Without any shame, I will own up to absolutely loving the TV show Catfish. I was a fan of the documentary, despite the controversy over whether the faux Facebook romance that unfolded was real or hyped for the the cameras. The movie came at a time when the idea of creating a fictional life through the Internet was still sort of novel, and we were just starting to realize the deep emotional effects of a life lived digitally.
The TV show, of course, isn’t so much psychological examination and investigation, as it is dumb kids finding out they’re dumb. And even when they haven’t been dumb, they probably have. It’s voyeurism at its worst, and it is the best.
Or it was. It’s with a heavy heart that I’ve come to the realization that Catfish: The TV Show has jumped the shark. Er, the catfish.
The show was just renewed for a third season, almost inexplicably. While I love the comic, heartfelt duo of Max and Nev (I really do! I really like them!), this season has been full of dummies, and they’ve totally played down to their level. This is no longer America’s Most Wanted meets The Dating Games, plus Facebook. It’s just Jerry Springer for the Internet age, mostly explained in text message shots and desktop screen caps. These are reasons why we’ve outgrown this show.
1. There was an episode in which a girl thought she was dating Bow Wow – the rapper – and they investigated it. This was a painful plot to watch; some adorable girl actually believed she was dating Bow Wow. It was a struggle making it through this entire episode. And when Nev initially supported her theory, I had to shut my laptop in rage.
2. Max’s always present, entirely pointless handheld point and shoot. He actually records video with this thing. For the love of TV, why?! We see the entire camera crew behind you with real cameras and sound equipment, what shaky, low-res footage of Nev’s nostrils are you going to get with that thing? Is it just so the opening phrase “… my filmmaker buddy, Max!” is really driven home? I want to slap it out of his hands.
3. I’m sick of it just being fat people. Seriously, like, nine out of 10 catfishes, the big reveal is that they’re fat. I do understand the social constructs around image and the intense pressure many of us feel to fit within them. I understand that sometimes that will drive a person to create a false image and pursue life through a body and face that is not theirs. But when almost every time the surprise is that the catfish was overweight, it’s no longer a surprise. And if MTV were clued-in, the trend might called for some sort of True Life: I’m Overweight and Lie About my Photo on the Internet documentary.
4. The tough love is not working. As a devoted Catfish viewer, I can tell that this season Max and Nev don’t want to let people get their hopes up as high. There’s a little more “Just be prepared – it might not be her!” and “We don’t want you to get your expectations up.” But the moment the catfish reignites the possibility that they might be real, Max and Nev are back on the case, eager as ever! I personally feel that these two struggle with the morals of making money off of doing an investigation that any 15-year-old with an Internet connection and a dose of reality could do, and thus, the tough love has come out.
5. Those “I’m not dating you” videos. Essentially, 20 minutes in, the case of closed. But it’s not because that would be boring, so there’s all sorts of added build up that gets thrown in.
6. I think Catfish is being catfished. When the documentary came out, and maybe even the first season of the TV show, the idea of “catfishing” was still sort of new. But then there was some hype with the whole Manti Te’o thing, a few other celebs found themselves in similar situations, the TV show blew up – and now everybody knows about this thing. Also, they know how to conduct these investigations themselves. So now, you’ve got a problem with whether people are actually struggling with the identity of their online partner … or just want to be on MTV. This season, during one episode’s big reveal, the catfish revealed that the catfished had actually seen her before, via webcam, something he’d forgotten to tell the investigative crew. Max and Nev were appropriately horrified at the potential hi-jacking of the show.
We all had a lot of fun, a really good time – like those two weeks where we all said “YOLO” and it was sort of funny. But now there’s no novelty to catfishing anymore, and it’s just too frustrating watching these catfished morons delude themselves, or possibly us.
Perhaps the ante will be upped in season three; celebrity appearances, anyone? An episode conducted entirely via Second Life avatars? It doesn’t matter. It’s not your fault, Max and Nev, the Internet just got smarter. If you can believe that.