When I wrote my series recap for Catfish two years ago, I never thought the show would explode to the phenomenon it is now. Not that I didn’t think it had the potential to be an MTV hit, but I kind of felt like Catfish was my own little (not so) secret guilty pleasure that I was rallying to friends, family, and even members of this site as a “must watch.” Now the show is garnering millions of tweets each night, so much so that MTV dedicated a half hour of programming called Chatfish, where they open the floor for episode interpretation and discussion.
While it’s crazy to see how popular the show has become, it’s not surprising at all to see the producer’s slightly change the focus. For the last two seasons, Nev Schulman and Max Joseph focused specifically on online romantic relationships, similar to the one Schulman experienced himself in 2010. From the trailer, the season’s premiere last night, and the hosts themselves, it seems that the show is now focusing on relationships as a whole, including those that involve online stalking and bullying.
The season’s premiere does a good job at showing this new take. It starts off focusing on Craig, who falls in love with Zoe, a girl his sister met through the internet. Throughout their romantic relationship, Zoe has used Craig’s Facebook page to “call out” his friends and family members, causing a slew of friendships to crumble. Craig oddly seemed pretty aware that this girl was using the internet to ruin his life, and decides to confront her authenticity with the help from Nev and Max. After trips back and forth from Pittsburgh to Florida to North Carolina, Nev, Max, Craig, and his sister finally find the real Zoe, who happens to really be a young woman named Cassandra.
What’s interesting about this premiere is that Craig isn’t really seen as the person at fault, rather a victim that just so happened to get caught up in Cassandra’s fucked up version of fun. Unlike many Catfishes of the past, Craig felt guilty that he didn’t listen to his intuition about Zoe, especially when she was using him to ruin the lives of others. The moment where Craig discovered Nev and Max’s research and took a step back to cry showed this shame. Yes, he was stupid for continuing to give her his Facebook password and he was really dumb for continuously inviting her back into his life. But there was an initial lack of denial, which in the past has never been a case until Nev and Max begin their research.
After the big reveal, Cassandra reveals that she was bullied which may have caused her to do this. This seems to be a trend excuse, one that most definitely has been used with Nev and Max before. I obviously don’t personally know Cassandra so I can’t officially comment on the truth of her story. However, I did roll my eyes a little bit. We’ve heard the bullying card time and time again on from the catfishes, which leads me to believe that her revelation with Max/Nev was a little bit contrived.
After watching this episode and part of the new “Chatfish” after show, I’d say this is going to be a pretty interesting season to say the least. There’s definitely going to be a lot of tears and a lot of drama, probably way more than we’ve ever seen on the show before. As someone who advocates anti-bullying both online and in person, I’m excited to see the new turn the show is taking this season.