Cyber Needle

Last night The Wrap‘s Eric Kohn spoke to the makers of CatfishHenry Joost and Ariel Schulman — and Ariel’s brother Nev Schulman, who basically “stars.” He ran into the trio at a Park City ice cream shop (presumably Java Cow), and in so doing asked about suspicions that their film may have been partially staged or fabricated. Their collective answer was “nope, not at all, no way” and “we can prove it.”

Catfish guys Nev Schulman, Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman; object of Nev’s interest.

I have a problem with one aspect of Catfish that I didn’t mention during the festival. Before I mention this I should call it a SPOILER.

During the first 60% of Catfish Nev — a smart, confident and attractive 24 year old — falls into an intriguing online flirtation with a 20something lady who lives in Michigan. (Or so she says.) She has a pretty big honker but is otherwise thin and attractive. Their exchanges, as you might expect, become more and more emotional and sensual. Then they become explicitly sexual. And then suddenly things change.

Once this sinks in it’s quite clear that Nev is fairly glum — you could even say forlorn. And for me this didn’t quite calculate.

I asked myself why would a guy in the youthful prime of his life get so attached to and invested in a woman he’s never met, and whom he knows only through a gallery of online photos and a series of increasingly erotic e-mails? Who would be naive enough in this day and age to get emotionally caught up in a relationship so lacking in any semblance of provable reality?

This seemed especially curious for a guy who’s clearly smart and good-looking and creative and whatnot, and living in a city like New York with all kinds of hook-up options. I could imagine Clem Kadiddlehopper falling for this. Or an overweight dweeby type with halitosis getting caught up in an online fantasy because he might not have much going on. But a guy like Nev…? Doesn’t figure.

During the chat Korn asks Nev if Catfish is a cautionary tale for people who use social networks. “For me, it’s really about vulnerability,” he answers. “I didn’t consider myself a vulnerable person before this happened to me, and now I have to reassess how I put myself into the world.”

  • Ray

    He gets hooked into it because it’s EASIER. Internet relationships allow us to have fantasies about the other person without dealing with unpleasant realities like bad breath or unsightly moles. Also, they’re more convenient because they can be turned on and off like a robot.

    I mean, why do people text paragraphs to each other when they could simply talk? Because of the lack of commitment, that’s why.

  • corey3rd

    but at some point, you must insist she holds up a sign with your name on it,

  • Los Bostonian

    Well it is typically not easy to find a beautiful girl to date for good looking but not great looking guys in their 20s and early 30s until they find some financial success specifically in bigger cities. I haven’t seen the Catfish but I did make a college mobster film in college with Ariel and he was an exceedingly charming and outgoing guy, his brother Nev who I met for a day or two was a little shy and timid.

    Some guys are just not blessed with “game” and even if they are relatively attractive and creative, they struggle in bigger entertainment based cities where every girl meets a dozen new good looking professionally charming guys with “game” every day.

    It seems possible if he was struggling or meeting the wrong women, that a beautiful talented girl who loved him for his mind in a far off city would be something to fall in love with. I am 30 living in LA and the majority of successful couples I know pre-existed before moving to LA or met within 6 months of the girl arriving here.

  • George Prager

    He wanted the one he couldn’t have. Did you ever read that story in Vanity Fair about this woman with a sexy voice who became phone pals with all of these rich and successful guys, sent out photos of herself that weren’t real. Turned out to be a real plain Jane. Quincy Jones wound up dating her anyway.

  • rick blaine

    Ah, Clem Kaddidlehopper. That was the Fuller Brush Man Red Skelton wasn’t it?

  • Nick X

    Haven’t seen the movie, but your objection doesn’t seem legit to me. I’m 27, living in New York, and knows tons of guys like Nev. By the standards you describe, I’m a lot like him. People in their 20s spend all their time on social networking, phones, etc. It is no stretch at ALL to imagine that this could happen. The really insidious thing about such a relationship is that it allows one to idealize the distant (but seemingly so close) person.

  • Circumvrent

    Jeff, do you think it’s bullshit? I haven’t seen the film, just read the coverage of it, but it seems like, at the very least…


    These guys took advantage of a mentally ill woman for at least a year.


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