show, it’s still got quite a few problems. There’s the ridiculous censorship, for one thing. Which, after a while, I stopped noticing, but when the first “bleep” comes, it takes you out of the show entirely.

Then there’s the fact that it doesn’t quite know what audience to appeal to. There’s lots of, for lack of a better term, fanservice, and most is male-oriented.

And then there’s Liam. No offense to Gregg Sulkin, who, try as he might , can’t lock down a believable American accent, but Liam is boring. He is so, so boring, I almost find myself dozing off when he’s onscreen. The love triangle is such a tired trope I can’t believe it’s even in the show to begin with, and then I remember this show is on MTV. The very fact that Liam is a main character hurts my brain, he’s secondary character material at best.

Next is the complete disregard for the idea that either one of the girls could be bisexual. Sure, it would be contrived if Karma was also in love with Amy, but they could have at least made Amy bisexual. But no, as soon as she kisses Karma it’s made explicitly clear that she is a lesbian. To me, that’s just lazy writing, and missing a chance at even greater conflict for a greatly varied character.

So all in all Faking It is a show I’ll be adding to my weekly roster. It holds my attention, and it’s pretty well done. But, I feel the need to conclude with this. Please, writers, let Amy and Karma at least stay friends. I’ll at least accept that they won’t get married (even though they’re so obviously in love), if you’ll give me that.

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