Karma (Katie Stevens) and Amy (Rita Volk) are lifelong best friends who currently attend Hester High School in Austin, Texas, the liberal hub of an otherwise dismally bigoted, conservative state. At Hester, it’s cool to be different, and a large portion of the student body chose to attend the school because it’s LGBTQIA-friendly, and thus they can be proudly open about their sexual orientations and gender identities. At Hester, being different is cool. But Karma, poor little, cishet Karma, is not different at all.
So what’s a young, thin, conventionally attractive White girl to do when she’s simply not getting enough attention? Pretend to be a lesbian, of course! That’s the plot of this groundbreaking MTV teen comedy. Why live your truth when you could pretend to be part of a marginalized and still heavily persecuted minority and cash in on their truth for social clout instead, amirite? Karma has a major crush on the school’s resident hottie, Liam Booker (Gregg Sulkin), and figures that faking a “coming out” will definitely get everyone’s attention, including his, but why come out alone when coming out as a couple can garner you even more attention? Karma whines, begs, and emotionally blackmails Amy into a half-baked plan to “come out” as the school’s new hot lesbian couple.
The plan works even better than expected; Karma certainly has Liam’s attention now, and she and Amy’s gay-for-fame coupling has also gotten the attention of their entire community, as well as the suspicion, of Amy’s ultra-conservative stepsister, Lauren (Bailey De Young), and Liam’s best friend, Shane (Michael Willett), who happens to be gay and is flabberghasted that the two never set off his gay-dar before. As they dodge the questions of their peers, Karma and Amy’s grotesque appropriation of queer culture also demands that they “come out” to their parents. It’s really tough to say which set of parents is more side-eye worthy: Amy’s mom and stepdad, who claim to be progressive but freak out at the thought of having a gay daughter, or Karma’s tree-hugging, granola-eating parents, who (much like Karma) felt their daughter was far too ordinary before.
Matters become even more complicated as Amy grapples with the fact that she actually is gay, and deeply in love with Karma, who now has a publicly fake relationship with Amy, and a privately very real one with Liam. While Karma thoughtless juggles her great new life while carelessly stomping all over both Liam and Amy’s hearts, the audience gets an endless exhibition to just how much of a self-serving narcissist she is.
We all know a Karma. She’s the cishet white chick who trolls on and offline social justice circles while pretending to be an ally, but doesn’t miss a beat and magically conjures up a biracial grandmother, a same-gender former lover, a Cherokee godchild, or a Latinx boyfriend any time she’s called out for swerving out of her fucking lane. Activists and advocates can’t take two steps without stepping on the toes of these movement leeches, who exist to take up space and hover on the fringes of someone else’s much-needed spotlight.
While Faking It is peak white feminist fuckery in a plethora of ways, the show did do a pretty incredible job at showcasing the spectrum that sexual attraction can exist on, and it’s also the very first show to have an intersex main character. Faking It tackles all the issues of (White) queer culture, as well as the many trials and tribulations within both queer and straight romantic relationships. At times frustrating, consistently hilarious, and occasionally deeply thought-provoking, Faking It is easily one of the best modern teen comedies and deserved a longer run than it had, if for no other reason than it normalized teen relationships and sex, in the many manifestations that they occur.
I give this one 4.25 stars.