Presented with Common Sense Media in partnership with Omaha Public Schools, this screening will be followed by a post-film discussion. Coincides with Digital Citizenship Week.

The film CATFISH gave name to a disturbing internet phenomena. Most recently the film has been adapted into a hit MTV reality series of the same name, and thus continues etching its indelible impression on pop culture, and the lives of web surfers everywhere. The term “catfish” is now a part of our popular vernacular.

A “catfish” aims to deceive others into a relationship (romantic or otherwise) through false social media profiles. Essentially, someone is pretending to be someone or something they are not.

Vince Pierce, husband of the catfisher of CATFISH uses this metaphor for his wife’s actions:

“They used to tank cod from Alaska all the way to China. They’d keep them in vats in the ship. By the time the codfish reached China, the flesh was mush and tasteless. So this guy came up with the idea that if you put these cods in these big vats, put some catfish in with them and the catfish will keep the cod agile. And there are those people who are catfish in life. And they keep you on your toes. They keep you guessing, they keep you thinking, they keep you fresh.”

Pierce’s metaphor does not quite hold up to those familiar with the cod trade. However, according to Slate writer Aisha Harris, the story echoes writings by early 20th century Christian writer Henry W. Nevinson. Pastor Charles Swindoll and Joel Osteen similarly refer to “catfish” as people who “bring sufficient tension that keeps us alive, alert, fresh, and growing.”

This definition and usage of the term is interestingly focused on the necessity of catfish to teach adaptability and caution. Now, through the film and the series, viewers can benefit from these lessons without having to experience it firsthand.

A panel titled “The Online Persona: How Digital Identity Impacts Development and Relationships” moderated by Lead Teacher of Digital Citizenship for Omaha Public Schools and Common Sense Education Keegan Korf will follow the film. Panelists will include Rebecca Stavick, Executive Director of Do Space; Dr. Adam Tyma, Associate Professor in the UNO College of Communication, Fine Arts and Media; Dr. Soonjo Hwang, Assistant Professor in the UNMC Department of Psychiatry; and an Omaha Public Schools student.

— Diana Martinez, Film Streams Education Director