It’s a tale as old as time — girl meets girl, they become besties, then pretend to be a lesbian couple to appear more interesting at their hyperliberal high school, one friend falls for the other, and then they nearly engage in a ménage à trois with the other friend’s hot boy crush. No, that’s not the plot of Disney’s next female-fronted animated blockbuster. That’s out showrunner Carter Covington’s controversial Faking It on MTV.
Slings and arrows were squarely aimed at Faking It even before its premiere last April, and with good reason. At a time when viewers can tune in to fully realized queer women on shows as varied as Orange Is the New Black, Pretty Little Liars, and Grey’s Anatomy, a series about best friends feigning lesbianism seems wildly regressive. At the time, Covington defended the series to detractors, advising that they try a wait-and-see approach. And it arguably worked.
The denouement of the pilot has friends Karma (Katie Stevens) and Amy (Rita Volk) locked in a staged, celebratory make-out session as the student body has just elected them homecoming queens. It’s an aha moment for Amy when she realizes not only does she like kissing her best friend, but she might also be a little in love with her. The authenticity of the moment works in large part due to Volk’s palpable elation, confusion, and vulnerability.
As things progress, Karma could not be more clueless about Amy’s affection, pretending to be Amy’s girlfriend while pining for the school hottie Liam (Gregg Sulkin). Once realizing her same-sex attraction, Amy enlists the help of her GBF, Shane (Michael J. Willett, out star of the movie G.B.F. ), to help her navigate her newfound feelings.
Throughout the first season, Amy, who engages in more than one tryst with a boy even while crushing on Karma, evades easy identification. And it’s the eschewing of labels and a fixed identity that makes Amy’s character so fascinating. Many lesbians were furious with what the writers had in store for Amy for the season finale, but it all seems to be part of Amy’s journey — one we’re happy to take with her.
If the show’s central plot isn’t enough to lure viewers, the second season promises groundbreaking storylines as the series introduces series regular and main mean girl Lauren (Bailey De Young) as one of the first intersex characters ever on television. — Tracy E. Gilchrist