Episode 31 – Catfish: The TV Show

 

This episode: Catfish, Season 1, Eps. 1-4, 7-8, 13.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next episode: Doomsday Preppers, Season 3, Eps. 1-5, 9.  Watch it on Hulu.

This month the show returns to its MTV stomping grounds for one of their most successful and popular shows of recent vintage – which is apparently responsible for launching the term ‘catfish’ into the vernacular.  We were familiar with the term, of course, but not with the show, which had a different effect on each of us.

We discuss the usual fare – concept and structure, episode highlights, authenticity and appeal – but we delve quite a bit more into our personal takes on the show, particularly in the case of JS, who enjoyed the show for what it was until Mike burst his bubble with an article he found online debunking the show’s authenticity.  We also take on some of the larger issues the show focuses on, particularly in terms of what it has to say about social media usage and ‘self-acceptance,’ with the assistance of an interesting academic article we found that analyzes and critiques the show’s messaging.

Show Notes and Links

1:26 / Mike outs himself as the victim of a celebrity podcast catfishing scheme

2:06 / Introducing this month’s show

3:17 / The concept and structure of this show (inspired by a documentary of the same name)

6:37 / Our impressions of the two hosts, Nev and Max

8:07 / Dual roles of hosts – investigation and therapy/counseling

9:23 / The show’s tone ran contrary to JS’s expectations, particularly for an MTV reality show (Our episode on My Super Sweet 16)

11:24 / A coda on some of Nev’s personal controversies – MeToo accusations and somewhat racist tweeting (Maybe he should run for President!)

12:42 / The order in which each of us watched the episodes and how it affected our viewing

13:43 / Episode 1 – Sunny and Jamison (Chelsea)

14:43 / Episode 3 – Kim and Matt

15:01 / Episode 7 – Joe and Kari Ann (Rose) – Watch this one!

16:58 / Episode 2 – Trina and Scorpio (Lee) and Episode 8 – Tyler and Amanda (Aaron)

17:58 / Episode 4 – Jasmine and Mike (Mhissy)

18:46 / Transitioning to the question of authenticity

21:30 / Our initial impressions of the authenticity and how the article affected our reading of the show (the article we mention and discuss – Is Catfish Catfishing America?)

23:15 / Talking about how much we bought the narrative in Episode 7 (Mike mentions The Truman Show)

24:12 / Mike talks about the motivational narrative for Episode 7 (the Instagram post from Rose; Mike mentions the movie Rashomon)

26:28 / How genuine are these investigations by Nev and Max? (Kari Ann Peniche’s Wikipedia article)

28:18 / The one moment of authenticity – the catfishee’s reaction to meeting the catfisher – made us feel uncomfortable (Our Maury episode)

31:15 / Finding out how the show was actually constructed undermined its ethical justification, Mike almost would have preferred it embrace the seamy side (He mentions the show Cheaters)

32:58 / How much did the inauthenticity sour us on the show?  Could it have been done another way?

34:22 / What JS wanted from the narrative and how finding out the truth made him think it was all done on the catfisher’s terms

35:32 / Mike pushes back a little – thinks it would be easier for the catfisher to not go on TV, thinks the show is done more on the producer’s terms

36:53 / The thing that irritated us most about the show’s ethics was the false front it put up of ‘helping’ people

37:10 / Segueing into the article for this month: Catching a Catfish: Constructing the ‘good’ social media user in reality television, Michael Lovelock, Television & New Media, Vol. 18, Issue 3, March 2017

38:05 / The broad thesis of the article and overview of its main themes

38:54 / What Mike thought was most interesting in the article

40:24 / JS also found the emphasis on self-acceptance as substitute for traditional markers of success interesting

42:04 / Mike liked the analysis of catfishing as being on the continuum of online activity and not apart from it

43:52 / Coming back to the usage of hand-held cameras as marker of authenticity (We mention Bridezillas, Vanderpump Rules, and Dirty Jobs as other examples of this kind of technique)

46:50 / What did we think of the article writer’s contention that reality TV narratives are ideal for constructing ‘good’ social media behavior?  (JS mentions the online forum Reddit; Mike mentions Foucault again and our Paris Hilton BFF Dubai episode)

50:24 / Ending on where the appeal of the show lies

52:38 / What specifically in the narrative captured JS’s interest before finding out about the inauthenticity?

54:24 / Mike didn’t enjoy it as much, but that also insulated him from being crestfallen when he discovered the article

55:40 / Mike thinks part of the appeal of this show is due to the inherent uncertainty of online relationships and our fears surrounding them

56:30 / Introducing the show for our next episode (Mike mentions the caravan aka the “terror-van” – remember that? He also confused the presidential and Congressional inauguration dates – you don’t have to email him a correction.)

58:25 / Mike’s half-hearted holiday well-wishes and our plan for the rest of the season

58:54 / Our usual stuff: contact us, rate and review us, and subscribe (or tell your friends to subscribe!)

 

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Episode 20 – Blind Date

 

This episode: Blind Date, Season ???.  Watch it on YouTube.

Next episode: 90 Day Fiance, Season 4, Eps, 1-6, 14.  Watch it on TLC.com (cable sub required).  Purchase it on Amazon Instant Video.

We make our triumphant return for Season 2 with another First Love episode, this time from Mike – Blind Date.  However, the love might not be mutual this time, as JS is left a little bit cold.  We delve into the usual topics: structure, concept, etc, before looking at the show’s humor and its reliance on stereotypes (with an assist from an excellent cultural studies article that examines how the show’s humor enforces cultural norms).  We then end with a discussion of the show’s appeal and how our differing expectations and dispositions may have shaped our enjoyment (or lack thereof) of this one.

Show Notes and Links

1:15 / Mike gets in one last joke about the dumb ‘War on Christmas’ while it is still seasonally appropriate

1:30 / Introducing this month’s episode

2:39 / Mike’s memories of the show as a kid (callback to Episode 1); here’s a ‘review’ of the porn site Mike mentioned for all you pervs (NSFW, obviously)

4:01 / JS had not experienced this show before, his first impressions

5:12 / A brief digression into the quality of the recordings on YouTube; Mike mentions the Fox Reality Channel and the sexual harassment scandal at Fox News

5:54 / The concept and structure of the show

6:50 / Mentioning the host, Roger Lodge

7:47 / The main strategy of the show – setting up incompatible couples; Mike mentions the dating service eHarmony

8:45 / The big draw – the animations and graphics

11:36 / The length of the segments and discussing the actual structure of the televised show (as opposed the curated YouTube version we watched)

13:29 / Transitioning into the humor of the show and its reliance on various stereotypes

15:25 / The stereotypes are often shorn of context – heavy amount of editing in these dates

16:36 / The people on this show are damned if they do, damned if they don’t by the producers

18:25 / Discussing the show’s usage of racial/ethnic stereotypes

19:05 / A lot of these jokes would get someone fired today

19:35 / JS lays out his main problem with the animations – too heavy-handed and intrusive

21:00 / Mike enjoyed the animations, but agrees some of the humor was problematic and offensive

22:22 / We liked the humor more when it made fun of people for what they did rather than who they were

23:52 / Mike was surprised by how many personal questions came up on these dates

24:55 / Talking about the heteronormativity of the show; Mike mentions Jerry Falwell and the term metrosexual

25:45 / Segueing into the article – Pop (Up) Goes the Blind Date: Supertextual Constraints on “Reality” Television by Justin DeRose, Elfriede Fürsich, and Ekaterina V. Haskins

26:47 / JS gives a quick summary of the article’s thesis, which references the concept of cultural hegemony

28:02 / Mike thought this article did a good job honing on the relationship between the stereotypes and the production humor

29:08 / Other stereotypes mentioned by the article beyond gender and race, how it narrows expectations to the median of a standard bell curve

30:40 / JS selected two lines he enjoyed from the article on the role of consumerism in the show

32:41 / Even with the consumerism, the show comes back to the idea of conforming to the norm (don’t be gaudy or a ‘gold-digger’)

33:39 / JS thought humor was too obvious or easy to be funny, but Mike offers a (qualified) defense of the humor as being a channel for genuine anxieties

35:32 / Delving into the specific dates and how they depart or conform to the mold

37:56 / JS goes into his favorite segment – was OK with show making fun of people who seemed terrible

39:54 / Talking about the selection of the contestants; we mention Survivor: Borneo as a contemporaneous reality show

41:45 / One episode where the ‘racial’ humor kind of worked – the Asian who thought she was ‘hood’

42:42 / Transitioning to the appeal of the show and why it was successful

44:07 / Mike thought the ‘lowest common denominator’ aspect of the show was a strength; gives additional context in the form of the show’s original time slot (aka not primetime)

45:00 / Comparing the humor of the show to Bridezillas

48:10 / How our different expectations shaped our enjoyment of the show (or lack thereof)

48:52 / Revisiting the success/failure dichotomy – Does JS gravitate more towards shows that celebrate success as opposed to relishing failure? (JS mentions America’s Most Smartest Model)

51:03 / Mike is probably the opposite – more forgiving of the trashy, mean-spirited humiliation fests

51:50 / Pitching the article again – we are hoping to incorporate something like this going forward (although we may not find specific articles for the likes of Paris Hilton’s My New BFF Dubai)

52:35 / Introducing next month’s episode

53:52 / The usual announcements: contact us, rate/review, and subscribe

Episode 12 – Keys to the VIP

 

This week’s discussion: Keys to the VIP, Season 2, Eps. 1-5.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

Next week’s discussion: Alaskan Bush People, Season 1.  Watch it on Hulu.

This week Mike and JS put on ten pounds of hair gel and don their fedoras and indoor-only sunglasses for some special VIP treatment, but Mike in particular is having regrets about what might have seemed like a good idea at the time (much like the women who gave these guys their numbers).

Nevertheless, there was much of interest to discuss.  We cover our usual topics: the show’s concept and our general impresssions, it’s authenticity (or lack thereof), and we revisit our beloved success/failure dichotomy to try and put our fingers on the show’s appeal.  However, we also discuss the show’s worldview about the relations between the sexes as well as its relation to the broader culture of pick-up artistry in general.  We particularly pay attention to some of the pick-up culture’s shaky intellectual arguments grounded in bogus notions of ‘neuro-linguistic programming’ and faux evolutionary psychology.  (WARNING: Foucault and chimpanzee sex both get mentioned prominently.)

[Also, as a postscript, Mike apologizes for the quality of a few of the sound clips.  One of the many terrible things about this show (and one that did not become apparent until post-production) was how fucking shitty the sound mixing was.  It’s almost as if even the producers of this trainwreck didn’t even care about it.]

Show Notes and Links

1:40 / Introducing this week’s show

2:20 / The concept of the show

5:08 / JS observes how mundane the intros were

8:09 / Discussing the four hosts – ‘the four corners of the male psyche’ (LOL)

10:02 / Sheldon did not seem to have a defined persona (the article Mike mentions is here)

11:20 / Mike criticizes the show for not having enough differentiation between the hosts

12:50 / Comparing the relative badness of this show to Monica the Medium

13:46 / Returning to the topic of differentiation and the show’s relation to pick-up artist culture

15:30 / Talking about the interludes and how the hosts’ ‘differences’ faded away

16:37 / The contestants for the show are also very similar (and all have dumb nicknames)

18:03 / JS talks about the episode with Mike the Magician and Hot Body Jason – ‘brains’ vs. ‘brawn’

21:00 / Mike agrees that this episode was more interesting, but thinks it still fits into the overall worldview of the show

21:33 / Mike talks about an episode that left a sour taste – ‘nice guy’ vs. ‘asshole’

23:18 / Segueing into the worldview of the show (and pick-up artistry in general)

24:31 / Talking about the idea of ‘negging

25:30 / JS did like the challenges that put the guys in a bind

26:02 / The perennial question – How real is all this?

26:33 / Mike kept seeing unsourced allegations of fakery, but no smoking gun (Wikipedia, IMDB)

27:18 / How did they get the audio to pick up so clearly?

28:10 / Not very many blurred faces in this show

29:07 / JS noticed the guys seem to be aware of the ‘hidden’ cameras

29:38 / Lots of women show up more than once – what are the odds?

31:05 / Mike was unconvinced by the kissing

32:08 / Talking about the evidence for some level of ‘authenticity’ (AMA, interview with Alen)

32:58 / Women may not be out-and-out confederates, but if they know the show is going on beforehand, how authentic are the actual reactions?

33:42 / Talking about how the multiple takes give the producers an opportunity to basically tell whatever story they want

36:40 / Mike’s theory of the week: Keys to the VIP as a Foucauldian educational institution (To be more clear, Mike was referring to Discipline and Punish, but Foucault also studied other things)

39:25 / Talking about the dated nature of pick-up culture and how this show was very much of its time; Mike mentions The Game

41:13 / Segueing into a discussion of pick-up artist culture more broadly

41:45 / Mike was talking about something like this    (He also mentions the vintage hosting service Geocities)  (the dumb website is here)

42:14 / Talking about all the dumb terms and acronyms (yes, they are all real) from the different ‘schools’ of pick-up artistry, such as Speed Seduction and the Mystery Method (Mike mentions the Konami Code)

43:59 / Discussing the influence of ‘neuro-linguistic programming’ (aka ‘the Force’)

45:53 / The Adorno quote is from aphorism 70 of Minima Moralia

46:19 / Why can’t horny women ‘Jedi Mind Trick’ hot guys into sleeping with them? (Discussing the assumptions of pick-up artist ideology)

47:44 / Mike makes a brief comparison between pick-up artistry and female-oriented cottage dating advice

48:21 / Even if this stuff worked 10 years ago, don’t you think women would have caught on to the dumb hats and canned lines?

49:04 / JS makes a ‘Devil’s Advocate’ argument for the value of pick-up artistry

50:05 / Talking about the ‘numbers game’ aspect of pick-up artistry, with a brief aside into the emergence of dating apps like Tinder and how they’ve changed dating culture

51:56 / What Mike thinks is actually behind pick-up artist philosophy (power not pleasure)

53:18 / Mike debunks the pop evolutionary psychology arguments underlying the philosophy (aka humans and other primates are not the same)

54:38 / Chimps and bonobos have entirely different social structures, despite being more genetically similar than either one is to humans

55:07 / A digression into chimp mating and the relation of sex to status in chimp society (Mike refers to the book The Origins of AIDS)

56:27 / Talking about the evolution of pick-up artistry over the last decade to its nastier current-day incarnations like The Red Pill and Gamergate

57:42 / Segueing into the appeal of the show

58:03 / Mike reads a quote from Alen on the show’s creation and JS responds

59:08 / Mike mentions another podcast that reviewed this show, Flight School Podcast (The specific episode is here)

59:40 / The show is not really about teaching people ‘what women want’, but is about reaffirming traditionally masculine worldviews

1:00:50 / Is this show about success or failure?  (We both come to the conclusion that it is ultimately about the latter)

1:02:57 / We never rooted for the contestants

1:03:25 / The educational emphasis of the show centers the narrative around failure

1:03:52 / Mike talks about how this show could maybe have been better (it takes a lot)

1:04:55 / A novel concept – have actual women on a show about impressing women

1:05:24 / The women in the show are always ‘targets’ and stereotypes

1:06:30 / Our final thoughts – Mike recommends only watching the goofy intros, JS puts in a word for Mike the Magician

1:07:46 / Introducing the next show (It can only go up from here)

1:08:38 / The usual announcements – Like our Facebook page and visit the website (Good job – you are here!) – Also: contact us, rate/review, and subscribe!