The lure of the movie Catfish was multifaceted. A young man named Nev met a person named Abby on Facebook after she sent him a painting she had created from one of his published photographs. She claimed to be an 8-year-old girl. He quickly became acquainted with her mom, dad and adult sister, the latter with whom he developed a relationship with online. When he went to meet her in person, Nev discovered it was all a ruse, that Abby's mom had been communicating with him all along, taking on different personas as required to make the story viable. Instead of hanging his head and retreating to lick his wounds of gullibility in private, Nev turned his experience into a generally well-received documentary movie.
Catfish: The TV Show is Nev's latest venture. Each episode takes him and his filmmaker buddy Max around the country to help people meet men and women they've developed relationships with online but never actually seen in the flesh. So far, things have gone almost as awry as Nev's ill-fated connection.
But how could these people be so easily duped? Granted, they are not Rhodes Scholars but they are also not mentally challenged. They are hopeful, lonely, and a little wacky. Well, some are more than a little crazy but that is no excuse for not vetting these contacts on their own since they all obviously have the technology to make and maintain contacts through Skype, texting, etc.
Within minutes of taking on new "clients", Nev simply does a Google search of names and pictures and quickly discovers that most of the posers have multiple identities across cyberspace. They've stolen pictures of other people and taken on identities that are totally fabricated or occasionally interspersed with a few actual facts from their own lives.
But if Nev can do this, why don't these people verify the identities on their own? One of the "victims" had been carrying on a relationship for 10 years after meeting the love of their life in an AOL chat room! How dense can you be not to conduct your own research and be mortified at your naivete in private?? Why would you make a spectacle of yourself publicly, exposing your pathetic desperation for all to see?
Sure, it might be the quest for the proverbial 15 minutes of fame that drives many of these lonely hearts to ask for Nev's help but what a price to pay. The duped victims all seem to believe that the people who lied to them about their genders, ages, jobs, appearances, etc. are the bad guys but rarely admit that their willingness to believe all the lies they were fed without question makes them look just as defective.
And why do the pretenders so eagerly agree to meet Nev, Max and their prey when they've avoided contact for months or, in many cases, years? Are they paid to come forward? Are the scenarios real or just loosely based on facts or a compilation of several doomed online relationships?
The last episode of Catfish: The TV Show featured a forlorn farm boy learning that the young woman who had contacted him online months before claiming to be a former Miss United States Teen was lying. She turned out to be a girl he had known for years who claimed she knew the beauty queen and had created an elaborate scenario that verified contact phone numbers for his alleged love interest, including a contact number for her booking agent (she had also appeared in Playboy magazine) that Nev called for confirmation. When the dust settled, the imposter admitted she had many relationships with different people across the country, all with her posing as the former beauty queen. So why isn't the real woman raising hell or at the very least demanding the charlatan cease and desist?
The allure of Catfish: The TV Show is simple, albeit distasteful. It confirms that the world is full of lonely people so desperate for companionship that they'll believe anything including professions of undying love and marriage proposals from people they've never met and, in some cases, never even spoken to. Sadly, it also proves we find solace in watching strangers so starved for love they'll grasp at any chance for companionship and affection...because that's easier than examining our own tortured hearts and souls.
(Image courtesy of MTV)