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!)

 

Episode 13 – Alaskan Bush People

 

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

Next week’s discussion: Snooki and JWoww: Moms with Attitude, Season 1, Eps. 1-12, 39-40. Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

Due to some (still ongoing) technical difficulties, Mike travels to his folks’ place in order to bring you another episode while the initial portion of JS’s audio has a ‘special guest’ (our apologies).  However, we soldier on with this week’s show, which was a lot more enjoyable than the last couple.

After doing the usual rundown of concept, cast, and episode highlights, we discuss this show’s troubled – to put it charitably – relationship to reality and use that as a segue to try to further define reality TV, particularly in comparison to the documentary, and figure out what makes reality TV unique.

We then dig into the show’s worldview of self-reliance, rugged individualism, and the virtues of living ‘off-the-grid’ as well as the interesting way in which the show positions the Browns – and, implicitly, Alaska itself – as avatars of both exoticism and traditional (white, Christian) American values.

Finally, we wrap up by locating the show’s appeal in its display of the virtues of rural living and community in an increasingly urbanized and impersonal modern society.  Also, we announce the results of our Jersey Shore spin-off listener’s choice poll – since the world has been waiting with bated breath.

Show Notes and Links

1:08 / We rue our poor luck

2:02 / Introducing this week’s show

3:27 / Running down the high concept

5:00 / The cast of characters

8:11 / JS was a big fan of Bear

8:46 / Moving into the episode recaps

10:03 / Really playing up that flat tire

11:18 / Theme of first season is race against winter

13:34 / Talking about ‘Rick the Lumberman’

15:04 / The fingerprints of producers are all over this show; JS mentions Monica the Medium

16:18 / Talking about the ‘junkman’ and whether show is playing up the ‘roughness’ of these characters

18:22 / Delving more into the bartering ‘goose chase’

19:15 / JS drops some research about DVDs and rural Alaska

20:10 / The emphasis placed on barter as emblematic of bush culture

20:30 / Wrapping up the cabin-building arc

21:50 / Briefly summarizing the ‘boat’ episode

22:45 / The ‘clip’ episode aka ‘No, it’s real!  Really!’

23:23 / Talking about the dentist’s office

24:05 / Our differing reactions to the believability of hospital care for barter

26:06 / How authentic we thought the show was prior to doing our research

28:11 / We start delving into the gossip on the show

28:40 / Talking about the family’s residency fraud charges

30:00 / Matt’s DUI in a Walmart parking lot

30:39 / Talking about the family’s history with technology (Billy’s book, YouTube video)

31:52 / The evolution of the show’s authenticity (living in hotels, etc.)

32:18 / Mike wasn’t surprised at the inauthenticity, but the level of fakery was beyond what he would have guessed

33:00 / Our final thoughts on the family’s ‘bush skills’ in light of the ‘revelations’

33:47 / Talking about the definition of reality TV vis-à-vis the documentary

34:34 / What is the line between documentary and reality TV?

35:02 / JS defines the line as the level of producer involvement in the action as it is happening; mentions the Heisenberg Principle

37:38 / Mike talks about the early documentary Nanook of the North; director’s involvement in staging some scenes

39:45 / Mike’s defining line is in the marketing and purpose (low/mass culture, entertainment-oriented, profit-driven vs. high culture, education-oriented, prestige-driven)

40:54 / Discussing how important ‘reality’ is to ‘reality TV’ (Our Bridezillas episode is here and our Survivor: Borneo episode is here)

43:15 / JS thinks even the ‘fake’ reality shows qualify because they are at least setting up the expectation of reality, even if the execution is obviously poor (*cough* TOWIE *cough*)

45:00 / Segueing into the worldview and themes of the show

45:21 / Mike noticed a theme of self-reliance and freedom juxtaposed to civilization; mentions Dual Survival, the other Discovery reality show we watched

46:20 / JS thought the inauthenticity of the show undermines this message of ‘freedom from society’

47:33 / Mike wonders if freedom from civilization is really freedom or just subjugation to the whims of nature

49:10 / The show’s idealization and romanticization of ‘bush culture’

50:05 / Mike was struck by the masculine focus and tone of these ‘outdoor’ oriented shows

51:13 / JS inserts a brief digression on Billy’s marital history and history with Ami’s family

52:55 / The interesting blend of familiarity and exoticism in the portrayal of the Browns

53:53 / Alaska’s place in the US mental geography

54:22 / The importance of the Brown’s whiteness to the show’s appeal

57:28 / Mashup between 1850’s nostalgia and 1950’s nostalgia

57:55 / Show sells an image of rugged individualism, but there are cracks in that image

58:50 / Relating this image to Alaska’s reality (oil fund, federal subsidies)

59:56 / JS talks about the appealing aspects of the show

1:01:05 / Mike thought this show could have been an interesting look at rural life without the hype (and fakery, obviously)

1:01:40 / The appeal of Gemeinschaft in an era of Gessellschaft

1:03:15 / Mike brings up Frederic Jameson’s essay ‘Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture’ (Mike also briefly mentions our Paris Hilton episode)

1:06:25 / The relationship between reality TV and subcultural communities (Amish Mafia, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding)

1:07:23 / Announcing the results of our listener’s choice poll

1:08:45 / The boilerplate: contact us, Facebook, rate/review, and subscribe