Following the 50th episode of Catfish: The TV Show, what have we learnt about the internet and ourselves?
We’re big into to reality TV here at Clarissa and, sure, the reality part is always questionable, but Catfish: The TV Show has already cemented itself as a classic amongst MTV’s programming. Hell, it even got itself in the freaking dictionary. (See above. KUDOS). I was sceptical when the Catfish movie, on which the show is based, claimed to be a ‘documentary’, especially when the filmmakers were bestowed with the honour of directing the Paranormal Activity sequels I took it as gospel that the word ‘documentary’ no longer means what it used to. But Catfish:The TV Show (from now on referred to as just Catfish, because you get it, right?) was different. The faux documentary-style of the film threw up one too many red herrings to ever feel authentic enough (I’m not going into it as the credibility of the film is already more documented than Moon landing conspiracy theories). But TV show is perfect. As Nev, our ever-polished host, states, “Catfish the movie was my story. Catfish the TV show is yours.” If he wasn’t primed for an MTV deal way way back, then I really know fucking nothing. What I don’t want to talk about here is the legitimacy of the show (there are super fascinating articles out there about the casting process, and how it REALLY works). What I want to think about are the lessons the show deals in, especially as it tackles the internet head on (oh beautiful cesspit of misery). Because at 50 episodes, you’d think we’d have learnt some pretty amazing life lessons by now, amirite? But probably not though. No-one likes LEARNING STUFF, do they?
Lesson 1: Trust No-one
I mean, there are many texts which have already taught us this exact lesson. If you haven’t already, familiarise yourself movies like Hard Candy and Trust. If they don’t convince you that not everyone tells the truth online, there’s not much hope for you, friend. Even You’ve Got Mail is pretty terrifying when you think about it: the man you’ve been telling all your deepest darkest secrets to in an online chat room is actually your biggest business competitor. Sure, he looks like Tom Hanks, which takes the edge off, but how fucking scary is that? What an absolute creepo. Trust no-one until you’ve checked their abs in the flesh. If all are present and correct, we’re good here.
Lesson 2: The Greatest Affliction of the Human Race is Loneliness
Again, this might be obvious, but there’s a reason we’re all online. We crave a connection deeper than the love we have for our baristas. And as we spend most of our time on smart phones and laptops, it makes sense that the internet is our tool to quell loneliness. This can be positive: without the support of my FB friends, I don’t know where I’d be, honestly. Which you might think is totally sad, but I don’t care. To me, that’s real life and real love right there. But what about if your so-called nearest and dearest, the one who cures your lonely nights, isn’t who they say they are? Is their companionship any less real? Aren’t they still the same person, essentially? Which leads us on to…
Lesson 3: Most People Are Shallow As Fuck
Nothing is more evident on Catfish than our vanity, coupled with our love of pretty, photoshopped things we discover online. 9 times out of 10 when a couple meet, and one of them doesn’t look the way they did in their photos, the other is instantly disinterested. They usually claim that lying is the reason: but had that person been upfront about their weight or face or style or mullet haircut, would they really have been given a chance? I realise that trust is prime, and if you don’t have it, you’re doomed. But if your connection with this other person was legit, then is it all completely over in ten seconds because they don’t look like they claimed to? Some of my most meaningful connections have taken place online and via phone conversations: those are the building bricks before anything else. I’m not saying you have to fuck someone you don’t find attractive (unless you want to because it’s your life, obvs) I’m just saying that chemistry is super important. And if you had it (OR HAVE IT) with this one person, who is still the same person you’ve talked to for the past 500 years, isn’t that worth exploring? I guess not if you only fap off to airbrushing and photoshop. Your choice, brah!
Lesson 4: The Internet IS Real Life
There’s some weird separation which takes place when people talk. It’s almost as if the internet is a dangerous far off land which we inhabit when we’re not participating in real life. I personally think this is bullshit, and anyone trying to shame my internet usage as avoidance of real life, or a smokescreen for depression, or a wasting of precious time, isn’t doing it right. Online relationships can be every bit as real and wonderful as in person ones, and every bit as terrible too. The internet has exclusive problems, sure, but overall, I’ve probs been shit on more by people I met in my so-called real life than I have online. There is no hard and fast rule here, but let’s stop categorising the internet as a circus of freaks (although it is that, defs). We inhabit it at the same time as we do THE REAL WORLD (also an ace show on MTV, FYI) and if anything it’s an extension of this world: a place where we’re able to be more free, express ourselves fully and have opportunities we would otherwise miss if we spent our lives embracing nature, up a mountain, on a creepy cycle path where trench coat wearers lurk. Jus’ sayin’.
Lesson 5: Creative People Need An Outlet For Their Ideas
If there was ever an argument in favour of arts education, it’s Catfish. Some of the most interesting, elaborate, creatively prolific people you’ve ever seen are Catfish. They’re bored and they need to funnel their creativity into something. If arts education wasn’t so frowned upon now, maybe there’d be less Catfish. Might take that one up with David Cameron, like.
Lesson 6: Some People Are Just Dicks
There’s no getting around it. Whether it’s revenge or lies involving cancer and death, some people are scum. It might make good TV, but one of the worst elements of humanity is exposed for all to see. We’re vengeful and mean and will go to extreme lengths to teach people lessons, even if it causes them great emotional damage. We’re, just, awful.
Lesson 7: When It Goes Right, Online Dating Can Be Exciting
There’s no denying, when someone is who they said they’d be, that’s a real Catfish win (because it’s so desperately rare). But I think it should encourage us to be brave and reach out, because you never know who you might meet. It 100% won’t be Buffalo Bill or Jason Bateman. Maybes like 99%. Or, like, 50?
Lesson 8: We Still Believe in Love (and it’s maybe what we live for)
Above all, Catfish is about love. About finding that one person that makes sense of everything or just helps your world seem a smidge less shit. (And Catfish ain’t nothing without Max. Big love.)