Division I. School BFFs
#4 Summer & Marissa (The O.C.) vs. #13 Karma & Amy (Faking It)
Up this round, we have some early-aughts heavyweights from “(welcome to) the O.C., bitch!” up against two lesser known but current MTV stars of Faking It.
First, I must get this off my chest:
The O.C. is everything that was great about 2003.
Can’t you just hear Phantom Planet’s song playing here? Season 1 is so phenomenal. Timely but timeless.
Now. To the competition.
Marissa Cooper and Summer Roberts weather quite a few storms together with their friendship intact. Points for them.
Although, “friendship intact” should be clarified because the show concluded with their friendship intact only in memory, as our dear, misguided Marissa shuffles off the mortal coil before the show’s end.
It should be noted that neither Summer nor Marissa ever dip into the other one’s crushes/Sig.O’s, which is laudable for any of our friendships in the “School BFFs” category. In terms of comparable teen dramas, Beverly Hills, 90210, One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl all feature female friendships in which two women have dated or hooked up with the same guy at least once and sometimes more. So, again, points to these girls for that. (Conversely, perhaps they don’t deserve points because they didn’t have to try to stay friends despite having shared the same lovah? High School circles are small, I actually think it’s relatively normal to have friends date friends’ exes. Normal, but tricky.)
Anyways, in their case, it relieves the threat of that tension, leaving more room for fights over Marissa’s downward spiral of self-destruction!
It’s interesting to note how the O.C. dealt with teens and bisexuality circa 2004 and how there are now entire shows devoted teenagers’ complicated and fluid sexualities.
When Marissa gets a girlfriend, it’s kind of part of a long string of Mariss’capades.
Thus, no matter how sincere, and not that I want to echo Julie Cooper’s insensitivity, but, well, it often played for some shock value, which is perhaps true to its time and the show’s home on a major network.
In Faking It, however, all of the factors related to falling in love, coming out, dealing with platonic jealousy (not to mention sexual jealousy), and everything in between, are dealt with in detail and with some sensitivity (despite the often ludicrous plot points).
Marissa and Summer stay true to each other, despite their differences and despite the fact that Summer obviously transitioned from side/minor character to everybody’s favorite and new female lead.
Look, they’re so cute, graduating and everything!
Princess Sparkle would obviously vote for Marissa and Summer here.
Ten years later, Faking It begins with an overly complicated (and inherently comedic) set-up, but is nonetheless about friendships and romantic relationships, focusing most on the relationship between two girls, but including a whole host of other escapades among young people trying to figure out who they are, what they want, etc., etc.
Indeed, it begins with said two best friends (Karma and Amy) whose platonic relationship (and dearth of other friends) is mistaken for a romantic relationship. At this liberal bastion of a high school, this earns them serious popularity points, which Karma loves.
To maintain this new-found popularity, Karma convinces Amy that they should play along with it and pretend to be in a relationship. A few public kisses to “prove it” are required.
At this point, however, Amy realized she kissed a girl and she liked it and actually wants to be in a sexual relationship with Karma… Miscommunications and adventures ensue!! Some are simply funny, but others are actually poignant. But, although Amy is slowly realizing that she actually wants Karma, she doesn’t tell her for awhile, obviously.
Their exchange when Amy finally comes out to Karma about her feelings is kind of heart-wrenching.
Amy: I was afraid I’d lose you.
Karma: You could never lose me. Look, this is not big deal. Right now you’re just confused.
Amy: No I’m not.
Amy: There’s a spark between us, you can’t deny it!
Karma: Was it hot, yeah? But…
Amy: I didn’t want to have these feelings either. They’re scary. But they’re scary because they’re exciting! Like bungee jumping!
Karma: Please don’t…
Amy: Karma, step off the edge with me. Everyone already thinks we’re lesbians; let’s give the people what they want.
Amy: I love you.
Karma: I love you too, Amy. More than anyone else on Earth. Just not like that.
Amy: But how can you tell if you don’t try?
Karma: I slept with Liam.
So, while Amy and Karma have been “faking it” at school, and Amy has been developing feelings for Karma, Karma has been getting to know Liam and starting to date him and she has sex with him (her first time) but doesn’t tell Amy because she’s worried about it, and, then, Amy tries to get Karma to give them a real chance, and, yeah.
So, after this all goes down, and both Karma and Amy are pretty distraught after the less-than-satisfactory revelations, even more fucked up things happen to their relationship. Alcohol is involved.
Distraught after Karma’s rejection of her, Amy begins to drink heavily at her mom’s wedding. Karma is distraught, but goes home. Meanwhile, Liam is upset because he found out that Karma lied to him and was never in a real relationship with Amy, and so he starts drinking heavily (also at the wedding). Then, our two young drunks (Amy and Liam) bond over feeling betrayed by Karma.
Add a little bit of chemistry from earlier in the series, and the alcohol, and the betrayal, and the wedding reception setting, and, well, you get an impulsive hook-up.
Now, both Amy and Karma have had sex with the same guy (Liam), but while Karma/Liam were really into each other, Amy/Liam were definitely not.
Regrets and lies abound. Over at AfterEllen, where they spend a lot of time writing solid recaps on the show and delving into more of the sexual politics presented, Elaine Atwell had a pretty solid point that while she disappointed on a lot of levels about this storyline in which Amy fell into bed with Liam, it does make sense if you consider that “Time and time again, we have seen Amy lash out impulsively and physically when she feels emotionally fragile… Karma comes up with the world’s worst plans, but Amy makes the world’s worst spur of the moment decisions.”
What’s interesting to about Karma and Amy are the many issues they deal with related to being not simply friends but “best” friends. Their friendship quickly becomes competitive as new friends and lovers enter their lives. I think this is true to many close friendships, particularly when we’re younger. If it was primarily you + your BFF for however many years growing up, and then, BAM!, there are other people competing for your friend’s attention, well, that can be hard. And that’s not even adding in the complicated romantic feelings!
Like, at one point, after they’ve passed several hurdles in the whole Amy-likes-likes-Karma-but-Karma-likes-Liam drama, Amy sets up a surprise birthday scavenger hunt for Karma’s 16th birthday featuring their “greatest friendship moments”. Amy and Karma are trying to deal with maintaining their platonic relationship. But, at the same time, Karma just really wants to see Liam.
Amy has kind of monopolized her entire day and Karma wants to make Amy happy by going along with it all while trying to hurry it up so she can make some of her own choices for how to spend her birthday, as well.
They have a moment in which Amy presents two doll houses that she made to represent how they always promised (like many bffs) to grow old together as next door neighbors so that they would always be besties.
I mean, seriously, who didn’t say something like that to a childhood friend? Neighbors once, neighbors forever! Anyways, Amy adds that while she still wants to grow old living next door to one another, she has to allow for other people in that fantasy. Accepting that you aren’t going to be the only person if your BFFs (or significant other’s) life is part of growing up.
Even when Karma and Liam seem to be doing okay, and Amy is pretty okay with them together, too, there are still tensions. And we get the age-old friend or lover competition.
By the second season, Amy meets Reagan and they start dating. Now, despite the fact that Karma is dating Liam and only wants to be friends with Amy, she is also jealous and territorial of Amy. So, at a “group hang” dinner, Karma and Reagan try to out-know-Amy in front of one another. In this case, the argument occurs over mushrooms and kale.
Karma: “I hate mushrooms and Amy loves them.”
Reagan: “Have some of this kale, Amy.”
Karma: “Oh no, Amy hates Kale. Luckily, she has all these mushrooms.”
Reagan: “It’s funny, Amy never mentioned mushrooms before so how much could she love them?”
Karma: “Trust me, Amy loves mushrooms. Kale could never compare.”
Anyways. These two are a work in project and so it makes it harder to compare with Summer and Marissa. I’m actually super torn on who I think has the stronger female friendship!! Thoughts? Anyone actually watched Faking It?