A Post-Script on the Hypocrites Behind “Catfish”
October 13, 2010 28 Comments
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.