Thursday, November 29, 2012


By Erin Jackson

Catfish was a documentary film that was a little unbelievable in 2010, and even more so in this profile linked, google-image searched 2012 lifestyle we lead. A young man, Nev, receives a few paintings from a little girl who saw some photos he took for a newspaper online and painted them for him. He keeps in touch with her and her family and soon forms a relationship with her older sister. When he tries to meet up with her, things begin to fall apart. The paintings were not those of a child prodigy, but those of a middle aged woman, who was also the person Nev thought was his 20-something girlfriend.
I had mixed feelings about it, as most of Nev's "discoveries" felt orchestrated and phony, and his upbeat, forgiving attitude felt disingenuous. So when I heard they would be making a series featuring people duped by others online, I was flummoxed. How would this transfer over to a series? How could he possibly find others in similar situations and present them this same way? The answer to these questions is a mixed bag. The faux DIY aesthetic aped from the film is a turn off. I still find it baffling that not only would someone create a years long fake persona but that someone would completely buy into it. And yet, after two episodes, I'm kind of hooked. The first episode followed a girl who thought she was dating a male model who, over the phone, sounded like a 12 year old boy. He kept giving preposterous reasons for not being able to meet up. This went on for a year, I think? Spoiler alert: he was not a male model. He was not a male. The girl who thought she was dating a male model kept asking "But wait, so, are you gay?" in a way that was bordering on a hate crime but then I realized that she wasn't homophobic, she just wanted to make sure that someone thought she was hot. After the "Catfish" told her that she might be bi-sexual maybe and that she thought she was good looking, everything was fine and they became friends. Which I think says a lot about these kinds of relationships. For everyone out there who is desperately lonely that they would create a false identity, there is someone equally self-obsessed and needy enough that they will believe anything as long as they are the center of someone's life.
The second episode is a little different. The "Catfish-ee" is an exotic dancer who thinks she met another exotic dancer online. She says she loved that they were from the same world and didn't judge each other, but again, weird excuses for not meeting up and he only sent her four pictures. Oh, sweetie, no. The "Catfish" turns out to be a slightly older and rather rounder than her beloved "Scorpio" but they too became friends and she decides she needs some time to make some life changes and not wait around for a guy to change her life. Good for her.
I hope they can add some variety to their "Catfish-ees" since I half wonder if this isn't part of a larger Catfish scheme where Nev gets people to dupe pretty ladies so he can swoop in and get some sweet Catfish lovin'. I still can't believe there are enough of these stories to sustain a series, and yet each week, there's a fairly compelling, if not bloated and drawn out, story about people reaching out to other people in some sort of jacked up way. It's that "okay, that has to be it though, right?" feeling after each episode that will keep me watching (this week's episode features a 10 year long relationship, what?!), half-hoping it gets cancelled and half-hoping it keeps going on for years. You know, that feeling you get after pretty much every MTV reality show.

Erin Floyd Jackson has been BFFs with TV since she was a wee one when she would play TV Network Executive. She went to school to learn about how and why TV is the way it is and hopes to someday tear someone's creative vision down and re-edit it to her liking. In the meantime, she and her husband live in Huntsville, Alabama and they occasionally "blog" here ( when they are not geeking out over all the SCIENCE! in the Rocket City.

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