Sunday, October 20, 2013

'Catfish' dissects deceptions swimmingly

(Published Oct. 21, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

 The MTV reality show “Catfish: The TV Series” reiterates the importance of knowing when to avoid communication with strangers online, since many of the episodes feature once-hopeful netizens who end up as victims.

Disappointed and embarrassed after discovering the truth about people at the other end of their online relationships, they reassess their lives, and show marked improvement when the hosts check on them a few months later.

The “catfish” has fake profile information and photos, and mainly avoids webcams and meetups. Whether the agenda is to dupe the unwary to part with their money, to exact revenge or to satisfy some twisted need for attention, the featured catfish usually comes clean on camera.

Cohosted by Nev Schulman (previously the subject of the 2010 documentary of the same title) and filmmaker-cameraman Max Joseph, the show responds to people in online relationships who wish to meet their virtual lovers in person.

Nev and Max help track them down, which may or may not bring them face to face with a deceptive person.

“Catfish” is especially timely and relevant now after the practice gained attention because of an American football player who made news months ago: His years-long online relationship with a girlfriend he never met became a talk-show punchline after the revelation that the “girl” was actually a love-struck guy.

 Focusing on noncelebrities, the show’s chosen cases often end on a similar, disappointing note for the trusting person. The first meetings often become confused confrontations, understandably.

But a recent episode featured an exception to that “rule” when a single mother who searched for her online boyfriend led to a happy ending. Initially cautioned by the hosts, she was elated to see that the guy existed after all and was just as frantic about meeting her and her kid.

The hosts are depicted as consistently tireless in helping investigate the mystery partners, and the show is generally fair to deceiving parties by letting them air their sides. Sometimes, the catfish seems genuinely remorseful; he or she asks forgiveness off the bat. But there are those who are combative or unrepentant, which lead to more drama.

While the chosen relationships may seem befuddling because of the precarious and even dubious nature of the situations, the people and the bonds involved reflect the reality that such deceptions are rampant in today’s technologically connected world. 

And the show manages to dissect sensitively these strange bonding stories that are becoming increasingly common, however bizarre they may get.

“Catfish: The TV Series” airs Sundays, 11 p.m., on MTV Asia.

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