A Post-Script on the Hypocrites Behind “Catfish”

So I already expressed my absolute disdain for the manipulative marketing campaign behind the very uninteresting and very weak “documentary” film Catfish in a “Video Web Rant” I posted last week. After seeing the “20/20” program that aired on ABC-TV last week, I felt even more ripped off than I did when I left the movie theatre, so I wanted to write a brief addendum.

As you know, the marketing behind the film centered around the idea that there was this big, terrible secret that would be unleashed during the course of the movie. They even had the audacity to write the words “Don’t Let Anyone Tell You What It Is” on the official movie poster as if there were supposed to be some tremendous twist to it — a la The Crying Game, The Usual Suspects or Chinatown. To repeat what I stated in my earlier “Web Rant,” I felt cheated as a ticket-buyer since nothing remotely shocking came from this film — a film that was nothing like the trailer led you to believe it would be. In short, a terrible disappointment and a waste of my time. Big deal — a woman in Michigan is online pretending to be someone else and dupes some naive, lonely and desperate young New Yorker in the process. Is lying online big news all of a sudden? Is pretending to be someone you are not on a particular website a new invention? How was this so surprising? Especially since the first lie (about some song found online) is discovered about halfway through the movie. Again, I’ve seen this story done in more dramatic fashion on TV programs like “Dateline” and “48 Hours.”

But the people behind selling this movie wanted to give off the impression that there was this secret — to get you into that theatre. They kept this secret for a short while…that is, until the prospect of more publicity on national television came across their laps. Then they became hypocrites. If you watched the “20/20” episode, you would see, in its entirety, the beginning, middle and end of Nev Schulman’s online love affair and its unsatisfying finale in Michigan, meeting the unhappy housewife and master manipulator, Angela Wesselman. For those who hadn’t seen the movie, but saw the TV episode, there really is no reason to go out to the theatre to see the feature film. Why? Because the filmmakers were more than happy to give away everything! The proverbial cat was now out of the bag (pun intended). The three men behind the making of Catfish have been on quite a few TV shows to tell their entire story, including “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Big secret that we initially publicized, be damned!!! We’re getting mounds of exposure from this sucker including a full hour on “20/20.” What secret??!! Forget all about it. We’re sorry…our bad.

A.O. Scott of The New York Times criticized the film for exploiting the troubled Wesselman, saying “shame on them.” A number of critics have expressed the same sentiment, but this is a joke. Mrs. Wesselman seems just fine and is more than happy to be granting all of these interviews. She says herself that she doesn’t feel exploited in the least, so I’m not going to feel sorry for her. No, Mr. Scott…”shame on them” for making a lousy film, fooling the public with a scheming marketing campaign and, in the end, proving to be hypocrites and slaves to more camera time when the prospect of free national publicity came their way.

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28 Responses to A Post-Script on the Hypocrites Behind “Catfish”

  1. Aaron says:

    The film was amazing though not because of the film-makers’ talent, which does leave a sour taste to it, but, then again, even more to think about in response.

    It’s all subjective – this is a bigger twist than the movies you mention because this is REAL. What I love about Catfish is that it is also a kind of portrait of how disconnected Gen Y are, how completely unable to empathise. I found the movie incredibly distressing, and I do think they exploited her regardless of what she tells us and herself (she tried to kill herself as a result of being uncovered).

    I think this review is in terribly poor taste in that, even if you are a shallow audience member who can’t appreciate the film, why decide to spoil it for others without so much as a spoiler alert?! Like you’re subjective experience must be the same as it is for everyone else.

    I’ll know never to come here again.

    • Wow. You start off really sounding smart here and I was all ready to say I politely disagree with you on every front regarding thsi movie…and I respect your opinion. Then you attack me by calling me “shallow.” There is no spoiler alert, because there was no twist or surprise. There is no spoiler alert because the buffoons behind this film spoiled it themselves by giving it all away on national TV’s “20/20” which is the entire point of this article…or did you not get that?

  2. Reviews like you are why I HATE movie reviewers. You’re the hypocritical, attention-grubbing low-life who made NOTHING and criticizes those who have. I am a movie reviewer myself, and I do give films low ratings, because I don’t like them.

    But, are you really upset that the trailer tricked you into seeing it? I say, way to go them! One, for not giving away every moment like so many trailers. Two, even better… they intrigued me into watching their film. That’s what trailers are for Jackass. And, not to mention… the ending of Catfish is really wonderful.

    They captures something incredible, documented it on film. It’s a fantastic film and a great marking ploy. They’re trying to drum publicity for the film and I don’t fucking care if in interviews they tell me the end or withhold it. They are entitled to do so.

    So… really, go fuck yourself.

    • John says:

      Is that really necessary? If you disagree, that’s fine, and you’re more than welcome to say whatever you want to say. But the f bombs, and calling the guy a jackass, and the personal attacks? So this reviewer, who you’ve never met, is “an attention-grubbing low-life”? Unnecessary. And it reflects very poorly on you and your blog.

    • You have a right to your opinion. If you liked and appreciated “Catfish” that is fine and I would respectfully disagree with you on just about every front. In my rant (if you watched), I gave absolute credit to the trailer. It served it’s purpose…it sucked me in, got me intrigued and I bought a ticket. Usually though, a trailer will reflect what the actual film is like and in this case, I felt it did not.

      I don’t see how I am a hypocrite though. Just because I haven’t made a feature film doesn’t make me a hypocrite. Look it up. If I walked out of the film liking it or finding it thought-provoking, then published online what trash it is…THAT would make me a hypocrite. Like every film blogger and critic, I lavish praise when I admire something and vent my grievances when I find something to be a terrible effort.

      The nastiness is uncalled for. I like a good debate and appreciate views contrary to my own. But John says it perfectly, replying to your immature/vulgar rant — it reflects poorly on you and your blog. Learn to dispute like a mature adult.

      • by the way – love the “thumbs up, thumbs down” on your reviews. Can you not come up with your own signature rather than steal one that is actually registrered/trademarked?

    • Jules DelGado says:

      So, your uncle was the producer of this crap flick pussy-pussy? Get a friggin life and take your lame ass rant else where!

    • Nora says:

      Personal insults… over Catfish? Really? Am I in the Twilight Zone? I’m really confused. Lame, dude.

    • Raul Duke says:

      You, Your attitude, and this Stinker of a movie should sleep with the fishes.

  3. Marc says:

    Well last Friday’s 20/20 special totally spoiled the story…although the reveal was not nearly as exciting as the trailer made it out to be. So I’m sorry you got had, but I did save $9 on a ticket. Win for me?:P

  4. Amy Wood says:

    I figured it was something lame like that. I have a much better online fraud story. Remind me to tell you one day about the person my last boyfriend had a cyber affair with. Not something I would publicly write but it would have made for a much better movie than this crap!

  5. Japan Cinema says:

    If i hadn’t seen the shoddy advertising of this film and just went in site unseen, I probably wouldn’t have felt so ripped off. Studios should stop doing this to their audiences, its a sign of disrespect IMO

    • Yes, it is disrespect. I blame the marketing/advertising. But a also point the blame at these three young men. Many liked it, so they are onto something…I have no idea what that is, but they did get some good word-of-mouth at Sundance. But I felt ripped off too.

  6. Castor says:

    Haven’t seen Catfish yet so I can’t really read your rant 😉 Just wanted to say I love your new template! Your site loads much faster now and it’s so much cleaner and easier to read!

    Cheers!

    • Is it really better? Thank you for letting me know! I need feedback. Would the template truly make the site load faster? I’m still tinkering — but thank you so much for the shout out!!!

  7. Mad Hatter says:

    I’ve been asking this sort of question a lot recently, but…

    For a moment pretend you hadn’t seen all the “Hush-hush” advertising. What would you think of the movie then?

    • John says:

      I would’ve thought that it was a really clichéd documentary with an overly saccharine ending (Awww, it’s sho shweet, Nev is still friend with this poor, dumpy, boring Midwestern housewife…). The other thing that bugs me about this film is the way Angela Wesselman is portrayed- she’s “troubled”, she’s got issues, etc… That all may be true, but why isn’t anyone pointing a finger at creepy Nev Schulman who traveled halfway across to the country to visit a woman he’d never met? Does nobody else find that to be the behavior of a troubled person?

      • yes, John…nice call. This isn’t a bad looking guy. He’s in the greatest city in the world and has a decent job. But what is his problem if he has to seek out love online in such a clandestine manner? Why didn’t they bother taking a closer examination of this guy? Very good question.

    • Good question, Hatter. Advertising aside, I think it’s a weak film not worthy of being made, quite honest. I didn’t like Nev — and this woman (who, I did feel sympathy for) did nothing so very unusual. He got taken for a ride and she turned out to be something very different than what he expected. I thought overall, it was boring. Your thoughts?

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