Why is Everyone on the TV Show Catfish Black? | MTV's Portrayal of African Americans

MTV’s catfish is a reality show, unlike most others. Whether you are part of their regular audience, the process of the team unraveling each catfish’s identity is fascinating, and sometimes sadly entertaining. But if you noticed from most of the episodes, you may ask yourself, “Why is everyone on the TV show Catfish black?” The answer is more than skin deep.

There are many reasons why Catfish producers almost always end up featuring a black person or couple as part of the catfish. The long answer is rooted in American colorism and the insecurities that come from it. But the show also notoriously has a history of dehumanizing black women as part of the show’s antics.

Both reasons play into why we see so many African American or black people on the show, on the culprit or victim side. Let’s get into them one by one.

Why is Everyone on Catfish Black?

Did you know that on Catfish, most of the time the catfishes are the people reaching out to the -producers? The reason is rooted in their insecurities - and they just want to make sure that the person they talk to would like them for their personalities and not how they look. Subsequently, it relates to the colorism black people face in America - and why some resort to catfishing.

In America, the beauty standard has been unchanged for a while. White or light-skinned, European facial features, thin, pretty, strong, etc. have been the characteristics people constantly look for. When you are not part of that demographic, you tend to question whether your luck will favor you in earning other people’s love and attraction.

In a controversial tweet, Nev Schulman–one of Catfish’s producers–said that black women tend to catfish more. While this tweet is insensitive towards black women in general, it also started a conversation on why black women seem to be catfishing more than any other group.

The whole topic is clearly explained by how much degradation black women and men face due to their appearance. And a significant part of those people is the black population of America. So, while not every catfish on MTV’s Catfish are black, most of them are. And unfortunately, it is a systemic issue.

American Colorism and Insecurities

Colorism is a persistent problem in America that has existed since colonial times and shows no sign of changing too much. The idea that lighter skin is more respectable, lovable, and capable than darker skin is the issue behind colorism. This idea only makes darker-skinned people more insecure in themselves.

Colorism results in systemic abuse as well. But on the TV show Catfish, black people always seem to draw the short straw in reputation - most of the catfishes seem to be black. When you face failures in different areas of life due to people judging you by your skin color, why would you risk the same in romantic areas?

An analysis done by Media Commons showed that on Catfish when a black person was featured as a catfish - more than 50% of the time they used a light-skinned image as their profile photo.

Because of these insecurities that modern standards of beauty have imposed on darker-skinned people, a handful of them opts to hide their appearance. After putting on a fake profile, these people can then go out looking for love. They hope that their lighter-skinned or more conventionally beautiful online persona will draw people in and give them the love they want.

Physical Insecurities Related to Colorism

In Season 7 Episode 29 of Catfish, the catfisher Sha’Quan told the producers about his insecurities. He said, “I just wanted to know if he didn’t like me as a person or if he didn’t like my face”, after the person he was catfishing met him.

Sha’Quan’s statement is only one example out of many to show how colorism has pushed many people into taking steps like catfishing to test out their chances in love. MTV Catfish’s sixth season featured another catfish - Erica. Erica had changed her name to Neveah and put up a profile as a light-skinned model - when in reality she is a dark-skinned, short girl.

In her episode, she expressed her reasons for catfishing.

“I didn’t mean for it to go this far. I got caught up and wrapped up in being Neveah. I actually liked it. I did. I’ve been told that, ‘Oh, you’re pretty for a dark skin girl, you’re pretty to be chunchy, you’re pretty to be short, but Neveah’s confident. She’s pretty. She’s light. She models. Everybody wants her, and I had to remember they wanted her. Not me.”

Hence, both Erica and Sha’Quan’s reasoning for their catfishing was rooted in how bullied or disliked they had felt in their natural bodies.

Insecurities About Personality and Appeal to Other Races

In an article from Blavity, the writer explored how even stereotypes against black people end up pushing them away. One of those situations led another black person to resort to catfishing. In this story, they talk about Jeremy, a nerdy black person who took on the personality of Tony, a white man who he made up.

In Tony’s story, he was someone who was into things that he could not find in common with other black women. He was not the stereotypical black man, and that may have led him to think he would be rejected by black women. Whereas, a white woman may be able to accept him for his interests as they are considered more common among white people.

The situation led to a worse idea among viewers about black women as well. Because Catfish often features stereotypical ideas like black men preferring catfishing to get other women’s attention - since black women are apparently not interested.

Is Catfish Fake?

With all the drama that entails each Catfish episode, it seems there is no way all it is true. And you would not be wrong in thinking that. Most of the time, the catfish themselves approach the producers to be on the show. And then, parts of how they are found gets scripted.

While the investigators on the show have no idea who the catfish is in the beginning, the producers have them marked. Investigators go through their own research and processes to find out the catfish and do so in their own time. Meanwhile, the producers can draw up a timeline of how fast the investigators can catch the catfish.

Is Catfish Edited and Scripted?

Nev Schulman, one of the investigators for Catfish has said, “Basically, it’s real, but some parts are edited for dramatic effect”. So, while the investigation you see is true, many of the acts and how they are done may be scripted by the producers for shock value.

Another thing to notice is the catfish is always mic-d up when the investigators show up. While it seems spontaneous that they got caught, it is not the case. The crew will usually go to the catfish early on to set things up and make sure they are ready for the reveal.

MTV Catfish also focuses a lot on post-production. Essentially, that means the producers do a chunk of the work after the investigation is done and they have the footage. The edition process can then twist and turn storylines to fit the dramatic template of Catfish and give users more entertainment.

Conclusion

Why is everyone on the TV Show, Catfish Black? Now you know, the reason is much sadder and goes much deeper than you think. While there may be some bias from the show producers themselves, most of it can be credited to people’s insecurities and the systemic letdown they have faced in their life due to appearance.

Disclaimer: The opinions stated above do not reflect the personal beliefs of trendlor.com as a blog / organization. The information above is a theory and not proven to be fact

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