MTV has just launched a pilot of a new TV show called ‘Faking It’. Here is the synopsis from MTV’s own website:
‘Faking It’ is a new romantic comedy about two best friends who love each other — in slightly different ways. After numerous failed attempts to become popular, the girls are mistakenly outed as lesbians, which launches them to instant celebrity status. Seduced by their newfound fame, Karma and Amy decide to keep up their romantic ruse.
MTV’s new TV show is about two straight high school girl’s pretending to be lesbians in order to become popular. This is a little more than just problematic. I mean, lesbians are constantly held up on pedestals by their straight peers, right? Being an out and proud queer kid in school totally makes everyone want to be your friend, right?
Let’s ignore the fact that lesbians are constantly mocked by their peers. That teachers often engage in homophobic bullying of queer students. Let’s ignore that fact that out queer women, especially those who are gender non-conforming, are more likely to be harassed and face harsh disciplinary treatment from faculty. Let’s ignore the high suicide rates of LGBT teens, which is AT MINIMUM four times higher than that of their straight counterparts.
Of course we can ignore the fact that corrective rape is a severe problem in our society that believes that most lesbians just need the ‘right man’ to show them the way? Let’s ignore the fact that there is a heavy stereotype that lesbians and bisexual women are just acting out a fantasy for the gaze of straight men. In fact, let’s just take this stereotype that actively damages queer women, leads them to be raped and sexually assaulted to ‘turn them straight’ and make it into a TV show! Sounds like a wonderful idea!
Of course, the social media outlets have taken to this with the requests that MTV cancel this TV show. #BanMTVsFakingIt is making its way around the queer Twitterverse as well as those who see the harsh problems that TV shows such as Faking It create. Started by Claire (@crystiels), the tweets range from pointing out the issue of corrective rape, the appropriation of queer identities for popularity, and the fact that many queer youth are actively harassed, beaten, and still murdered for being themselves.
Many pointed out that the real faking it is the fact that queer youth need to pretend to be straight in order to escape the constant harassment, abuse, and potential rape and murder due to their sexuality. The real faking it is the fact that queer youth need to pretend to be straight, blend in with their straight peers, and hide themselves in order to prevent the harassment not only from fellow students and friends, but teachers and faculty as well.
But let’s ignore reality. I know this is a fictitious TV show, but when you base things off real people, there are consequences for incorrectly portraying these people, especially representing harmful stereotypes that will be used against real queer women. Let me tell you how this went for me.
I came out as bisexual in 6th grade. I was the only openly queer kid in both my middle school and high school. I was relentlessly taunted from the beginning. I was harassed by both students and teachers. In fact, the harassment was so bad that until I actually slapped a kid, teacher’s would turn a blind eye to what what being done to me. This was in 6th grade! I was barely a teenager.
All my friends were automatically queer. No matter if they had boyfriends or girlfriends. They were automatically gay because I was bisexual. I was not exactly sure of my gender at the time, but my sexuality was anything but straight and it was known. Closets weren’t exactly something I was known for. Thus, I was perceived as a queer woman, regardless of my actual gender.
No, it did not get better. In high school, the harassment continued with teachers turning a blind eye. I was not popular. I was quite the opposite. The only time I became popular was when I became in control of the yearbook and when you are a teenager in high school, the yearbook is how someone defines their popularity. Piss me off and I might forget your picture. My popularity never stemmed from my queer identity. In fact, it lead to the exact opposite.
In high school, things often got violent for me. While kids would taunt me in middle school, call me slurs and knock my books over. In high school, I was targeted for violence. I would be checked into lockers. My backpack would be kicked and hit. I would be kicked and hit. Gym class was the absolute worse. People would avoid changing around me because I might take a peak. I was once beat up in the locker room because I was being friendly to a foreign exchange student who knew little to no English. I was assumed to be trying to get into her pants and these girls, who were much bigger than me (I’m 5’1”) wanted to prevent that from happening.
So, MTV, will you portray this side of queer life? Being queer comes with neither popularity nor celebration in most high schools in the United States. Homophobic slurs are slung on the daily. Everything negative is automatically gay. It’s one of the quickest insults on a teenagers tongue. Will you show this side, the actual reality of what its like to be openly queer in high school? Will you show the depression, the alienation, the bullying and the harassment? Will you expose your characters to repeated insult and harm and potentially corrective rape, even though these characters are not actually lesbians? Of course you won’t, because you do not want to point out the reality of being queer in high school.
There is already a severe lack of queer representations in media, especially positive ones. While shows like Glee exist, they do not promote exactly real environments and is full of stereotypes as well as bisexual erasure. Show like Faking It send a message to queer youth, especially queer girls and young women. They show how society views them and their sexuality, as something to be consumed and done for the male gaze. Everything women do, including their sexuality, is for men. Their bodies, their identities, and so forth, are for men. This show is not being marketed at queer youth. It’s not being marketed at women. It’s being marketed to straight men to consume.
So, MTV, do you want to contribute to the continued homophobic stereotypes, negativity, and oppression of queer women? Are you really sure you want to air a TV show that is more than offensive, but actually damaging to queer youth? Do you want to contribute to the already high levels of depression, suicide, rape, and harassment already faced by queer women in the school system and society? Do you really want to go down this road, because MTV, that is exactly what you are doing.