Faking It has always pissed people off. Just check its inherently insulting premise: it’s about a pair of best friends named Karma (Katie Stevens) and Amy (Rita Volk) who stage a lesbian relationship for popularity, going so far as to seal their the fictitious romance with a kiss in front of the entire student body. However, it becomes clear that this romance isn’t entirely a ruse for Amy. Over the course of the season, she struggles with her feelings for her best friend, and thus her sexuality. Meanwhile, her oblivious best friend carries on a whirlwind romance with a hypocritical pretty boy named Liam (Gregg Sulkin), who’s touted as a brooding and sensitive artist with his gay best friend Shane (Michael J. Willett), but wants to bed Karma because she’s a lesbian. Liam eventually falls for her as a person because the show wants you to know he’s not a complete asshole.
As the season progressed, it was clear that Faking It had a heart; the focus shifted to Amy, a character who was actually on a journey to figure out her sexuality. She lets Shane, who’s proudly out, coach her through her conflicting feelings. She adjusts to letting her conservative mom believe her lesbian relationship. She pursues a slight crush with a nice dorky boy named Oliver (August Roads), only to realize there’s nothing there. Essentially, she goes through the motions of a person struggling to come out without ever explicitly declaring her sexuality, even though it was almost clear that she was gay.
That is, until the last five minutes of the season finale. After misreading the signals from Karma, Amy declares her feelings for her best friend, only to get rejected. At the same time, Liam discovers that Karma had been lying to him about her bisexuality and relationship with Amy. Pissed and heartbroken, a drunken Amy has revenge sex with an equally intoxicated Liam. The season ends on that scene, with no glimpse of the regret or confusion that’s bound to follow.
Although showrunner Carter Covington assured that Liam and Amy’s hook-up was purely out of anger, the move seemed to undermine Amy’s entire arc, with the series falling victim to the lazy trope of having a woman struggling with her sexuality sleep with a man “just to be sure.” And, as AfterEllen managing editor Trish Bendix points out in her recap for The Hollywood Reporter, it's harmful to “real-life women who are told ‘they haven’t met the right man yet.’” It also falls in line with a bunch of other teen shows that irresponsibly suggest a girl being gay is just a phase (see: Marissa on The O.C. and Adrianna on 90210).
But then again, Amy sleeping with Liam out of her anger towards Karma isn’t entirely implausible. The fact is, Amy hasn’t explicitly settled on her sexuality yet, despite actress Rita Volk assuring Entertainment Weekly that Amy is gay. But more importantly, not everyone’s lesbian experience is the same, nor do people struggling with their sexuality always fall on the extreme ends of the spectrum. For a confused person who isn’t confident enough to vocalize who or what he or she is yet, it’s more than tempting to seek the easy way out in a real world that still others gay people. And yes, Amy lost her virginity to Liam, but it wasn’t a prized possession to her in the first place, just like it isn’t for a lot of people. She was angry and she lashed out in a way that she knew would hurt the person who hurt her. This experience is applicable to all people.
What’s most frustrating is that Faking It set itself up as a different kind of show, one set in a hyper-reality that’s not exactly reflective of the real world. It set out to be an example of a better way of living. The kids go to Hester High, a fictional school so progressive it doesn’t exist. Those typically portrayed as outcasts rule the grounds, and students take more pride in protests against corporate sponsorship than they do in winning football games. To give into the laziness of the “gay woman sleeping with a man” device to further the plot subverts what the show was trying to achieve by presenting this new, almost idyllic society. Not to mention, Amy’s mother, while uncomfortable with her sexuality, did not shun her daughter after finding out she was dating Karma. In fact, there are no adults or anyone else in the school who are intolerant of gay people. For a show so set on promoting alternative answers to teenagers, it sure gave in quickly to the cliche every other teen show has been milking for years.
Tara Aquino is the editor of Complex Pop Culture and has watched the Faking It finale so many times it's almost masochistic. She tweets here.