Ahh Catfish, I just can’t quit you. I feel the need to place myself in the ultimate voyeur seat (my couch) and watch weekly as person after person is shocked that people pretend to be someone other than themselves on the the internet. It’s like watching a wreck in slow motion, you know it’s going to end badly and it’s going to be painful to watch, but you just can’t look away.
Catfish airs weekly on MTV and is the brainchild of Nev Schulman. Nev originally presented his first story of catfishing (he was the victim) in his hit documentary of the same title. Each week we get a chance to peer in the lives of a “couple” existing almost entirely via text messages and IM. Sometimes there is an occasional phone call (gasp, what primitive technology), but very seldom is there any face-to-face, real time correspondence (via Skype or Facetime). So, inevitably what you end up with is one authentic person and one catfish. Catfish recently made it into the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and is defined as: a person who sets up a false social networking profile for deceptive purposes.
But the concept of catfishing has been around a lot longer than Facebook, Twitter, or even Myspace. The Bible is full of deception, especially the female variety. Shakespeare was using the power of deception back in the 1500s (see Much Ado About Nothing). And modern cinema loves this story line. Check out some of my favorite fictional characters who started relationships hiding behind a facade.
The Truth About Cats and Dogs (1996)
The not so conventionally beautiful, yet quite smart, Abby (Janeane Garofalo) convinces the very pretty, but not bright, Noelle (Uma Thurman) to pretend to be her to win the affections of a guy. Love triangle and high-jinx ensue. As is the case with most 90s rom-coms, a happy ending full of quirk and nonsense is inevitable. In this case, a dog shows up at Abby’s work with a bag containing roller skates which she dons and is then taken via dog leash on a ride through the park to her soul mate.
There’s Something About Mary (1998)
Ted embarrasses himself during a prom pick-up when his junk gets stuck in his zipper and misses out on the girl of his dreams, Mary. Years later he decides she’s the one that got away and goes after her. Too bad she has a host of other not so honest suitors. There’s the PI Ted hired, Healy, who lies, cheats, stalks, and even drugs a dog to be close to Mary. Then there is the British, disabled Tucker who turns out to be an able-bodied American pizza delivery boy. And finally there is Dom who exposes Ted’s whole involvement in the messy plot, but then turns out to be Mary’s weirdo ex Woogie who “got weird on her” back in high school and stole all her shoes. Faced with all these wonderful choices in suitors, Mary chooses Ted. Shocker, happy ending.
“That pig thinks it’s a dog.” Ultimately Babe the pig’s dog-like skills and sheep herding performances keep him out of the frying pan as he forges a relationship with the farmer. So, again, happy ending.
And who are your favorite pop culture catfish?