MTV’s newest high school drama Faking It premiered this week, and although the pilot might be a bit rough around the edges, the show has some serious potential. Faking It stars Rita Volk and Katie Stevens as Amy and Karma, two teenagers who want to stand out in their excessively-progressive high school located in Austin, Texas — the single blue dot in a sea of red.
When popular boys Shane (Michael Willett) and Liam (Gregg Sulkin) mistake Amy and Karma’s friendship as a romantic relationship, the girls rise to popularity with their new gay personas. However, Amy’s conservative and traditional stepsister Lauren (Bailey Buntain) seeks to out the girls as straight. Anyone following MTV’s Awkward will be sure to love the new series, but even non-fans won’t fake their enjoyment of the new show.
Between making jokes about teen moms at the school — which was especially hilarious given that the premiere of Faking It was followed by the Teen Mom 2 reunion — and the main characters talking about binge-watching Netflix, the show certainly knows its audience. The humor on the show is tailored perfectly for teens and twenty-somethings who loved the comedy in 21 Jump Street.
Flipping High School on Its Head
We’ve all seen the teen dramas in which cheerleaders and athletes rule the school, but in recent years, certain series are breaking down that trope. Glee, of course, is a huge proponent of the underdogs/losers of the school. Now there’s also Faking It. In this high school, being progressive is cool and subjecting yourself to outdated traditions is not cool — which is fun to watch.
The pilot might be a bit backwards — two girls pretending to be gay to gain popularity is not exactly LGBT-friendly — but the show is planning to explore both girls’ sexuality throughout the first season, which is something not often seen on television. Sure Amy and Karma might start off pretending, but one of them will start to question whether she’s actually faking it or not. The story should allow for some fantastic and interesting television that we’ve never seen before.
If Molly Ringwald — be she poor and unpopular or rich and revered — had her eye on some dreamboat, you can bet your letterman jacket that John Hughes would stick the two of 'em together in the end. The pair would share a kiss over a flaming cake or outside their incarcerating high school, just in time for the credits to roll and our eyes to tear up. That's the Hollywood ending. The more or less satisfying, albeit sometimes offensively flimsy, conclusion that brings two physically appealing young white people together. Forever. It doesn't matter how little substance backs their teenage love affair, nor how disturbingly misguided their romance might in fact be (remember Can't Hardly Wait? We're supposed to believe she falls totally in love with her stalker mere hours after her very first inkling that he even exists?), audiences just eat up these glitzy, amorous bonds.
It's a time-tested tradition throughout mainstream cinema. Sure, not all movies opt for the schmaltzy, ice cream finale, vying instead for something bleak, bittersweet, and embedded in realism, but we're moreover guaranteed a presence of that Hollywood send-off throughout the industry's rom-com output. Except, for some reason, when it comes to gay movies. Take Tribeca's G.B.F., a bubbly, colorful, pithy high school comedy, centering on the newly outed student Tanner (Michael J. Willett) and his closeted best friend Brent (Paul Iacono). When Tanner becomes the apple of every popular girl's eye, each of the school's queen bees coveting the glimmering accessory of Gay Best Friend, it puts a strain on his longtime camaraderie with Brent, leading — in classic rom-com fashion — to a fight, then a reconciliation, then a kiss, then an infatuation. And if this were your average heterosexual high school movie, you'd likely wind up with a romantic union to tie the story together and warm the audience's hearts. You'd see an eternal adhesion Tanner and Brenda, or Tanya and Brent. It'd be goofy, neglectful of real world consequences, and surface value ecstasy.
All of that would fit just fine into G.B.F., which, despite being sweet, progressive, and insightful at times, is just your ordinary candy-coated high school romp. But for whatever reason, a Hollywood ending is avoided, despite a very Hollywood beginning and middle. The movie wraps with Tanner and Brent agreeing that they're better as friends, dismissing their obvious attraction to one another (or at the very least, Brent's attraction to Tanner), and carrying on perpetually with their platonic affection.
On the one hand, this is reassuring. At least the movie recognizes something rare for show business: just because these two characters both happen to be gay, that doesn't mean they "belong" together. But in this chewing gum reality of G.B.F., these two lifelong best friends do seem to belong together. At least no less than Molly Ringwald and Michael Schoeffling or Ethan Embry and Jennifer Love Hewitt or Alicia Silverstone and her Paul Rudd step-brother. In movies as bright and brimming as Sixteen Candles, Can't Hardly Wait, and Clueless, the Hollywood ending makes sense — the same can be said for the equally fast-paced and sparkly G.B.F.. So why, then, don't we see the credits roll over a long anticipated Tanner/Brent kiss?
Why, in fact, are we so rarely inclined to see this kind of ending in movies about gay couples? Although the film industry is gradually inviting more films about homosexual relationships toward the mainstream, they all seem to vie for the bleak and bittersweet... or just bitter. The most famous entry to date is Brokeback Mountain, which chronicled the passionate love of cowboys Heath Ledger (who totally ended up with the girl in 10 Things I Hate About You) and Jake Gyllenhaal (who totally ended up with the girl in Bubble Boy... sorry for bringing up Bubble Boy), ripping the enamored men apart and killing the latter prematurely. Following in the same vein, we have romantic dramas like Weekend, A Single Man, Shelter all shoot for sorrow and sobriety. While films like these, about straight and gay romances alike, are imporant and valuable, it feels like something is missing. If there is something to be gained from the endings of Clueless and 10 Things, then there would be something to be gained by a saccharine intertwining of G.B.F.'s heroes.
But that's not what we get, despite all the signs pointing to it as the logical shot for the film's final moments. Is it simply that Hollywood is still afraid of tackling a gay romance under the guise of a mainstream movie? Even when presenting a movie that is about being gay and celebrates open-mindedness and tolerance and disparages objectification, we run into this aversion. And it's frightening — if G.B.F., a movie tailor made for the sort of Kat-and-Patrick wrap-up, is afraid of or otherwise opposed to this kind of closer, then where on Earth are we going to find it?
Sure, you'll find no shortage of filmgoers who can't stand the rom-com genre. It's fake, vapid, superficial. But it's a tradition, and one that seems to make everyone else happy. These movies, in delivering shiny stories as thick as cardboard, foster the belief in true love. They sell romance in the simplest of forms, begging viewers to buy into the mentality, if only to pony up the dough for the next big picture release. But capitalistic intentions aside, the same process should be afforded to same-sex rom-coms. The same sort of flimsy, chocolate-chomping "true love" should be touted in regards to the likes of Tanner and Brent. Gay moviegoers deserve to see themselves in the same light as the Ringwalds and Silverstones, deserve to be fed the same line of Fluffernutter as their straight counterparts. Movies like Can't Hardly Wait, 10 Things I Hate About You, Clueless, and everything by John Hughes might be hokey and ill-fit for realistic expectation, but they serve a purpose: they purport something people want to believe in. And that needs to happen for the G.B.F.s of the world, too.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter
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A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
After a memorable second season of NBC's The Voice, filled with inspiring endeavors across the charts, a champion was finally chosen: Jermaine Paul.
The finale featured impressive performances from each remaining player. The final four includes Tony Lucca (representing Team Adam), Jermaine Paul (Team Blake), Juliet Simms (Team Cee Lo) and Chris Mann (Team Christina).
Jermaine kicked things off with "I Want You Back" by The Jackson 5 (with backup by former Voice contestants James Massone, Pip and Jamar Rogers). The performance was followed by Chris Mann singing "Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve (with backup by Lindsey Pavao and Katrina Parker).
Afterwards, Juliet Simms performed Joel Cocker's incarnation of "With a Little Help from My Friends," written originally by The Beatles (with backup by Erin Willett, RaeLynn and Jamar Rogers). Finally, Tony Lucca gave a rendition of "Go Your Own Way" by Fleetwood Mac (with backup by Jordis Unga).
Celebrity performers included Flo Rida, Lady Antebellum and Justin Bieber.
In the final moments of the broadcast, Jermaine Paul was crowned the champion of The Voice Season 2. Juliet Simms took second place, while Tony Lucca took third and Chris Mann took fourth. Jermaine celebrated with an encore performance of R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly." The talented performer's soulful voice and passionate stage presence is doubtlessly what clinched the win.
'The Voice' Recap: 99 Problems, But a Win Ain't One!
Our Meme-Tastic (Faux) Interview with Purrfect the Cat
Javier Colon Talks Returning to The Voice and Team Adam
S2E7: The night started off with a Tweet sent my way from Voice contestants The Shields Brothers, saying the latest episode was “gonna be shocking!” It definitely started off that way with two great battles, one with the aforementioned Shields that absolutely was the craziest thing on TV since Gary Busey. The rest of the night cooled off a bit until the world witnesses the absolute strength of Erin Willett, who lost her father to cancer right after she wowed the world and made it to the live rounds. What a finish!
Neck Ties vs. Nerves
“Pip’s the guy ... he can do everything.” - Blake
Pip, our favorite bow-tie-and-suspenders-wearing sprite, was pitted against Nathan Parrett; both are such old souls. Apparently Nathan did not bring it in the blind auditions because Adam kept gushing over how he improved, leaving Pip a little jealous. Robin Thicke did all he could to help the ultra nervous Nathan break out of his shell, but Pip stepped out on the stage and immediately sounded like Michael Buble singing “You Know I’m No Good.” The battle was great and the two worked so well together; they're both stylish and their sounds blended so effortlessly. Adam chose the better performer - Pip - over the stronger voice in Nathan. Pip Wins!
Quiet vs. Riot “That was so weird, that was so weird, that was so weird.” - Adam Former model Erin Martin came next facing off against The Shields Brothers. It was rock and roll punching America in the face against a fluttery beauty with an upside. What a song choice by Cee Lo: “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” This has to be the most unique matchup The Voice has EVER seen. Erin, usually quiet, was showing her teeth early and became downright nasty at times. Ne-Yo wasn’t impressed with the beauty either. “I see you. Okay, you’re cute, what else you got?” Erin came out for battle dressed like the evil queen in Once Upon A Time or Snow White and the Huntsman and the Shields Brothers were their usual crazy selves in leather jackets and t-shirts. It was such an amazing, bizarre performance. It seemed like two different songs altogether. At times Erin sounded like a condor or a dinosaur but her unique style pushed Cee Lo to pick her. Don’t fret, the Shield Brothers already have a retaliation video. Erin Wins! Sexy vs. Seventeen “When I was singing to Christina, I did get lost a little bit. I just kept looking into those beautiful Blue eyes.” - Jonathas Jonathas got a little too lost. There was no way to live up to the Shields Brothers, but Jonathas and Ashley De La Rosa sure tried. The two sang “No Air” by Chris Brown and Jordin Sparks; it seemed a perfect match for the two. At times, Jonathas really sounded just like Usher with smooth sounds and sensual rhythms but other times he was just flat and reached his plateau. Ashley started off slow and scared but had some fleeting break out moments that showed her potential. In the end, Christina picked the 17 year-old, who just needs a little training to take her farther in this competition. Ashley Wins! Uptight vs. Unbelievable “Jermaine, you took this song and kicked its ass man!” - Adam Next came Jermaine Paul - Alicia Keys’ backup singer - against Alyx, who's probably the most prepackaged, cold teen singer on the show. The two had to sing Billy Ocean’s “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” but it was never a contest. Blake tried to get the both to cut lose, which Jermaine took to heart. As for Alyx, even her cutting lose looked fake and pre-planned. Blake’s wife Miranda Lambert said she doubted that the young Alyx has ever let loose or had pure fun. Jermaine was the complete opposite, impressing Kelly Clarkson so much, she offered to bring him on tour with her. We can skip the battle because it was more like a massacre. Alyx gave a lame attempt at the end to cut lose and screamed “What the hell,” but no one was buying. Jermaine Wins! Underdog vs. Uncomfortable “As much as I love Angel’s voice, I think Katrina just flat out won this battle.” - Blake Angel Taylor battled Katrina Parker next to “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis and from the start, this song was better suited for Angel, who is on the show after dealing with an abusive father, but that didn’t seem to matter in the end when Hurricane Katrina brought it! Both of the coaches, Thicke and Alanis, wanted the two contestants to be vulnerable and feel the song. Adam even said to take those nerves and use them, even if you forget the words. When it was over, Christina compared Katrina to Adele - that's some big praise! Adam was hiding in his sweater when it was decision time, probably because he knew he had to go with the underdog who stole the show while Angel was kind of timid. Katrina Wins! Country vs. Catastrophe “I hope he knows I’m doing this for him.” - Erin He knows! No jokes here, what Erin Willett did next was nothing short of amazing. She faced off against her friend and country singer Gwen Sebastian singing “We Belong” but right before it was time to go on, she found out her father Chuck’s cancer had taken a turn for the worse and he had 24 hours left to live. Before this Erin was concerned that she didn’t want to overuse her powerful voice during the battle. That was all thrown out the window and the entire crowd, coaching panel and world was rooting for Erin. Even Gwen was smiling at Erin, rooting for her while they were actually battling. It was a finish to the show that had everyone a little teary eyed. Blake went with the powerful Erin, who sang her heart out for dad. Erin Wins! This battle round was the epitome of a classic bookend show, where the beginning and the end really made it a great episode. After watching Erin’s struggle, you forget about a flat performance or two and just get caught up in all the drama. Next week, we welcome the last battle round and prepare for the live shows. Every time you get comfortable, this show changes on you. Are you ready? What did you think of Erin’s performance? What did you think of The Shields Brothers? Do you think the right people were chosen? Let us know in the comments section below.
S2E3: Stroking his white, fluffy cat like a black Dr. Evil, it’s all about Cee Lo. The Gnarls Barkley frontman has picked up right where he left off last year, as the most likable judge, hands-down, on The Voice. But, as Adam can tell you - and often does...over and over again - being liked doesn’t automatically win the show. Even though everyone has to think a second longer when Cee Lo picks you to possibly be on his team, Adam, Christina and Blake are building their own powerhouses that should provide be steep competition. Last night, we saw power, we saw unique style and we saw Pip - who will supply us with jokes for the remainder of the season. It was a great night for auditions, so let’s get this show on the road.
“So in other words, Cee Lo would like for you to be an experiment.” - Blake
Sarah Golden was our first blind audition of the night and the first time the audience was actually blind too, just like the coaches. We heard her story of being turned down by record labels for her plain looks and didn’t get to see her face until Cee Lo was first to buzz in. Her rendition of “You and I” by Lady Gaga was one that Blake called “honest” and he also chose her. In textbook fashion, she chose the unique Cee Lo over country star Blake, who ranted a bit after about the contestants believing Cee’s crap. Nothing but love flowing back and forth on stage at The Voice.
“It takes a real man to wear a bow tie, first of all.” - Adam
No, we didn't find the Dickensian South Park character, but instead 19-year-old Pip Andrew was up next, bow tie, suspenders and all, and he hoped too that the judges not seeing his youthful face would help his chances. His powerful audition choice “House of the Rising Sun” had an immediate impact and Adam took notice first. Then the rest of the panel turned too. It was our first foursome of the night. Low blows came out as Christina brought up her success before Maroon 5 and Blake called out Christina for not waking up before noon. And this is all over a guy named Pip; go figure. Adam’s love for Pip’s style earned him a team member that could go far on this show. Just when we are having fun, the touching stories start to roll in again. Contestant Erin Willett dedicated her performance to her father, who is dying of cancer and was poignant in saying that one day he might be gone, but today is not the day. Well said, Erin. She brought out the big guns with “I Want You Back” and her voice was a weapon on stage that caught the eye of Team Blake. It was an easy decision, since he was the only one to pick her.
“I win...I want something different and that’s what I really heard.” - Adam
Last night was all about those who didn’t look the part and Katrina Parker definitely fit that bill. Parker was surprised by Carson during work and no one could miss the obvious Kia plug when he was driving to her office. Carson pulls the old, “Let me just use Kia’s simple navigation to find my way.” But we can't hate, we all need sponsors. Parker did a country version of “One of Us,” a personal favorite from my youth. A sleeping Adam jumped on Parker and earned his second singer of the night. The champ is back!
Some notables left hanging included Linebacker-looking David Grace and I couldn’t tell if he was getting ready to sing or wrestle The Rock at Wrestlemania. As it turns out, I’m not the only one making these jokes. (UFC fighter, why didn’t I think of that one, damn!) I guess the show has enough backstage security because he was not picked.
Another contestant not picked was Winter Rae, who sports blue hair, tattoos and a partially shaved head. Blake thought her hair was badass but not enough to buzz in. Her song “Take a Bow” compelled the one and only Perez Hilton to come to his friend’s audition, but it was not compelling enough to get her on a team.
“I may not look like Cee lo but I have soul too.” - Christina
Geoff McBride, at 51 was one of the oldest, if not the oldest, artists we have seen on the show. He wears his sunglasses at night because of a kickboxing injury he sustained as a kid. His interpretation of “Higher Ground” infused the crown with a whole lot of soul and Christina felt this enough to push her button. It felt a little like church on Sunday, but being Jewish, I have no idea how that feels. Cee Lo had to jump in and picked Geoff too. Too little, too late as he went with the blonde who always likes to show off her soulful assets.
Former model Erin Martin threw on her best pumps and sang a very unique version of “Hey There Delilah” - unique and a bit weird. She had an interesting voice, sweet and awkward at the same time like a singing butterfly. There’s my best Confucius impression. Cee lo used his flirting to earn him another member on his merry band of unique artists. Cee put it best by calling her voice bizarre, but that is what this competition is all about. Oh yeah, and Blake complained that everyone likes Cee Lo. Cry me a river.
“Adam what happened to you?” - James Massone
Our competitors really stick it to the coaches on this show and James Massone was no different. This rugged, Boston version of Justin Bieber looks 15 but is 23 and came on The Voice to get away from his father’s body shop. Christina buzzed in, than saw that fresh face and was reminded of her days with the Mickey Mouse Club during Massone’s “Find Your Love,” followed by Blake and Cee lo ... but no Adam. Surprise, he picked Cee Lo.
During highlights, Moses Stone, the first ever rapper and MC was picked for Team Christina after he laid down some Black Eyed Peas on the panel. He could be an interesting choice or could be gone before you know it, only time will tell. Mike Posner look-alike Chris Cauley came up next and exploded with his take on “Grenade” by Bruno Mars. Cee Lo and Adam both chose this young man who was influenced by his musical grandmother. Even though he is an Atl guy, he was able to stay away from Cee’s clutches and go with Adam - last year’s champ earned his third singer of the night.
“Your voice makes me want to push myself.” - Blake
Last but certainly not least was Jordis Unga who took it back a bit with “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Sir Paul McCartney, a performance that made Adam mouth, “I love this song!” when it started. Blake, Christina and Cee Lo all hit their buttons for Unga, especially when she got on her knees for the final verse. Adam was gracious in admitting he was the “A-hole who didn’t pick you.” Blake’s kind words got her on his team.
Things are really starting to heat up and we are just about half way through the auditions. The competition couldn’t be more of a welcome change looming in a few weeks. Even with the always entertaining back and forth from the coaches. I’m sure there will be plenty of drama when the singers are fighting to stay on the show.
What did you think of last night? Do you like who was chosen for the teams? Any favorites? Let us know with some comments and find me on Twitter @TheRealRothman.