Since its first episode in 2012, “Catfish: The TV Show” has changed the meaning of the word “catfish.” There was a time when we would immediately think of the bottom-dwelling whiskered fish.
Six years later, however, the word has an entirely different meaning. In 2018 the term “catfishing” refers to the act of creating a fake persona online, using fake social media accounts and photos stolen from other people.
A decade ago, the idea would have seemed outrageous. Even now, you may be wondering why anyone would want to do that. However, catfishing is more popular than you’d expect. Nev Schulman and Max Joseph have traveled across the country for almost six years, catching catfishers. In “Catfish: The TV Show,” they document the process and results of each new case.
The show tells the stories of people who either begin dating or want to meet the person they met online. When they suspect that they’re being catfished, these people reach out to Schulman and Joseph for help. Then the hosts and their client set out to find out the truth about the online subject.
The suspect can be one of three things. Sometimes they are exactly who they say they are. Sometimes the catfishee discovers someone completely different from the person they met online. Often, however, the suspect tells a few lies and a bit of the truth. If the suspect is one of the latter two, the investigators have “caught a catfish.”
For a while this formula created a fun and informative show, but I believe it is time to call it quits. It doesn’t seem like the show has become what the producers and hosts had hoped it would be when it started.
Seasons 1 – 3 brought much needed attention to the cruelty and manipulation of catfishing. However, as MTV continuously renews the show, it’s hard to believe that it’s still doing the same job. It’s almost as if Catfish is now glorifying the action.
When MTV renewed the popular show “Teen Mom” for multiple seasons, some young girls purposefully got pregnant in hopes of landing a role on the show. It would be safe to bet that some people are purposefully catfishing someone else or even “falling in love” with a could-be catfish in hopes of getting to be on TV.
In addition, while Schulman and Joseph help victims of catfishing, the show itself could be helpful to the perpetrators. For almost six years, viewers have been tuning in and learning the ins and outs of what it takes to catch a catfish. And by watching the show, viewers have also learned exactly how to catfish other people themselves.
From the plot of the show, producers make it seem like the victim is desperately writing to Schulman and Joseph, intriguing their viewers. In reality, however, the application form for the show is directed at the Internet ghosts instead. They are the people who really write to the co-hosts. Once again, the show promotes the idea of tricking people in order to get on television.
In addition, the show’s premise has some strange implications about beauty and body image. As a young child, you constantly hear that it’s what is on the inside that counts. Your parents preach to you about how you should not worry about your looks, since the people that truly love you for you won’t let it affect the way they view you.
When watching Catfish, you may develop a different perspective on the subject.
When some of the catfishers turn out to be exactly that, Schulman and Joseph, and even the victim themselves sometimes, ask the perpetrator “Why?” Why did they choose to embody someone that is not their true self?
Many times their answer is something along the lines of them not liking the way they look or being insecure about their weight. Often they say that they didn’t think the catfishee would like them for their true self.
To me, this just feeds in to the stereotype of the ugly, creepy catfisher who deceives people to get laid. Not to mention it goes completely against what your parents have been trying to ingrain in your mind since the day you were born.
There is one final part of the show that just boggles my mind. Maybe I’m just being nitpicky, but I just cannot fathom why Schulman’s wife has a role on the show. When I am forced to watch the show with friends who hold the remote hostage, we all look at each other in agreed confusion.
One second the catfishee is crying over the catfisher and then the next scene is the hosts’ wife giving her input on the situation. If you are a loyal Catfish follower, then you know Schulman is a family man. But having his family on “Catfish” is just unnecessary.
Times are changing, and people are changing. MTV needs to make a change as well and realize what’s happening to “Catfish.” It’s time Schulman and Joseph to put their fishing poles away and end the show.