For six seasons now on MTV’s Catfish, host Nev Schulman and his filmmaker partner Max Joseph have entertained audiences with investigations into the ugly details of online dating.
Spawned from Nev’s highly successful 2010 documentary of the same name, the series acts as a veritable “how not to date” for people who are wary of online dating everywhere. Sure, sometimes things work out okay in the end for the online lovebirds, but more often than not, there’s a whole lot of lying, betrayal, and fighting. Add in a healthy dose of Nev and Max’s addictive bromantic charm and you’ve got the hit MTV series that’s now approaching its 100th episode.
Given how many dark and twisted tales the duo have uncovered over the years, it’s really no surprise that there are a whole lot of scandals and secrets that have been kept out of the public eye over the years.
However, what may come as a surprise to even the most dedicated Catfish fans out there is the number of shocking secrets that go into the making of every episode of the series, and even before every episode has started to be filmed.
Here are the 15 Secrets From Catfish You Had No Idea About.
15. The stars of one episode have come forward to say it was all an act
In the season 2 episode “Artis & Jess”, Artis has fallen in love with a beautiful blonde girl named Jess online, despite only having seen one picture of her and despite the fact that he already has a girlfriend and child.
When Nev and Max do their investigating, it turns out that the woman of Artis’ dreams is a man named Justin, who claims to be serving vigilante justice online to catch men cheating. It’s safe to say that things get pretty confrontational and uncomfortable pretty fast, leading to some of the most awkward moments in Catfish history.
Yet all the awkwardness made so much more sense when Artis and Justin came forward shortly afterward, claiming that the entire thing was a hoax. They even went one step further, claiming that all of Catfish is rigged. Whether you believe them after reading and watching all they shared, well, that’s up to you.
14. The show has been accused of twisting stories
Seeing as the show has admitted to taking significant creative liberties in terms of writing the stories from the catfishee’s point of view, when it’s really the catfish who contacted the show, it should come as no surprise that there have been accusations made that the series altered stories based on who they found more sympathetic.
Samm from the season 4 episode “Steven & Samm” has claimed that, even though she was the one who contacted the show to find out if she was being catfished, MTV twisted things to make her look like the bad guy in the story.
Similarly, Stephanie, from the episode “Stephanie & David”– which was filmed in season 1, but not aired until season 4– has stated that David was in fact the one who contacted the show, but since he felt it portrayed him in a bad light, he didn’t want the episode aired.
13. The show has been accused of being transphobic
With the prominent push for greater acceptance and understanding of identity politics in recent years, it’s only natural that a consequence of this is critically questioning how things could have been handled better in earlier times. Unfortunately, older episodes of Catfish fail at meet the fair standards of treatment for LGBTQ youth, especially when the catfish is trans.
The season 1 episode “Kya & Alyx” provided the series with its first real encounter with trans politics, and unfortunately, they really botched it. According to an editorial by xoJane: “the hosts do a modified version of the Jerry Springer Paternity Test Shuffle: Instead of you are not the father, it’s you are not a ‘real’ man. The pair misgenders Dani repeatedly, reminding the audience that ‘he is actually she.’ Pictures of Dani wearing dresses as a child flash across the screen.” Making matters worse, this uncomfortably intolerant message is misrepresented as progressive acceptance.
12. The catfish contacts the show
Despite the fact that the episodes always begin with the person who feels like they may be getting catfished by their online love, the truth is this: it’s almost always the catfish themself who reaches out to the show.
According to Marshall Eisen, the senior vice president of MTV’s news and documentaries, “It’s often the catfish we hear from first because they’re looking to unburden themselves. It’s not always the case, but it probably happens more than people realize.”
As a Vulture interview with Eisen further points out, the casting form for Catfish asks users straightaway whether they have something to tell their significant other that they’ve been keeping a secret for some time.
It makes sense when you think about it– a longtime liar’s guilt would lead to them wanting a clear cut way of coming clean about themselves. In this day and age, what better way is there to do it than on national TV?
11. MTV knows everything, but Nev and Max don’t
This one requires some real mental gymnastics to believe, but allegedly it’s the truth. Despite the fact that MTV has all the answers from the beginning, given the in depth casting application that is required in order to be considered for the series, Nev and Max have no idea where the story is going to lead them. Even though MTV knows ahead of time who both the catfish and the catfishee are, Nev and Max are sent out into the wild to figure it out all on their own.
Again, according to Marshall Eisen, “Our whole mantra for the guys is, ‘If you can’t figure it out, just go with it and see where it takes you.’” It certainly makes for a puzzling and entertaining ride to watch the guys be completely wrong and course correct midway through the episode, so maybe this shocking decision is for the best after all.
10. Nev and Max take a really long time to research
Since MTV sends them out into the wild with none of the answers that they have access to, it’s no real surprise that it can take Nev and Max a really long time to get to the bottom of the mysteries they’re meant to solve.
Each episode features a cute research montage of the duo, usually in a mostly empty coffee shop, hunched over around a laptop. On average, the research portion takes up one segment of the episode, ranging from about five to eight minutes.
However, the real amount of time it takes them to find the truth is a whole lot longer than that. As Eisen explains, “We edit the investigations down. They can be grueling. There have been very, very long days where Nev and Max are trying to figure it out, and we can’t help them.”
“The guys are better at it now, but it’s not always obvious how to crack these things. We’ve condensed what’s taken them ten hours in some instances into five or six minutes, but we try to show that it was difficult,” he said.
9. The show’s popularity surged after the Manti Te’o scandal in 2013
In 2012 and 2013, the nation was captivated by the scandal surrounding Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o and the case of his girlfriend’s tragic death.
As it would turn out, the girlfriend in question had never existed: the couple had been in an online relationship, and she had in fact been a persona created by a man who was in love with Te’o but wanted to conceal his identity in a way that Te’o would respond to. Basically, Manti Te’o was catfished, and who better to explain the phenomenon than Nev and Max themselves?
Nev and Max acted as consultants on the case with the media, with Nev even taking part in an interview on Katie Couric’s talk show Katie to explain catfishing to the general public. As a result of all of this press, Catfish‘s popularity surged, with ratings rising over 30% after the news of the scandal went viral.
8. Even celebrities have been catfished on the show
As the Manti Te’o scandal showed, it’s really not just everyday average people who fall prey to catfishing. On Catfish, that’s just as true. In multiple episodes, celebrities have fallen prey to either attention seeking super-fans or flirtatious strangers.
In season 3’s “Tracie & Sammie”, film, TV, and Broadway star Tracie Thoms fell prey to a super-fan who created multiple fake profiles in order to receive positive feedback and friendship from the multi hyphenate.
In season 4’s “Prophet & Trinity”, rapper R. Prophet of the group Nappy Roots fell for a girl named Trinity online who helped him through many tough times in his life, even crowdfunding for him at one point, only for her to turn out to be someone totally different than the girl in her photos. Episodes like these really show that anyone can fall hook, line, and sinker for a catfish if the bait is good enough.
7. Sometimes, the catfish isn’t a stranger, but someone much closer
Even though the general understanding of catfishing is that it’s something done by a total stranger on the internet, Catfish has shown that, in certain surprising situations, the catfish can be a whole lot closer to home.
In the iconic season 3 episode “Antwane & Tony”, it’s revealed that Antwane has been catfished by his cousin Carmen for three years, all out of revenge due to him previously calling her an embarrassing name.
In the season 2 episode “Cassie & Steve”, Cassie was catfished by her best friend Gladys for years, even to the point of faking an engagement, all so Glenda could save Cassie from self-destructive behavior.
Also, in a truly heartwarming season 5 episode, “Candic & Titus”, it’s revealed that the man Candic has been communicating with about her marriage and personal struggles has, in fact, been her husband, Jamie, who wanted to get to know her better so they could work on mending their marriage together.
6. People have started trying to fool MTV just to get on air
It’s a phenomenon that’s bound to happen with any suddenly popular platform. People have started trying to pull a fast one on MTV, just so they can get some air time. In a few cases, it’s even worked, with two notable ones having very different results.
In the season 4 episode “Hundra & Emily”, Hundra lied about being in a relationship with a girl named Emily just so she could get on TV and come out, as well as address the homophobia towards LGBTQ people within the Haitian community. The episode’s guest co-host, rapper Machine Gun Kelly, completely flipped out on her after learning the truth.
By contrast, in the season 4 episode “Whitney & Bre”, Whitney lied about being catfished by a girl named Bre, who was in fact her longtime girlfriend and who she had been able to meet on her own. This time, despite being duped, Nev and Max decided to help the happy couple get together.
5. One episode was possibly banned from reairing due to a legal dispute
Given the legal language that goes into the making of the show, it’s clear that MTV is committed to making Catfish a well laid out and safe experience for all parties involved. However, in the case of one episode, “Blake & Kendra”, there are rumors that a different kind of legal action was taken, potentially against MTV.
According to a report by a dedicated blogger fan of the show, MTV was only allowed to air the episode once (without significant promotion of any kind) due to a lawsuit filed by the catfish the episode revolved around.
While nothing has been confirmed and no statements have ever been made, it is significant that the episode has never been aired again and is not available on any digital platforms that carry the series, such as Hulu and Amazon.
4. The show has been called out for forcing trend-worthy moments
In this day and age, things trend on Twitter or go viral on Youtube pretty quickly. However, a few years ago, Catfish‘s third season was criticized for clearly orchestrating entire segments just for the purpose of going viral.
In a scathing article by Vice, the series came under fire for dramatic moments that included Nev throwing a Catfish‘s phone off a pier, two people meeting for the first time and instantly getting matching best friend tattoos, and an episode that featured a glorified concert showcase for one catfish’s band.
In addition, the creation of the short-lived after show Chatfish, which encouraged viewers to communicate via hashtag question and answers with the participants on the show, also left a bad taste in the author’s mouth. Perhaps it was for the best that MTV has since done away with the format.
3. Two participants from one episode have passed away
In the season 2 episode “Ashley & Mike”, Catfish introduced audiences everywhere to the sweet story of a seven-year couple. For all their time together, Ashley, who struggled with her image, had been sending altered photos of herself to Mike in order to make herself appear thinner.
When the two met, they discussed their mutual body image issues, but ultimately decided to try and remain friends, rather than pursue anything further, and remained in touch with one another.
Tragically, however, in October 2013, a mere two months after the episode aired, Mike passed away from what is believed to have been a pulmonary embolism. Making matters even more tragic, Ashley passed away two and a half years later in May 2016 due to a suspected drug overdose.
2. Everyone has already agreed to be on TV before the cameras roll
It’s a pretty typical part of every Catfish episode: Nev gets the catfish on the phone, tells them that they want to arrange a meeting between the two people involved in the relationship, and the catfish almost always initially refuses.
Eventually– about a minute later– they cave in. Then, sometimes, when they arrive at the meeting place, the catfish chickens out again, not showing up at first or not answering the door. The tension builds.
However, as it turns out, this is basically all for show. Prior to the episode filming, all parties involved in the taping have signed waivers agreeing to appear on the show. Of course, cold feet are a real possibility in many cases, but in the end, people are bound by what they have agreed to before the episode even begins.
1. Somehow Nev was catfished again
Apparently, old habits really do die hard. Despite making an acclaimed documentary about the time he was catfished, and despite hosting six seasons of a show that revolves around identifying possible catfishes, Nev Schulman was catfished again over the course of a few years.
It began with some flirting on Twitter, then turned into a business consultant relationship with that same girl, who had a sizable Twitter following.
However, after the flirtation ended, the girl began using Nev’s Twitter account without his permission, posing as him in order to falsely vouch for her with business dealings and falsified job opportunities. To this day, Nev still doesn’t know who she really was. Perhaps it’s time for Catfish 2?
What other dark secrets of Catfish do you know about? Let us know in the comments!
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