Sunday, November 18, 2012

Catfish Recap: Oh Well, LOL!

Not to be confused with catfish: the fish.

A couple of years ago some photographers from New York made a movie about themselves called Catfish.  One of the photographers had had one of his photos published in a syndicated newspaper and an 8-year-old girl in Michigan saw his photo, painted it and sent it to him.  The photographer and the little girl struck up a friendship over e-mail, real mail and Facebook.  The photographer, named Nev (pronounced Neev), also became internet friends with the little girl’s parents and 19-year-old sister.  This sister, Megan, just happened to be Nev’s dream girl.  She was a dancer, singer, musician, veterinarian, and total hottie (who isn’t?).  Her Facebook pictures looked like a modeling portfolio.

"I took this picture after I delivered a baby calf at midnight during a tornado."

Megan and Nev talked on the phone all the time, texted, Facebooked, etc., until eventually Nev decided to meet this dream girl in person.  Well guess what.  She didn’t exist.  Turns out there WAS an 8-year-old girl, but she didn’t paint - her 40-something-year-old mother did.

"You were expecting something different?"

The mother had created an entire cast of characters on Facebook stealing pictures she found on other people’s pages.  Poor Nev was disappointed, but still excited to be friends with this crazy woman - Angela - because obviously they had a lot in common and needed each other.  Riiiiiiight.  That’s what I look for in friends.  People who deliberately deceive me for extended periods of time.  This documentary describes itself as a cautionary tale for our digital age, but also a sort of “see-past-the-surface” type of lesson.  See, Nev was still able to keep a friend out of the entire debacle since he and Angela had become so close.  What did it matter that she was twice as old as she claimed, married, and a totally different person altogether? Apparently it doesn’t matter at all.  Friendship.  Based on lies, but still, friendship.  Obviously there’s been tons of speculation as to whether this film was actually a documentary at all.  There are many arguments on both sides, and I’ve already spent many precious hours away from Pinterest reading all about it, but that’s not what’s important to us today.  The important thing is:  Nev sold out to MTV and made us a reality show!  He’s going to help other people track down their cyber lovers!  You see, Nev’s been through it.  He’s also a photographer and has friends with cameras, so the show has practically created itself.   I have a feeling that we’re going to learn a lot about being friends with everyone.  Even when they trick us on the interwebs.  Those are the people who need us the most, after all.

Oh, one last thing.  The name “Catfish,” came from a brilliant story that Angela’s oblivious husband told to Nev’s brother while Angela was upstairs with her new bff Nev talking to him in her sexy “Megan” voice and drawing a picture of him.  Clueless husband told how when cod are shipped from Asia to America they arrive all mushy due to inactivity.  So catfish are placed in the tanks with the cod because the catfish nip at the cod and chase them around, keeping them on their toes and helping them to arrive in a healthy, desirable state.  Awesome insight and perfect film metaphor from a guy who had less than zero clue what his wife had been up to for the past several months, wouldn’t you say?

So let’s get started!  Episode 1 introduces us to Sunny, a 21-year-old nursing student in Arkansas.  She’s in an online relationship with the world’s most perfect man.  The only problem is that they’ve never met.  Imagine that!  But they talk all the time and have discussed getting married and having children.  Right away Nev skypes with Sunny to find out about this guy, Jamison, that she’s in love with.

"Hopefully this 'Sunny' isn't just another one of Angela's pranks.  I love that crazy girl."

The first thing Sunny tells us is that Jamison is a model in LA.  Hold the phone.  A model in LA?  How does this not raise a red flag?  Los Angeles is a city OVERFLOWING with attractive, available people.  Why would a model have any trouble meeting girls to date live and in person?  Why would he take to the internet to find someone?  I’m not saying it would never happen, I’m just saying that would raise questions for me were I Sunny.  And while we’re on this topic, let me also say that I have NO problem with people finding each other on the internet.  I think it’s amazing that in this day and age that we have access to so many more possibilities than ever before.  It’s wonderful and I have friends who have found significant others this way.  The problem is that you have to eventually (well, as quickly as possible) bring things into the real world.  Until there is actual face-to-face time this is a fantasy relationship to a certain extent on both sides.  When long distances are involved this becomes harder, but no less necessary in my humble opinion.  So back to the show!  Sunny is desperate to meet her love in person.  They’ve ONLY talked on the phone and internet - not even with skype.  So our TV crew jumps on a plane to Arkansas to shed some light on this romance. 

We arrive at Sunny’s apartment to find wedding magazines on her coffee table.  Oh dear.  Sunny shares the story of her blossoming romance with Jamison, and I’m going to let you decide if anything at all sounds questionable in this.

"The last time we were going to meet up he couldn't because he sprained his ankle modeling.  It's always SOMETHING."

Jamison was friends first with Sunny’s sister on Facebook and that’s how Sunny met him.  He’s a full time model and is currently taking classes online to become an anesthesiologist.  Yes, an anesthesiologist.  He’s super smart, so he can get by without attending actual classes.  Plus he’s too busy with his modeling.  Also, he’s a writer for the Chelsea Lately show.  And by writer, Sunny means that he writes the cue cards.  Hmm.  Ok.  Nev asks Sunny if it doesn’t seem weird to her that Jamison would take a job writing cue cards because those jobs (really internships) pay almost nothing and he’s so busy.  Sunny says well yes, but he makes his money modeling, so...  Next Sunny expounds upon the once-in-a-lifetime connection she’s found with Jamison and how she really wants to marry him and have kids.  They have a lot in common, what with them both being in medicine and all.  Time for pictures!

"This was right before I nailed my anatomy final on my iPhone."

All on Facebook, of course, including a picture of Jamison with one of his three sisters who were all killed in a car accident. 

Nev and Max (friend and cameraman) leave Sunny to talk things over.  Max declares that Jamison’s story is full of holes, but Nev tries to stay positive, saying that there COULD be an explanation for everything.  They decide they need to look into this Jamison a little bit to find out if he’s on the up and up.  So they call a private detective and set up an elaborate plan to get into the details of Jamison’s life.  Kidding!  You know what they do?  They GOOGLE him.  It’s that hard.  Right away they find the text of an interview done with this model where he mentions his three sisters and what each of them is up to.  So his sisters are alive.

"Remember when you believed 'Megan' was a veterinarian?  This is like that!"

Next they google Chelsea Handler’s production company and call pretending to be prospective employers looking for a reference on Jamison.  The woman on the phone has never heard of him and when Nev says he writes cue cards the woman says they’ve never used cue cards on Chelsea Lately.  So far these guys have spent a total of maybe five minutes and already shot down two big things in Jamison’s story.  They decide it’s time to call the man himself, so Nev dials Jamison’s number and the voice of a 12-year-old answers.  They chat and Jamison says he’s shopping in Paris.  Geez, who will write Chelsea Handler’s cue cards tonight?  After some awkward conversation Nev tells Jamison he wants to bring Sunny to meet him and wouldn’t you know it?  Jamison is going to be home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama THIS WEEKEND to see some friends.  Perfect! 

The next day Nev catches up with Sunny and some of her friends shopping.  They all seem to have a penchant for hair bleach, tanning beds and skimpy solid-colored sundresses.  Nev tells Sunny the good news and they plan to leave that very night to meet up with Jamison the next day.  Sunny goes to the dressing room to try on another solid-colored sundress and Nev asks her friends what they think of all this.  They both say it’s weird and they hope Sunny doesn’t get her heart broken. "

Nev and Max take Sunny to a restaurant and tell her what they found out from the private investigator Google.

 Sunny:  "I don't think a medical student would lie."

Sunny tries to find explanations for the inconsistencies.  Like maybe Jamison is so overcome with grief that he just goes along and says his sisters are alive and well.  And there are so many departments at Chelsea Lately that how could anyone really know what everyone is doing?  Especially Human Resources.  Nev finally asks her why she just believes everything this guy tells her.  Sunny isn’t sure; it’s just that she never thought to question it.  Brilliant!  Sunny is sure everything will be fine and she can’t wait to meet Jamison.  I mean, he can’t fake a billboard, can he?  Apparently Jamison had a picture of himself on a billboard.  Totally impossible to fake. 

Later while Sunny rakes through her closet to find the perfect shoes to wear while meeting her future husband, her sister Summer stops by.  Summer and Sunny?  I think we’re getting an idea of the gene pool these girls are swimming in.  Remember that Summer was friends with Jamison on Facebook first, and that’s how Sunny met him.  Summer is super pissed that Sunny is off to Alabama to meet Jamison because she saw him/liked him first.  It’s not fair.  Summer tells Sunny that she makes stupid decisions and Sunny says maybe, but it’s what makes her happy.  Who can argue with this logic?  I guess sisters who are fighting over a stranger’s picture on Facebook.

Summer:  "I still can't believe you figured out my password." 
Sunny:  "MrsEphron wasn't that hard to guess."

So despite Summer’s hurt feelings, we are moving onward and upward.  To Alabama!  In the car on the way Sunny talks about how natural she and Jamison have always felt together on the internet and she’s sure it will be the same in person.

Sunny:  "Should I change into my white sundress so he'll think of a wedding?"

It looks like they let her off somewhere to put on her new sundress and fix her makeup in a public bathroom.  She tells us she’s getting really nervous.  When they finally pull up to Jamison’s house Nev asks Sunny if she wants to say a prayer or something, which cracks me up.  They approach the front door.  Sunny nervously chatters and no one answers Nev’s knock for a while.  Sunny wonders if they’re in the right place and paces up and down the driveway when finally the door opens and out walks Jamison.  Here he is:

"You were expecting something different?"

Jamison is actually Chelsea.  Not Chelsea Handler.  Chelsea seems remarkably calm and even slightly amused at this, the advent of her televised busting.  Sunny seems confused, asks if she’s being punk’d, then asks why Chelsea would pretend to be someone else.  Chelsea says that a few years ago a girl was being really mean to her on Facebook so she set up this page to get revenge.  And now it’s kind of gotten out of hand.  Many, many people think she’s this Jamison guy.  She also says she knows the real Jamison (whose name is RJ King) through his (still-living) sisters.  He’s really a model, but Sunny’s never spoken to him.  Sunny seems upset, but not super upset.  She asks several questions, but not nearly at the emotional level of someone who has just been told her near cyber-fiance is a fraud.  That’s not to say she isn’t reacting because she is.  But it’s more the level of irritation you’d have if someone took the last solid-colored sundress in your size and now you have to figure out a plan B.  Chelsea says she’s not sorry, none of it was emotional, and Sunny talked to her first, so all she really did was answer.  Chelsea stays defensive and Sunny vows revenge.  Nev watches the conversation and Max just keeps rolling tape.  Chelsea says something like, “It ends here.  This is why we’re doing this,” which leads me to believe she wasn’t surprised to find a camera crew at her door.  So this probably wasn’t a genuine sneak attack.  This suspicion of mine grows stronger as we move on.

The next scene is a conversation between Nev and Chelsea on Chelsea’s couch.  Chelsea explains how people were mean to her in high school and how she didn’t really get to participate in a lot of the things kids do in high school and all of that led her to this scheme.  Nev tells her that her “success” in these “relationships” with people online is due to the fact that she is, in fact, a good friend, but she should try just being herself.  What?  How is pretending to be a completely other person and making marriage plans being a good friend?  I don’t think it’s as simple as a pretend nice person being a genuine nice person if they’d just put up their own picture.  Elaborate, prolonged deception like this suggests a very troubled individual.  No matter how it started.  But Chelsea is encouraged by Nev’s words and agrees to apologize to Sunny and offer to be friends.

The next day Sunny has done a very good job of really getting over her lost love and is ready to have a chat with Chelsea to get some answers.  Nev decides to give the girls some time alone to talk.

Chelsea: "I lied about everything except modeling.  That part is true.  Did you see the billboard?"
Sunny:  "Oh so that really WAS you!"

Sunny wonders how Chelsea could say all these intimate things to her.  Is she a lesbian?  Chelsea semi-confesses to being bisexual.  She tells Sunny that she genuinely cares for her, but doubts that Sunny will care back.  Well duh.  Sunny was giving a much more legitimate representation of herself so Chelsea actually got to know her a bit.  Sunny got to know a phantom.  Sunny says she’s not mad anymore, just humiliated and she can’t imagine just never talking to Chelsea again after all this.  She’ll have to change the name from Jamison to Chelsea in her phone, but that shouldn’t take long.  HUH?  Um, why?  Why would you want to be friends with someone who so deliberately manipulated and abused your emotions?  I’m not buying it.  Sunny didn’t shed one tear through any of this.  They go outside, Chelsea apologizes, and she, Sunny and Nev all pose for a picture, saying “friends!”  Oh PLEASE!!

"Oh well! LOL! ;-P"

The last two minutes we get a year-later update via skype with Nev.  Chelsea has started an anti-bullying support group where she helps kids who feel like crap in high school.  That would be 95% of kids, I’m pretty sure, but okay, that’s nice.  She doesn’t do fake profiles on Facebook anymore.  She also wears makeup now and she and Sunny still talk several times a month.  Sure they do.  Sunny has a real life boyfriend now who isn’t a girl.  In fact, it sounds like she’s seen him up close at least once.  Nev does a three way skype with himself, Sunny and the REAL Jamison (RJ King) just for chuckles.  RJ seems like he’s a good sport about all of this, but why wouldn’t he be?  It got him on TV and his name and picture seen.  What more could a working model want?

So what do you guys think?  Did any of you see this movie?  The show?  Think any of it’s real?  My biggest suspicion is the totally UNDERwhelming reaction of each participant.  I would expect more from someone being exposed as a total psycho on camera, and more from someone finding out the guy she wants to marry is a teenage girl.  These are rather large, personally emotional events.  Or are we just living in the Facebook/texting age where emoticons are as worked up as we get?

Thanks for reading!


Mona said...

Oh, wow, I didn't know they'd made a show based on that movie. The part about Sunny not being very emotional about her "fiancè" is a good reminder of how staged reality shows really are, though. Looks like Nev sold out.

bonnie said...

For as much as she loved Jamison, I agree her reaction was quite underwhelming. I felt bad for her for the most part, but she was so indignant at times that I kind of wanted her to get burned. (That sounds a lot meaner written down that it does in my head.)

I love reading your reviews! Your picture captions always make me laugh.

Anonymous said...

I saw this episode of Catfish last night and bout fell out of my bed and spit my tea everywhere. I live in a town just below Tuscaloosa Alabama (where RJ King lived at one point in his life) on April 27, 2011 a category 4 tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa killing many, injury more and leaving many homeless and jobless. Our lives were forever changed as the common areas we grew up in and around were distroyed. On April 28th I loaded up with my family and friends to drive into the war zone to help friends clean up around their house. The sights I saw that day are forever etched in my mind. That afternoon on twitter I started tweeting with RJ. He was talking about being in Tuscaloosa to help clean up, and how he had lost a friend. We talked for many days after that and now I am so damn pissed cause I have know idea if I was talking to the real RJ or this crazy person. I'm leaning more toward the crazy person. But believe me I plan to find out cause I practicly live in Tuscaloosa. I will run into her one day and I will find out the truth. How could someone drag people along with horrible lies through tragedy! That girl needs help! Just sayin

Anonymous said...

This is super craycray.

Chris said...

I just watched a repeat of it on TV. It looks just as fake to me as the original Catfish 'documentary'. I agree that Sunny's reaction didn't seem real. Also, Chelsea didn't react to the fact that Nev turned up with cameramen or demand to know what he was filming for. Note too how the credits listed a casting director and other casting people... even though there were supposedly no actors.

Anonymous said...

Certainly parts of the show are staged. I found a blog post from a girl that was on the show as the one that was doing the 'catfishing'. She wanted to tell her side of the story. She said things like the casting director reached out to her first, figured out all the details including what her pay would be, and only then did Nev ' reach out' to her. The director told her when she and Nev talked on the phone that she had to sound really nervous and reluctant to meet up, but to let Nev talk her into it and eventually agree. Stuff like that. So while the general situation is real, as far as this person really was pretending to be someone else and was talking to this other person through the fake account, most if not all of the confrontations are very much staged.

Anonymous said...

Lol moral to this story shoudnt be trying to make.time with a "guy" your sister likes.i say this was just what she deserved for being a terrible sister..