Is Catfish real or fake?

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By: Brittany Dempsey

“Catfish” is a show hosted by Nev Schulman and Max Joseph wherein people seek help in finding their mysterious online love interests. One article, titled “Is ‘Catfish’ Catfishing America?” (http://www.hollywood.com/tv/catfish-mtv-catfishing-america-59085718/) explains: “Schulman sets out weekly to unite two people in online relationships who might not be telling the truth about their identity. But the lens through which the show views these people’s lives may not be exactly truthful itself.” The point of the show is to find out who is behind the computer screen pretending to be somewhere or someone they are not. Nev and Max work as the dynamic duo solving cases of identity fraud within romances.

In an article, titled “Here’s How MTV’s Catfish Actually Works,” (http://www.vulture.com/2014/05/catfish-mtv-casting-production-process.html) Denise Martin says, “Filmmaker and “Catfish” investigator Max Joseph told us after last week’s episode that the MTV reality hit “is about breaking through to people and getting them to see themselves and understand their decisions and their actions.” The show is bizarre yet refreshing because it is all about a strangers willing to see past all the red flags to meet their significant other.

Series executive producer and MTV senior vice president of news and docs, Marshall Eisen, tells Vulture what viewers need to know about “Catfish”: some cases take a long time to crack, Nev and Max known the least about the situation, and stories can turn out really dark. Each episode begins with Nev and Max opening up one of the thousands of emails they receive on a daily basis. They tend to pick an email that stands out to them the most. They read the email out loud from the person who wants to meet their secret love interest. The emailer sender thinks they know who it is they love, but they feel the need to reach out because something about their lover just seems suspicious. Most of the time issues occur in these relationships because one person out of the pair does not want to Facetime, Skype, etc. This brings the person to believe maybe they are a different gender or sex than they originally stated. Another issue is that one person keeps sending the same few pictures, which leads the other to believe that maybe they are not who they say they are.

Max and Nev start by doing a series of investigative steps, specifically looking at multiple forms of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. They drag the picture of the catfisher into Google to do a reverse image search. They also look up the phone number that the catfishee provides them, and normally they find that it belongs to someone who is not the face in the picture. Then Max and Nev look to see if the catfishee and catfisher have any mutual friends. If so, they reach out to them and see what the connection is between the mutual friend and the catfishee.

Surprisingly, there are reasons for viewers to feel the need to be skeptical of the show. In an article, titled Is ‘Catfish’ Catfishing America? (http://www.hollywood.com/tv/catfish-mtv-catfishing-america-59085718/) “You know how they said that [the catfishee] had reached out to them?” a cast member from the series (whom we spoke to anonymously to protect their relationship with MTV) tells Hollywood.com. “I don’t know why they put that in there because it’s not even true. It was actually me that reached out to them.” This is something that needs to be taken into consideration because if the audience knew that the catfishee was actually the one reaching out, it would be a complete plot twist. Though, this is not true for all cases, it is something that should be vocalized. It may actually continue to make the show more interesting. Nev and Max always say that they do not like liars, so why is it that they feel comfortable lying about the premise of the show?

In an article titled “Catfish’ Fake?” Also explains that… (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/19/catfish-fake-mtv-reality-show_n_2718664.html) “Other phony allegations include the show participants agree to meet in person prior to filming and Schulman’s calls and research. Additionally, some cast members say their online relationships were never romantic and some had their timelines fudged, others weren’t actually talking to their Internet love.” “Catfish” is known for its spontaneity and the way two guys can unite a dishonest online couple within the digital age. If viewers knew that introductions, conversations, and meet ups happened beforehand, it would ruin the show for many. It is ironic that this show is not as it seems because that is the underlying concept of “Catfish”.

The setup of the show is meant to make the catfishee look like the innocent one in the picture. Nev and Max surprise the catfishee by letting them know that they are willing to do whatever it takes to help them find the truth. They learn more about the couples relationships, uncover the truths, and track down the catfisher to meet up. The part of the show that I think really attracts people is the shocking heart racing moment when the door opens to the person who has been hiding. Nobody ever knows who is on the other side or so, that is what we are meant to believe as an audience. If it is true that they meet up with the couple beforehand, then what is the fun in the solving the mystery?

Overall, it never occurred to me just how real this show can be. Backgrounds checks are needed before producing the show and therapists are there for after the show. Waivers have to be signed in order to make sure that everyone has agreed to doing the show, though it does not mean that everyone will participate or cooperate to their full potential. Though there are many reasons to believe the show is “fake,” it is also very real. The reason why many people catfish someone they claim to “love” is because they have mental health issues due to bullying and other tragic events. Though, sometimes it can be to purposely target someone or just someone’s sick idea of “fun”. Nev and Max take as much time as they need to help relationships that need mending. The show tries hard to produce a condensed version of all that madness that goes on behind the scenes.

In an article titled Here’s How MTV’s Catfish Actually Works (http://www.vulture.com/2014/05/catfish-mtv-casting-production-process.html) Denise Martin says “Think of it not as destroying the magic but as proof that all that anxiety is real, which makes “Catfish” just plain good TV.” “Catfish” will always be a mysterious show that allows viewers to feel a part of Nev and Max’s adventure, and that is something that will never change.

4 thoughts on “Is Catfish real or fake?

  1. I have never watched “Catfish”, but I knew the premise. With shows such as these, I generally am skeptical of its legitimacy and truthfulness. As you have pointed out from multiple sources, something is fishy (no pun intended) about “Catfish” at times. The bit of information towards the end about waivers needing to be signed and background checks needed to be done seemingly discredit the show. But how involved are Nev and Max in those processes? If the details of legal matters are handled by other people within the show, do you think Nev and Max are simply told, “go for it”? In other words, once the situation is deemed safe to pursue, Nev and Max find the answers that the other staff members already knew. This could potentially make for a less organic and heart-racing experience, but nonetheless it is more real than having everything resolved beforehand and then filming what would have been.

    -Cam S.

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  2. Catfish is a really fascinating reality tv show. I do agree that some of it may be fake. However, the show represents how it is important to be selective and careful of online dating, especially if you will never meet the person in real life. Episodes range from being full of romance to being full of drama. Of course, all reality tv shows have some staging, so there is deffinetly the question of how much of it is real. In every episode, there is the part where Nev and Max call the significant other. Notice how the person always picks up the phone and goes along with the conversation in the episode. I like this article keep at it!
    -Nora Whouley

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  3. I use to watch Catfish in high school and am not the biggest fan of these kinds of shows. I personally believe that the whole show is fake that even the people getting catfished know they are getting catfished. The show does a good job in the sense of showing viewers ways in which to proceed with caution though when it comes to online dating. The point you made about the waivers needed to be signed and background checks make me believe there is a slight chance it can be real but this could also not be true either. The show overall is very popular so it must be doing something right. I personally am not a fan and do believe that it is fake but I guess we may never truly know. -Derek Lawton

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  4. I love this show, and wrote an article on tips for catching a Catfish! Its funny how even after the show people still continue to fall for catfishes. Unfortunately reality TV is never completely real but I still enjoy watching it and seeing who the people are and how it turn out. Great article. Thanks for sharing. xx

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