I watched 20/20 last night about the new controversial docu-movie “Catfish.” This movie was a major hit at Sundance and is highly talked about right now. I was actually about to go to bed when I did my usual of remote in hand channel hopping and got totally sucked in – it was so unbelievably fascinating. The life of a woman who made up a whole persona on Facebook and MySpace. The persona she made up started with her posting her paintings on her website as an 8-year old girl called Abby.
The movie follows a photographer called Nev who lives in NY. One of his pictures was painted and published by the “8-year old Abby.” After his photograph was published he started to communicate with her via Facebook and sending more of his photographs to Michigan for Abby to paint. He then starts communicating with Abby’s family, most specifically Abby’s older sister, Megan. Nev starts a love affair via Facebook, texts and phone calls. This whole “affair” was filmed by Nev’s brother and friend, who are avid documentary film-makers, so that they could document Nev’s story unfolding with Megan. After a while he started to find inconsistencies in Megan’s story – such things like taking credit for songs from other people she claims to have performed herself. After that the three guys decide to head to Michigan to see Megan and get the truth.
I have not seen the movie but now really feel I must as I stayed up last night researching it into the wee hours – almost every hit I could find I read. According to 20/20, the woman who made up these people (and by they way they are all real people whose identity she stole) was a married frumpy, 40-something woman from Michigan called Angela Wesselman, who was married with two adopted severely handicapped sons and two daughters (one of them Abby), who lived at home. She also had an older daughter who she doesn’t see called Megan. She allegedly created about 21 characters on her Facebook profile and about 170 friends.
The boys who made the movie are getting a lot of flack about the meanness of the movie and apparent exploitation of this woman. The thing is this woman deceived everyone, especially Nev who claims he fell in love with Megan. Another absorbing scene, that is not in the movie but was shown on 20/20 was the interview they had with the woman who identity Angela stole and called Megan. This was woman seemed genuinely shocked by the whole saga.
There is an argument right now of whether the move is real or fake. All characters were interviewed on 20/20, including the woman who made up all these people, Angela Wesselman, claim it is all real.
Angela’s husband made only one short comment. He said on a long journey the fisherman who fished for cod put a catfish in with the cod to keep them agile. You need the catfish.
This type of thing is so scary as it really does convey the dangers of Facebook and other social websites. This woman created a whole alternate world to hers and lived it on the web. Is that wrong? I just don’t know how I feel about it all. It’s just scary. I can’t wait to see it though and will tell you what I think.