After eight episodes of MTV’s Faking It, it has finally become clear that the writers have been doing some falsifying of their own. Despite the fact that creator Carter Covington is an out gay man, his knowledge of lesbian sexuality and the tropes that frequently accompany them in television portrayals is in serious question after decidedly gay identified Amy (Rita Volk) slept with straight, cisgender Liam (Gregg Sulkin).
Initial reactions to the dramedy — about two best friends, Amy and Karma (Katie Stevens), feigning a romantic relationship for popularity at their Austin high school — were positive but trepidatious, as Amy’s coming-out process was seemingly handled with care. Amy realized over the course of the season that she had stronger feelings for her lifelong friend than she knew before kissing her in front of the whole school, and her becoming comfortable with acknowledging that and being willing to do anything to turn their fake romance into a real one was the raison d’etre of the show.
Unless you ask the writers, because it became increasingly perturbing that Karma’s obsession with Liam was what should develop more than any kind of relationship that Karma and Amy have, whether that’s friendship or something else entirely. Amy’s moments of tenderness or positivity about her newfound sexual identity and burgeoning crush on Karma are overpowered by the overt and often eye roll-inducing Liam and Karma pairing, including a proposed threesome for Liam’s benefit, his taking of Karma’s virginity on top of an art installation and the finale’s terrible ending: Amy and Liam having sex.
Throughout history it has often been the case that writers do not know how to create stories for lesbian and bisexual-themed women on television and film, and the default plot falls prey to the unrealistic “she sleeps with a man” situation. Now besides that this is overdone and lazy, Faking It furthers the insult by having the forlorn Amy sleep with a man who not only does not respect lesbian relationships and sexuality (nor women, really), but whom she detests for having taken Karma away from her.
It’s also a huge disappointment that MTV would allow this to happen on yet another show when its 2011 Skins adaptation fell prey to the same situation: the lesbian character Tea (Sofia Black-D’Elia) having a physical relationship with her male friend Tony (James Newman). Fans of the U.K. version were outraged, as some of the best lesbian characters of all time, Emily (Kathryn Prescott) and Naomi (Lily Loveless), existed on the original without deciding to sleep with the opposite gender — no matter how many times they broke up or fought.
While it’s true that Amy has yet to label herself as a lesbian, it feels completely false that she would explore sexually with Liam — of all people — especially when it is her first time. It’s also sexist and hypocritical as writers would never put a gay male character like Faking It‘s Shane (Michael J. Willett) in a similar situation. Because men do not question their sexuality, apparently. Only confused women do, and that is not only harmful to television lesbians, but the real-life women who are told “they haven’t met the right man yet” or “won’t know until they’ve tried it.” Legitimacy is called into question, and that makes being an out woman dangerous, especially in parts of the world where corrective rape of lesbians is an acceptable practice.
It’s disheartening that a show like Faking It could have so much potential with smart writing, a great set of actors and a provocative premise, and then have its relevance and credibility destroyed with the last few minutes of the season finale. Had the show not fallen prey to the oft-repeated, never-respected nor positively received “gay woman sleeps with a guy” story, it would have given fans a reason to tune in for the just-announced second season.
Trish Bendix is the managing editor of leading lesbian entertainment site AfterEllen.com. She lives in Los Angeles.