A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
The show sends the essential message to teens that you can't always trust the person on the other end of a chat or a friend request, and that emotional connections forged in the virtual world may not translate to the real one. The hosts' investigative process reveals how easy it is to gain information about a person online. Subjects discuss how their self-esteem issues and negative body image encourage them to create new personas in the safety of the Internet.
Positive Role Models
The people who are guilty of lying usually wind up feeling guilty and unhappy when they're confronted by their victims. In some cases, the two parties are able to move past the initial shock and start new personal relationships; in others, the sense of betrayal is too deep to forgive. The show's hosts reserve judgment on the subjects' actions, giving them opportunity to explore and explain their feelings.
Violence & Scariness
In some cases, subjects mention violence in their pasts, as when a woman describes cutting herself because of depression.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
References to unplanned pregnancy and physical relationships, but nothing graphic.
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Infrequent use of "ass."
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Products & Purchases
There are many references to social media sites like Facebook and MySpace.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some of the subjects smoke or drink from cans that appear to hold beer.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Catfish peels back the romantic trappings of online dating to reveal its more questionable side by bringing together people who may have used social media to misrepresent themselves. It's an intriguing journey that does a good job humanizing a timely issue for tweens and teens in a nonjudgmental way, allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions from the players' predicaments. That said, the fact that the show is creating entertainment out of people's emotions -- both good and bad -- raises issues about voyeurism and the participants' motivations. What's more, even though it intends to point out the inherent dangers of social media sites like Facebook and MySpace, the frequent references to them might have the opposite effect on viewers. Because each episode follows a different couple's story, it's difficult to anticipate the content, or how heated or heart-wrenching the confrontations might be.
Is It Any Good?
Catfish cuts to the chase of the woes of virtual friendships: How do you know the person on the other end of the chat line is who he or she claims to be? And are you always true to yourself when you're online? It's an issue that drives families' Internet rules and many conversations between parents and their web-savvy tweens and teens, but is it one that really hits home with yours? If you're not sure -- and even if you think you are -- then this raw series is a great segue into a more concrete dialogue about the pleasures and dangers of befriending people online.
The show doesn't create drama or ignite controversy for sensationalism, but it does devote a lot of time to drawing out the emotions of its participants, so it's not always comfortable to watch. Sometimes the initial meetings are joyful confirmation of the two parties' deep affection; in other cases the outcomes aren't so happy, thanks to someone's dishonesty and the victim's sense of betrayal. It's impossible to watch these emotional confrontations and not feel for the one who's been duped, but the instigators' honesty about their motivations is a telling glimpse into the prevalence of this issue.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.