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Rant: Because Faking It isn’t Real, or Helpful

 

I admit, I have watched MTV for a long time. A LOOOONG time. I watched music videos and loved the VJs, and had my favorites. I watched the original Real World when it aired in 1992 (even though I had to hide it from my parents- they didn’t think it was appropriate as it was a little too extreme for our area). I watched when Real World: San Francisco was lauded for AIDS activist Pedro being honest about his story and his life. I have watched numerous episodes of True Life, watching teens document their real stories, and Catfish: The TV Show, where the dangers of online dating are exposed. I even watched the short lived WWE Tough Enough, where contestants were trying to become wrestling stars. I’ve seen 16 & Pregnant, Teen Moms, and other shows, and seen MTV become more television than music. It’s not on my favorite channel list on Roku, and I don’t tune in that often. I admit that I haven’t been able to get into Teen Wolf or Akward, but I haven’t really tried.

Across my Twitter stream the other day came #BanMTVsFakingIt, listed by some people that I actively follow and some I just browse. I follwed the thread, and then got curious. Faking It is a new teen show launching this week. Accoring to the New York Times:

Katie Stevens and Rita Volk star as Karma and Amy, best friends desperate to crack their school’s inner social circle. (As usual, there’s no obvious reason — looks, charm, body mass — why they shouldn’t already be there.) Karma is the more desperate of the two, and the show opens with her latest scheme, to generate sympathy by pretending to have been blinded by a sudden-onset brain tumor.
Within a few minutes of screen time, a better solution falls into their laps: They’re mistaken for a lesbian couple, and Karma realizes that they should play along: Being a brave, public same-sex couple in liberal Austin makes them instant celebrities.
That’s enough of a hook to make the show stand out, but it takes a further step (spoiler alert here) by making one of the girls realize that maybe she’s not just playacting her new sexual orientation. It’s a slightly melodramatic twist, though it raises the stakes from teenage farce to something with a little more emotional resonance.




Now, I’m sorry, but faking your sexuality, even if in the middle of the series one of the the girls realize that “maybe” they’re not playacting is hurtful and painful and just wrong.
I’ve read blogs that post on the opposite side of my opinion, noteably on
Here’s the thing: Are parts of Faking It problematic? Sure. But when it comes down to it, I believe this show will do more good than harm. I am ecstatic over the kissing scene at the end of the pilot (I’ve watched it ten times). I’m even more ecstatic about the additional kisses shown in the Season 1 teaser. In a world where Glee dragged its feet for nine episodes (seriously?!) between confirming Brittany and Santana were a couple (S3, E4) and actually showing them kissing (S3, E13), it is a joy to have a show like Faking It, which shows Karma and Amy kissing in its teaser trailer.

When we watch Faking It, there will be no waiting around for the two queer/”queer” girls to show up on screen. They will be on screen in every scene. Karma and Amy’s story is not the subplot to a larger story about straight characters. (They are not Glee. They are not Pretty Little Liars.) Karma and Amy are the story. If the Faking It writers handle these characters responsibly—and I’m praying they will—we have a beautiful, heartening journey to look forward to.

 “Ten years ago, we would have never been able to put this show on telly,” said U.K.-born Gregg Sulkin (Pretty Little Liars, Wizards of Waverly Place), who plays Liam, Shane’s straight best friend who develops a crush on Karma. “This is a great opportunity for us to show the world that times have changed. This is the future, this is where things are headed, so get on board or get out of the way.

The young cast’s universal attitude toward the message Faking It espouses — Be true to yourself and people will love you because of that — reinforces a perceptible moral shift among twentysomethings who have grown up in a world with representations of the LGBTQ community omnipresent in pop culture. 

They are more than welcome to their opinion.
The only hope I have for the show is that the creator works for the Trevor Project, and the Trevor Project itself is promoting the show on their site.
However.


I’ve been working with GLBTQ/QUILTBAG teens for years. I have yet to have one not have a painful experience upon coming out to someone. I have yet to have one not have hazing/harassment/violence in school because someone suspected their sexuality might be different than the accepted norm.   (I’m not even going to touch the fact that the cast is pale beyond compare for Austin, Texas– my head already hurts.)
If you look to Twitter and other social media, or even in the majority of hometowns or local news, it’s not the case. If it was, we wouldn’t need services like The Trevor Project. GLBTQ/QUILTBAG teens wouldn’t be 5 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers. It wouldn’t be illegal to be gay and in love in 1/5 of the United States. I wouldn’t have teens takling to me about their relationships when their religion says they’re going to hell. There wouldn’t be protestors saying that fags are demons. There wouldn’t be postings like these on Twitter:















 The pilot has already “aired” everywhere in the free world.
The first episode airs April 22 on MTV.

Why Isn’t Katniss Everdeen Nominated in the MTV Best Hero Category? A reflection on the role of women in the movies

Look, no one is expecting the Oscars when it comes to the MTV Movie Awards. And in the history of MTV it is no secret that it is often unkind to women, at least it reflects the world’s often unkindness towards women. In fact, in the music world more than anywhere you can often see the sexualization and objectification of women more clearly. I mean, that’s why almost all female pop music stars (and female back up dancers) are overly sexualized while the men get to keep their clothes on while they sing. Seriously, rewatch this past year’s Grammys and note how many men sang completely clothed – often in suits – and how many women sang in some form of bra/panty swimsuit looking get up. Yes, you may argue it was their choice, but how much of that choice is being put upon them by our cultural expectations and influence and how much of it is a genuine expression of who they are? It’s an interesting question that I ponder a lot.

So the MTV Movie Award nominations shouldn’t surprise me, but they do disappoint me.

Let’s look for a moment at the Best Hero nominees:
Henry Cavill as Clark Kent — “Man of Steel”
Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man — “Iron Man 3″
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins — “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
Chris Hemsworth as Thor — “Thor: The Dark World”
Channing Tatum as John Cale — “White House Down”

You know who is missing? Katniss Everdeen from Catching Fire. Or any other woman. Can women not be heroes?

Read more about the reaction to Katniss’ exclusion at The Wrap

 A woman did, at least, get nominated in the best villain category:

Barkhad Abdi — “Captain Phillips”
Benedict Cumberbatch — “Star Trek into Darkness”
Michael Fassbender — “12 Years a Slave”
Mila Kunis — “Oz The Great and Powerful”
Donald Sutherland — “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”

You know who I think is missing? Rinku Kikuchi playing the witch in 49 Ronin. Although it is possible that I am the only person on Earth who saw this movie and thus knows that she was an awesome villain. What can I say, I am a dedicated Keanu Reeves fan.

But don’t worry, a woman did get nominated in the best shirtless category. That woman would be Jennifer Aniston. Of course society does view a shirtless woman quite differently than a shirtless man, just ask any of the number of women who are trying to breastfeed their babies in public and are asked to cover up.

Jennifer Aniston — “We’re the Millers”
Sam Claflin — “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
Leonardo DiCaprio — “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Zac Efron — “That Awkward Moment”
Chris Hemsworth — “Thor: The Dark World”

And one woman is nominated in the best on-screen transformation category.

Christian Bale — “American Hustle”
Elizabeth Banks — “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
Orlando Bloom — “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
Jared Leto — “Dallas Buyers Club”
Matthew McConaughey — “Dallas Buyers Club”

In fact, if it is not a category designed specifically FOR women – say best actress – it appears to be a 1 woman to 4 nomination ratio, with a few exceptions in the best cameo and best scared as shit performance. Make of that what you will.

It’s no secret that like most industries, Hollywood is still dominated disproportionately by men. Did you know that Frozen is the first animated Disney movie to be directed by a woman? Actually, although women make up around roughly 50% of the population, there are very few female movie directors. Only 4 women have ever been nominated for a best director Oscar in 84 years.  There are very few female led or mostly female movies. And there is only 1 female Avenger in the movie and she has absolutely zero super powers.

I have a friend who was recently watching The Ghostbusters with her two daughters and the oldest one asked, “How come there are no girl Ghostbusters?” What’s sad is that as a kid, I never thought to ask that. We have been conditioned to accept that the girl will of course be the lobby receptionist while the boys are the scientists who develop the equipment and go out hunting for ghosts. Maybe that’s why many people think it is okay to overlook Katniss Everdeen in the hero category, despite the fact that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was a huge box office success and Katniss kind of rocks.

You can see a complete list of the MTV Movie Award Nominees here.

Also, I’m totally serious about the dedicated Keanu Reeves fan. I recently commented to my husband that we had been together over 20 years and his response was, “That’s a lot of bad Keanu Reeves movies I have seen out of love for you.” Thanks honey!

TV Shows We Love: Teen Wolf

MTV’s werewolf series claims to be loosely based on the 1985 movie starring Michael J. Fox. It is about a teenage werewolf who plays a sport (lacrosse.) So, yeah, it’s about as much like the movie as Skittles are like a Hershey bar…they’re both candy.

I’m never one to pass up a supernatural drama, much less one that focuses on teens, so I gave it a try – I’m so glad I did. In the first episode, Scott and his best friend Stiles go out hunting a dead body in the woods. Scott is attacked by some sort of creature and becomes…you guessed it – a werewolf! The funny thing is that it’s Stiles who figures out what is going on. Stiles, whose father is the police chief, whose idea it was to go looking for the dead body in the woods, whose zany impulsiveness and hyper intelligence provide the impetus for much of the action of the show. Because yes, Scott is the protagonist, but Stiles is the heart of the show. I ask any of you who watch it – could you replace Scott with just about anyone? Yes. But Stiles – Stiles is irreplaceable.



At the same time that Scott is becoming a werewolf, a new family moves to town. A new family whose surname just happens to be ‘Argent’. To those of us with a rudimentary understanding of French, Argent = Silver. Werewolves are killed by silver bullets. About as subtle as a sledgehammer, but this show is for teens who may or may not have this as part of their vocabulary, so I’ll let it pass. The teen member of the Argent family is the ethereally beautiful, but somewhat awkward, Allison. I give you three guesses as to which two characters fall in love. First two guesses don’t count.

Allison, the new girl in town, is taken in by the high school queen bee, Lydia. Lydia, whose mean girl nature is a shield for her extreme intelligence. Lydia, who has been the girl of Stiles’ dreams since elementary school. Lydia, who (spoiler alert) turns out to have a supernatural power, herself. Lydia is essentially Stiles to Alison’s Scott.

Mixed in with all of these wonderful teen characters are the hidden gems of the show – fully realized adult characters. In a show for teens! Adults with lives and back stories and complicated emotions and motivations. Seriously. For all of the mixed up conglomeration of weirdness that passes for the show’s mythology (it really does appropriate from almost every culture’s supernatural mythology) – it does an amazing job with characterization. Equally amazing are the complexities of the relationships between the characters. There is nothing superficial here, even when it seems like it might be natural (Lydia’s relationship with the captain of the lacrosse team, for example.)
 
The writing on this show is superb. The directing is even better. The special effects are…getting there. I highly recommend it!

Reading recommendations:

  • Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause
  • Raised by Wolves, Trial by Fire, and Taken by Storm by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • The Gathering, The Calling, and The Rising by Kelly Armstrong
  • Shiver, Linger, and Forever by Maggie Stiefvater 

MTV may not show videos anymore, but you should watch these shows if you work with Teens

There was a time when MTV showed music videos. And it was awesome.  Though it is not a music staple anymore, and I sometimes weep about it, Teens and Young Adults (true young adults, in their early 20s) are still MTV’s target demographic.  And in all honesty, they do have some interesting things happening on the channel.  So if you want to work with teens, I think it is important to spend some time in their world.  Just a little.  Here are 5 MTV shows that will not only help you work with your teens, but they are actually pretty good.  Yes, I am admitting it. 

So, what 5 shows on MTV should you be watching?

Teen Wolf

Season 3 of Teen Wolf premieres on Monday, June 3rd.  This series is loosely based on the 80s movie starring Michael J. Fox, but it has amped up the sex appeal.  MTV is all about amped up sex appeal sometimes.  Scott is a teenager who was bitten by a wolf and is plunged into an underground world with power struggles, death, and danger at every turn.  Although there is some evidence to suggest that paranormal is waning in the publishing world, it is still hot with teens.  Also, you can never go wrong with hot vampires (Vampire Diaries on CW) or hot werewolves.  See above.  It is not as awesome as Buffy, because it lacks the Whedon vibe, but Buffy staple Nancy Holder has written some of the book tie-ins and many people on Twitter watch it together.  Community watching always makes TV more fun.

World of Jenks

Andrew Jenks was a teenage documentary film maker.  He is now 24 and makes a show on MTV that is really kind of awesome.  On the World of Jenks, Jenks spends time literally walking in someone else’s shoes.  He has lived with a rapper, an autistic boy, and more.  While he is living with them, we learn about lives different then our own.  It’s really pretty cool.  He also recently released an autobiography which we reviewed and gave some programming ideas for. His story is pretty inspiring to teens and young adults.

True Life

 
True Life tells the story of young people who are facing a wide variety of life challenges.  The goal of this show is to raise awareness and just let young people tell their stories.  It is, in fact, often one of my favorite shows on TV.  The show synopsis says: “Since its first episode in 1998, True Life has provided a window into the struggles, hopes, and dreams of young people. Narrated solely by its characters, each episode documents the unusual–and often remarkable–circumstances of real individuals, whether it’s about soldiers returning from Iraq, deaf teenagers, or people living with autism. We’ve given all of them–and hundreds of others–the opportunity to tell their own stories directly to their peers in this powerful, Emmy award winning series that uniquely reflects the experiences and cultures of this generation.”

Awkward.

 
Being a teenager is, well, awkward.  And Awkward really capture the essence of it.  Awkward is basically a serialized soap opera that follows the life of Jenna, who many people believe tried to commit suicide, although she genuinely had a weird accident.  Jenna shares her life in a blog.  Actually, she overshares.  There is a lot of good humor here.  I particularly love the English teacher who tries to really get his students to write in ways that would probably get him fired in real life.

Made

Made is an award winning show that focuses on teens (and now college students) trying their hands at personal transformation.  This is more than just The Biggest Loser, however, as the transformations can literally be anything.  Some teens take dance or cheerleading lessons to be “made” into these different people.  Most of the goals are career or performance oriented.  And yes, some of them involve things like being made into a beauty queen.  But it is still an interesting look into the life of young people and their hopes and desires.

As for music, if you really want to see music video I recommend Jump Start on VH1 (I have my DVR set to record it so I can skim through the videos I hate) or check out Fuse.

What other shows do you think are secretly awesome and why?  Tell us in the comments.  They don’t even have to be on MTV.