Eight short weeks ago, a show started on MTV boasting a premise most found intensely cringe-worthy. Faking It is about two best friends, Amy and Karma, who pretend to be in a lesbian relationship to gain popularity.
If you tune in, though, Faking It turns out to be so much more than that, and it might even be one of the most important TV shows of our generation.
At Hester High, a suburb of Austin, Texas, where to be different is to be popular, the school could not be more excited to have their first lesbian couple in their midst. Egged on to come out of the closet by the most popular guy in school, Shane (Michael J. Willett), Karma (Katie Stevens) convinces Amy (Rita Volk) to just go with it, excited to finally have her shot to be in with the in crowd. But Shane really means well here. He is gay and overtly proud of his sexuality. He believes Amy and Karma are in the closet and wants them to see how well they’d be accepted if only they would tell people the truth.
As Karma’s best friend, Amy wants to support her and ultimately ends up going along with the charade. Things take a turn, however, when Amy and Karma win the titles of Homecoming Queen and Queen, and share a kiss in front the of whole school. Suddenly Amy realizes she might actually be a lesbian, and we get one of the most poignant moments I’ve ever seen on television – Amy has literally come out of the closet to the whole school, and the only person who has no idea is her best friend in the world.
And that’s just the first episode. As the show develops, we get one of the most realistic coming out stories I’ve ever seen. Faking It succeeds where Glee has failed. Amy is normal, likable, tangible. She’s that introspective girl you know who’d rather be left alone than part of the party. She’s smart. She’s got a complicated relationship with her mother. She’s a loyal best friend. She’s falling in love with someone she’s 95% sure she can never really have. And more importantly, she is utterly confused by her sexuality.
And that, right there, is so underrepresented in media it’s almost scary. Amy knows that she’s in love with Karma, but she’s not quite sure where her sexuality falls beyond that. She talks about it openly with Shane (who she eventually confides in), who tries to help lead her in the right direction over the course of the season. He urges Amy to make sure Karma isn’t into her so she can truly move on, and to also try new experiences so she can really figure out who she is.
Rita Volk is a marvel in this show. I know only like 3% of the country probably has any idea who she is, but I seriously consider her a national treasure. You will feel everything that Amy feels, and fall in love with Amy at every glance. Sorry, it’s just true. You will.
And it’s not just Volk. Katie Stevens, who found fame on American Idol, is undeniably adorable and complex, giving Karma a level of realness despite having generally shallow motivations. I was nervous at first that Shane would be too much of that typical bitchy queen gay character we all know, but Michael J. Willett manages to pull off those moments, while still remaining grounded and often wise and caring. Even Bailey Buntain gives a stellar performance as Lauren, Amy’s step sister who is used to being the Queen Bee in a more traditional high school. Lauren is bratty and controlling, but she’s a high school student who is used to getting her way. Throughout the season we see Lauren’s layers, because it’s hard to be stuck behind the scenes when you’re used to being in the spotlight. We ultimately end up sympathizing with her.
Week after week I devoured this show, always cursing at my screen when each episode ended, wondering how 30 minutes could possibly feel like 5. If you’re looking for something to watch this summer when all of your shows have ended, catch up on Season One of Faking It. It’s only 8 episode and I guarantee you will blow through them in a day, without even realizing how much time has passed. This show will tug at your heart strings while making you laugh, and keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next.
It’s a show about high school drama, the consequences of lying, and the confusion of hormones. It’s an important show for young people to watch and see that they’re not alone. And there is truly nothing else like it on television.
This is entertainment at its finest, people.