MTV's latest comedy, "Faking It," has fun with what happens when students who once would have been outsiders are now the most popular.
The Tuesday series has two best friends pretend to be lesbians to be popular. Their high school is the sort where the usual cheerleader/homecoming queen is portrayed as a shallow, shrieking mean girl. The gay boys rule, and one of them, at a party, announces that Karma and Amy (Katie Stevens, Rita Volk) are gay.
They aren't, but once attention is lavished on them, they're put on the spot, and they kiss.
"I don't like putting a label of comedy or drama on it," Volk tells Zap2it. "The very cool thing about the show is it has all of those elements. It has elements where it is very funny, but it can also get very sad and heartfelt. It turns stereotypes and what the media portrays to be cliques ... upside down. It is not easily categorized. It is about two girls who love each other, and one girl realizes she might love the other girl in a little bit of different way, and their journey through that. It's not super cookie-cutter. It gets pretty raw."
Karma is pretending, but Amy is not. As the song goes, she kissed a girl and liked it.
"She is a girl who wants to come home and watch Netflix with her best friend," Volk says of Amy. "And that's all she really needs. She has had this platonic love probably all her life.
"The kind of feelings she realizes don't come up until that kiss," Volk continues. "Every girl can relate to that. When I was little, my friends and I would hang out all the time. There is this platonic female love that is there. But in having the little more romantic feeling -- not until that kiss."
Amy never felt the need to climb the high-school social ladder, but Karma desperately wants to be popular. The show does a fine job of showing how ridiculous all the social jockeying can be and has a lot of fun with the characters.
"It's a blast to play Karma," Stevens says. "I like doing roles that there is more than meets the eye, and that is definitely the case with Karma."
This is the first major role for Stevens, who was on Season 9 of "American Idol."
"She is trying to keep up this lie and get the guy," Stevens says of her character. "The thing with me playing her is I obviously know Amy is in love with Karma, but playing Karma I have to be completely oblivious to it. She is very naive, but she is determined."
Not surprising, considering her name, but Karma's parents are old hippies who are very loving and welcoming. She has a brother, Zen -- you didn't really expect he would be named John, did you?-- in the Peace Corps. Karma's parents want the girls to be able to be open about their love at home.
Amy's parents, on the other hand, are not accepting -- at least not in the first couple of episodes. Her mother is clueless, a blond stereotype of a local TV news personality, who worries more about what Amy wears and her standing in the school than anything else. She's engaged to a bland man, Bruce, whose daughter is Lauren (Bailey Buntain, "Bunheads"), the queen mean girl in the same high school.
Lauren tries to out Amy and Karma as straight, but her plan backfires because of their public displays of affection.
Amy dreams about Karma, and by the second episode, which is set the day after the pilot, Amy becomes more aware of her feelings. Karma's longings are all for a cute boy, Liam (Gregg Sulkin, "Wizards of Waverly Place").
Karma "has an idea of what high school is supposed to be like," Stevens says. "What I love about 'Faking It' is every character is trying to navigate and find themselves. Whether the lesbian-gay aspects of it or she is a high-school girl and wants to get the guy, she is very much somebody high-school girls can relate to."
Stevens hopes the show's deeper meanings, beyond the jokes about high school, resonate with viewers.
"I think I was the very last person seen" to play Karma, she says. "And I had a limited amount of time to figure out the character. But reading the script, it seems like something that's going to help a lot of kids feel accepted and be their authentic selves, especially high-school kids.
"You see the kids who are more unique get picked on, and that's not the way it should be, and nobody should have to be a certain way to fit in," Stevens continues. "At this high school, the more unique you are, the more popular you are. I love that the gay guys and the artists are the most popular guys. You can be whoever you want to be and be accepted. And I hope this show brings tolerance and acceptance when watching it."
Photo/Video credit: MTV