*Warning: Contains Catfish spoilers.
I’m not aiming to be MadameNoire’s expert on all things MTV’s Catfish, but after writing last week’s Plenty Of Fish: Why Are People Still Being “Catfished”, an episode aired that was a doozy. Wednesday’s episode featured “Antwane and Tony” a story of a couple who met by what today would be seen as the unconventional and dated “party line”. The last time I heard about the party line I was telling one of my friends in high school she would end up a Lifetime movie by meeting guys she had met randomly through a hotline. Antwane is anti-social media so he sends Max and Nev out into the rough streets of Cincinnati with only a phone number to lead the way. The guys’ gangsta comes out as they knock on random folks doors whose addresses are linked to the number asking for “Tony”, the man Antwane has been conversing and falling in love with for three years.
Turns out the real “Tony” is Antwane’s cousin Carmen who can get James Earl Jones bass in her voice on command and is seeking revenge on Antwane for referring to her as a “fat a** Kelly Price” in front of their family back in the day. Max and Nev, tired of being taken for fools and risking their safety patrolling the hood get completely out of character and call Carmen on her cruelty to the point where the producer has to pull them aside and remind them to focus on the purpose of their show.
It is then that Carmen has a moment of honesty and reveals that her cruel catfishing ways are partially due to a desperate need to be on TV. She remarks:
“The biggest liars work in the biggest companies.”
When Max asks why she wants to be known for such negative behavior, Carmen plainly states:
“For my five minutes of fame. When you approach someone with an opportunity they’ll want to do anything just to be on TV for that moment.”
“People on TV make the world look different to people that’s not.”
Most of us probably wouldn’t spend three years catfishing our close cousin just to be on an MTV show, but let’s be honest: Fame isn’t what it used to be. It’s more tangible than ever and thanks to social media like Instagram and Youtube it doesn’t take much to become “instafamous” or literally become famous overnight. There’s no longer the red tape of being in the right location or linking up with the right people. As long as you have a cellphone signal all it takes is the right action and the right viewer to take someone from their bathroom mirror to BET.
This could be a good thing except for the fact that media tends to glorify the most dramatic, harsh and negative things. People are no longer famous for being talented, they’re famous for fighting, making sex tapes with celebrities and booty shots. The bad news is that fame isn’t lasting as long as it used to. With the public’s attention span growing shorter and shorter, it’s taking more effort to make a lasting impression. We are no longer encouraging folks to be good at something we’re just encouraging them to look good and shock the hell out of us or make us laugh. If you look at some of the most popular celebs in our culture from Miley Cyrus to Rihanna, it’s all based on wild behavior and them showing their bathing suit parts, not on any actual real talent they might have. Seriously, when’s the last time you said to yourself, “Rihanna was singing her behind off on that track!” But just this morning I came across this article of her grabbing her breast at a basketball game. 146 people have already tweeted it.
I’m not saying celebrities are to blame, I think society as a whole perpetuates the mindset that fame makes everything better. Those who lead the most questionable lives are in the headlines the most and as a result they seem to be more successful, at least financially and socially. It’s getting to the point where viewers figure if they can’t be the sexiest, they’ll be the craziest. If they can’t be the craziest, they’ll be the cruelest and so on. As longs as it gets them more followers, more likes, or the ultimate goal: Five minutes on reality TV, that it must mean something, or that they actually matter in this world.
So to answer the question in my last article, why are people still getting catfished? It’s because peoples’ need to be famous, liked or followed is at an all-time high and they’re completely missing the point that there’s more to life then what’s on TV or on your cell phone. Carmen was right, people on TV do make things look different, but it’s because most of the time those things aren’t real. And that’s the biggest catfish of all: the fact that reality TV is filled with so much fakeness. No one’s really talented. No one’s really real. And the sooner we begin to glorify the best in people and what they’re actually good at, the sooner we can get back to being authentically entertained.
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.