The term “post-gay” has been thrown about in the press lately as anything that doesn’t focus necessarily on coming out but more on the acceptance of LGBT people in our society. Whether you love or hate the term, there is a noticeable shift in television in how queer stories and characters are dealt with.
Sure, coming out stories will never go away–nor should they–but one MTV series, the upcoming Faking It, is sending a very pro-message about being a lesbian couple in, of all places, high school.
In the series, created by Carter Covington, two not-so-popular BFFs, Amy (Rita Volk) and Karma (Katie Stevens, a former American Idol contestant), are mistaken for a lesbian couple but once they realize it actually helps elevate them in their status of popularity at school, they decide to play along with the ruse.
Set in the unlikely state of Texas, Covington is aware not every high school champions out gay teens like the Faking It school does but, as he said during the recent Television Critics Association panel for the series, “It’s not every high school, but I do think that attitudes are changing, and tolerance is now viewed as kind of an expected quality to have in many parts of the country, and kids these days, I don’t think, see the world through the eyes that I did when I was a kid, and I think things are changing.”
Post-panel, Covington explained to AfterEllen that the first season of the series focuses on the journey of this masquerade but he promised the series will have many layers. “The premise of the pilot, which is Karma and Amy pretending to be lesbians, will be the framework for the first eight episodes so it’s kind of the life of this lie that they told in school and how it complicates their home life, how it complicates their school life.”
And while you may initially balk at the idea of a show promoting straight characters who are pretending to be gay as opposed to confronting sexuality directly, don’t write those hate comments just yet. Sexual exploration is definitely on the menu with the new comedy, set to premiere April 22. (One of the other main characters on the show is out and proud Shane, played by openly gay actor Michael J. Willett, who’s currently starring in the gay-themed film, GBF.)
“I don’t think anyone in high school really knows who they are,” Volk told us. “They don’t have a solid perception of themselves and I think that Amy’s journey is just going to be figuring out her feelings, her sexuality and that’s the exciting thing.” The actress added, “It’s going to be a struggle because it is scary to figure out what you like and what you don’t like and to be accepted. So, I think that that’s going to be her path, and that’s exciting. It’s not solid. It leaves room for a lot of different things that can happen.”
One big moment comes in the pilot when mean girl Lauren (Bailey Buntain from Bunheads) confronts the girls about faking their relationship in the middle of a school assembly. So what do the girls do to make the school believers? They kiss.
And, yes, Volk and Stevens had to practice. A lot.
“Before we even shot anything we had to kiss each other,” said Stevens, who admitted to a bout of giggling and laughing with her-costar before starting to shoot the scene. Volk also explained there is an intricate level to a TV kiss. “It has to look like a camera kiss and not a real kiss because apparently there’s a huge difference…the camera amplifies a lot. We were trying to make it look high school, not Girls Gone Wild.”
Asked how they felt kissing each other for multiple takes and Volk said with a smile, “I’m happy. I’m satisfied with it.” And Stevens weighed in by offering, “We both have nice lips.”
Buntain, who was present for the filming of the scene, gave her perspective by saying, “I can attest to the fact that they really did kiss a long time,” to which Volk said, “Bailey was jealous she couldn’t join in.”
And while every show needs a mean girl, does Buntain see Lauren as homophobic? “I don’t think she’s homophobic. I think it’s about power,” she explained. “[Lauren] wants to rule the school, and she thinks she’s entitled to rule the school, and she’s used to ruling the school. So she moves to this town and doesn’t get her way and then her step-sister [Amy], who she doesn’t like, is getting attention. I don’t necessarily think that it is a sexuality-based disgust. I think it’s a ‘nobody should get more attention than me and you’re getting attention.’”
We’ll have to wait until the show premieres in April to find out exactly where the storyline between the girls goes but Volk expressed her hope that viewers will embrace the message of the series. “I think people are going to take the fact that it’s okay to do your own thing and to be different. The highlight of the show is that it really turns these stereotypes, these roles that we’re so used to seeing in so many shows, upside down.”
Stevens also thinks that the show will send a message to potential bullies. “For the teenagers that are coming of age and watching it,” Stevens said, “it’s good for them to see being mean to somebody because they’re different isn’t necessarily what makes you cool. Everybody being who they are, genuinely, is what’s going to help everybody in life.”
Does Covington expect controversy from the show considering the focus is on teens and sexuality? “I feel like for teenagers these days or for the MTV audience this show is not going to be controversial,” he told us. “I generally think it’s going to feel like probably an exaggerated version, but very much based in the world they live in now. I think we all carry with us this expectation that the world stays the same, and it really doesn’t…there have been other pioneers long before our show that have helped portray this, but I think there’s a bit of wish fulfillment in this show, but I also think it’s very much grounded in things that are going on now around the country and in changing of attitudes. At least I hope.”
So how does Faking It sound to you? Will you tune in to see how LGBT characters and issues are represented? Or are you turned off by the prospect of LGBT characters being depicted as somehow more “cool” when so many kids still face violence and discrimination in schools today? Tell us in the comments!
Faking It premieres April 22 at 10:30 on MTV.