Sundance Darling Catfish Thrilling, Suspenseful, and an Obvious Hoax

The 2010 surprise Sundance hit was a film called Catfish, a tale of an internet relationship gone horrible sideways. Apparently the name “Sideways” was already taken, and since the producers didn’t want to just declare it an outright hoax, they named it after a bottom-feeder, since that ugly moniker was somehow also perfectly fitting.

So it’s a good film, and one worth watching… did I get that out of the way? Okay good. Now here’s the rest of the story…

Let me start by putting the ambiguity to rest. It’s a hoax. It’s not a satire or a farce, those would both require admission on the part of the producers. They won’t cop to how fake the film is, so short of calling it a fraud, I’ll call it a hoax.

And I should know. I spent three years working with two companies out of Florida writing some of the biggest hoaxes the web has seen. I’m now free to admit that I’m the sole author of such viral hits as Doggy Condoms (we sell condoms for dogs, what?), Conjugal Harmony (we connect you with a lifer you can marry and conjugally visit, what?), Subway’s Jared is Dead (the second time, not the first time, but ours was bigger,) Revenge Crabs (we help you get revenge on your ex the old fashioned way, with crabs, what?), and a good two dozen more you may or may not have heard of.

I know the formula for a hoax, and I know how they’re made. We had a handful of editorial-level staffers draft and conceive the hoax, then another dozen revise it unto believability, then another handful that actually made these ill-understood farces come to life.

But we never would have had the balls to try to pull off a hoax on the order of “Catfish”.

We wouldn’t have even tried it because, though it may seem believable enough to some, those with even an ounce of brain in their heads would have balked at the execution.

Well I have an ounce of brain in my head, according to the internet, and I can tell you without hesitation that this film, while gripping and worth a watch, is a complete and total fabrication.

Since the film is set so far in up-water Michigan, no credible journalist is willing to drive there to fact-check the piece, here’s the evidence that tells us this is a hoax:

Dialogue is horribly forced. As even a first-year drama student can tell you, the dialogue in this film is terribly, contrived, and far from convincing.

The facts don’t add up. If the guys were going to do a documentary about the child prodigy Abby, surely they would have at least Googled her once during the process. It wouldn’t have taken the whole myth unraveling to discover the deception. These guys aren’t that dumb, and they aren’t that smart.

The producers won’t take questions. At the film festival, the producers were notably short with their Q&A, essentially eliminating all the Q’s before they could ever be A’d. Who? What? Where? When? WTF? No such questions were allowed to be asked, which makes the lie that much easier to maintain.

The A. Pierce site is totally fake. In the film, it is stated that Angela Pierce has taken up her own, honest site where she sells art today… problem is, the art looks NOTHING like hers, and the flow of information is tightly controlled (and even in the About page, never mentions the whole Catfish incident, for which she would be entirely known, were she a real person.)

I sent an email to them with a request for painting info, and the form doesn’t go anywhere. That’s right, the order site itself is itself a total joke. These guys obviously know (from the film you should realize) how to fake an online presence. They’ve done it, they sold it, and you bought it.

Perhaps the biggest giveaway was how Angela was treated in the film, upon discovery of her lie. Nev didn’t run for the hills (which he should have,) nor did he take her out back and bang the bejeesus out of her (which would be the only reason for not heading for the hills,) but he stuck around for three days letting her bask in his glory… come on, stalkers of the world, have you ever seen the object of your desire do that?

The ever-factual Wikipedia says it’s real, and won’t even discuss the possibility that it isn’t. The moderators say “in absence of proof that it’s fake, we must assume that it’s real…” Well guess what guys, you never gave my hoaxes that sort of credence, and well you should have voiced your reservations. It’s only when we make extreme claims that we need extreme evidence. The fact that this is fake should be obvious to anyone that sees it, so the burden of proof should lie with the claimant. If the Schulman’s et al want to say it’s real, they need to pony up the proof of go home quietly.

Guys, put this bitch to rest. This was a fake, fake, fake, fake, fun, wonderful, fake film. Period.

Author: Brian K. White

Brian first began peddling his humorous wares with a series of Xerox printed books in fifth grade. Since then he's published over two thousand satire and humor articles, as well as eight stage plays, a 13-episode cable sitcom and three (terrible) screenplays. He is a freelance writer by trade and an expert in the field of viral entertainment marketing. He is the author of many of the biggest hoaxes of recent years, a shameful accomplishment in which he takes exceptional pride.

2 thoughts on “Sundance Darling Catfish Thrilling, Suspenseful, and an Obvious Hoax

  1. I completely agree. It really bugs me that the guys get so defensive when people ask them about its authenticity – do they think that’s how an innocent person would behave, and so they’re continuing with that role?

    It was all just way too neat for my liking. If they had only said “Actually, we did have to re-enact some of the scenes that happened off-camera, just to keep the narrative logical”, I would have an easier time accepting it. But the fact that they insist every shot is authentic means I have to throw out the baby with the bathwater and assume that the entire thing is fake.

    It’s a shame. I did enjoy it, but unfortunately I had heard about the “Is it fake?” question before I watched it (and also a reference to a film with a similar twist, which I won’t mention in case it spoils that film for someone else).

    Watching it felt like painting by numbers, after hearing those doubts… which is exactly what Angela would have to do to produce the work on the Angela Pierce site. It’s obvious that the same person didn’t produce both sets of work (and I’m a professional artist, so I’d like to think I’m qualified to make that assessment).

    The court case about the song might reveal all the answers. I hope so. I don’t mind being knowingly complicit in a hoax, as with The Blair Witch Project, but I don’t like when that lie is continued on and on, long after the cinematic run is over. It’s unfair to the audience when our intelligence is disrespected with denial after denial.

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