Catfish 2: a person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking stiffer fraudulent or deceptive purposes as now defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The term catfish was first coined in a movie that was released in 2010 that documents the the romantic relationship that starts between a native New York photographer, Nev Schulman, and a woman from Gladstone, Michigan named Megan Pierce. The relationship started through Megan’s younger sister Abby when she sent Nev a painting that was from a photograph published in a national paper by Nev. Abby finds Nev and friends him on Facebook and he becomes friends with the entire family and falls in love for Megan even though they have only spoken on the phone and they have never met. As things transpire Nev catches everyone in lies so his brother and a friend go with him to Michigan to find out what is really going on.
Upon Arrival in Michigan they learn Angela, the mother to Meagan and Abby was responsible for all the texts, phone calls and the Facebook profiles. Megan doesn’t exist and the photos are a model/photographer from Canada. , Abby exists and her profile photos are real but she didn’t paint any of the pictures. Angela was responsible for the paintings and pretended to be Megan the entire time. Angela had created fifteen elaborate profiles with family and friends to make them seem legit. Nev and friends sit and talk to Vince, Angela’s husband and he tells them a story about catfish as found on Wikipedia:
He says that when live cod were shipped to Asia from North America, the fish’s inactivity in their tanks resulted in only mushy flesh reaching the destination, but fishermen found that putting catfish in the tanks with the cod kept them active, and thus ensured the quality of the fish. Vince talks of how there are people in everyone’s lives who keep us active, always on our toes and always thinking. It is implied that he believes Angela to be such a person.
This is where the new definition for catfish is derived from.
The movie went on to win many Indie Film awards and launched an MTV reality show. Nev and his friend Max go out and find people that have started on online relationships and they help investigate and help these people meet. More often then not the profiles are fake but there have been some real life loves stories. Fake profiles are not something that new. Since the begging of the internet and more so chat rooms, people have be pretending to be someone they aren’t for many reasons. But the ambiguity of the internet, the rise of technology and texting people are less and less connected physically in the world and these internet fakes are able to thrive.
So why is the world so fascinated with these people’s lives and have some much to say about these people’s character? I think it’s a two part answer. First we like to watch and think how can this really happen? We tell ourselves that there is no way that we would be able to fall in love and even be in a relationship with someone that we have never met, in some cases never ever heard their voice but have just seen a picture or maybe a few photographs on a web profile. Can someone really be that naive? Also how could someone be so twisted and be able to create multiple profiles and be able to keep everything going and not slip once? We as a culture are excited for someone to be duped, some of us like to see someone be made a fool of just because we know it could never happen to us, ever!.
The second part that I feel this has gained so much notoriety in our society is due to the tastemakers from the article Understanding Media and Culture.
Tastemakers-people or institutions that shape the way others think, eat, listen, drink, dress and more. Similar in some ways to the media gatekeepers…..
Since the show has been on MTV famous people have helped propel this even farther into the pop clutter status as we can see in a timeline from the article How ‘Catfish’ Went From Filmmaker Slang To Pop Culture Phenomenon. First episode airs in November of 2012, directly after twitter blows up. In January reality star Vinny from Jersey Shore tweets a picture in glasses and a mustache saying his been cat fishing people all this time, also college start football player Manti Te’o claims to have been catfished and allegations of homosexuality. Followed by movie and TV star Rebel Wilson tweeting that she is fascinated by the show and it is a great case study into people’s character. She now uses the reverse photo look up that the show uses to investigate people. In April on the MTV Movie awards a three way catfish spoof is performed between Anna Kendrick, Mark Wahlberg and Joe Manganiello on cable prime-time tv. In May tv star of New Girl Jake Johnson does a catfish episode. Later in July Nev, the shows star, post a picture of letters left on his car by fans of the show. Conan in September does a catfish spoof on the his late show. Ending with rapper Bow Wow in October wanting to meet the people from the episode where a person claimed to be him and said he was flattered by that episode of Catfish.
You see now the celebrity acclaim this has gotten and it has now driven this show into mainstream media. People are no longer shocked when a person gets catfishes and there is a complete stranger that opens the door. Our society is now shocked when true love answers the door and the story ends happily ever after.