MTV kicked off Video Music Awards night with an episode of Catfish almost as cringe-worthy as whatever it was Miley Cyrus did onstage a few hours later. And you thought you were scarred by a former Disney girl twerking all up on an oversize teddy bear!
Though he has a girlfriend-slash-baby-mama of several years, Artis has been chatting with a woman named Jess who most certainly resembles a porn star, perhaps more so than any other fake girl in Catfish history. They both live in Chicago suburbs, roughly twenty minutes apart, and have known each other for about six months. They’ve never even spoken on the phone, and she only has one photo posted on her Facebook, Jess’s reason being that she has a controlling dickwad of a boyfriend … who doesn’t seem to notice all of her naughty texts to another dude. Oh, also, she speaks openly about being single on her Facebook. That same profile features public comments questioning Jess’s legitimacy. Despite all this, Artis is ready to leave his baby mama for Jess. That’s right, folks, just one photo of an overly done-up girl with a nice rack will earn you the attention of a not-so-single father who hasn’t gotten any in a year.
If it sounds absurd, you’re not the only one who thinks so. As it turns out, the person behind Jess Venny’s sparse-yet-flirtatious profile was stringing along Artis, a complete stranger, to make a point. What exactly that point was … well, it was not entirely clear. He (yes, he — Justin) fancies himself something of a vigilante against cheaters. The Batman against online betrayers, if you will. When he revealed himself, however, he was acting more like the Joker than Bruce Wayne. It’s sort of difficult to take seriously a guy whose idea of a grand entrance is a slow-clap for himself. (Just kept envisioning this.) Justin entrance’s was right up there with Mhissy’s last season: illogical, sort of evil and hard to look away.
“My message is, look, you can’t just fuck around on the relationships you’re in,” explained Justin. In a broad sense, his shtick is a little admirable, but the execution and reasoning behind it are with self-interests at heart. He created Jess’s profile at first for fun, but later, once he saw that men in committed relationships were emotionally cheating with her, it turned into a quest to avenge all the cheating that his loved ones have endured. His goal became “get these dudes to leave their steady chicks for me, then reveal my identity.” He would say things like, “I fucking hate cheaters” and follow it up with, “I’ve got a lot of anger.” Is this about him, or is this about the cheaters? Max and Nev find out a bit more when they do a follow-up visit with him. He’s clearly angry, will not apologize, and continues his erratic behavior. Justin explains that he became homeless after his father suddenly died, and that his girlfriend is the one who pulled him out of that situation. You start to understand why he did something abstract that, in his mind, righted some wrongs from his girlfriend’s past, but as Nev told him, “You need to rethink things.” Moreover, Justin calls his Jess Venny profile a sociological experiment at his own expense, to which Nev and Max chime in, “at Artis’s expense.” Justin shrugs and, in so many words, tells them to go — that there’s nothing they can do for him. Max offers this up: “You need to figure out how to like yourself.”
All things considered, Artis rolled with the punches and doesn’t say much. By “all things considered,” I’m referring not only to the fact that a guy in gym shorts called him his “chocolate kiss,” but that he left his baby mama for that. When Nev and Max approached the situation, they made it clear to Artis that he’d need to end things with his baby mama before they’d assist him. Not that I’m giving Artis a pass, but he did step up and seemingly handle the situation like an adult, being up front with his baby mama about both his infidelity and his intentions to meet Jess. Where Artis was not a Logical Adult was when Nev and Max showed him the porn websites where Jess’s photo came from (and where there were nudies of the same girl). That scene went a little something like this:
Artis: “She didn’t send me no pictures like that.”
Nev: “The girl in this photo is not who you’ve been talking to.”
He’s got blinders on because he’s desperate to leave his situation at home. It’s astounding how little it took to earn his trust and affections, and it made me squirm a little. What if his children watch this someday? What will they think of their father?
It was a compelling episode because both characters had their own strong narratives (plus, you know, they almost fought), but in the grand scheme of Catfish, this is another example of how the show gets at the bigger picture of online life, not just online romance. People who need people can always find what they’re looking for on the Internet. Sometimes it does culminate in beautiful friendship, but when the situation is met with desperation, the truth is obscured. In the end, it turned out okay for Artis: At the one-month check-in, he was in the midst of getting back together with the mother of his children, sparked by his openness about Jess. Love isn’t an easy fix, a pretty face you find on Facebook.
Artis’s Delusion Score (out of 10): 9.8 — One photo, no phone calls, twenty minutes away, no fool-proof explanations … and you’re leaving the mother of your children for her?! SMH.
Justin’s Delusion Score (out of 10): Not even going there with this guy — there are bigger issues at play.
Outcome: Catfish meets caped crusader? Whatever it was, it was a new breed.