Why Catfish Matters

Season two of MTV docu-series Catfish: The TV Show debuted to 2.5 million viewers, and was the number one cable telecast of the day among viewers ages 12-34, a demo otherwise known as Millennials. The show is a hit, and signifies larger shifts in reality TV tastes and their entertainment desires. Here are some of the reasons that Catfish matters, and what it says about Millennial viewers.

 It puts the real back into reality.

It might seem ironic that realness is so big a part of a show about people who are on TV for telling lies, but one reason that Catfish matters is that it is telling the truth about real lives of real people. We talk a lot about authenticity and Millennials’ desire to know all the facts and be told the truth. Though reality TV has a genre name that implies it is all real all the time, Millennial viewers have gotten used to the fact that reality shows are staged, and that “unscripted” programs most likely have a staff of writers working behind the scenes. Catfish shows a shift in the genre, and a re-emphasis on the showcasing of real lives, real emotions, and real moments. If it ever came out that elements of Catfish were faked, there is a good chance that it would seriously damage or even end the show. Actual reality in this case is a vital part of what makes the show successful. Millennials want real, and Catfish serves it up in a way that few shows aimed at them in the past have done.

 It is anti-aspiration.

There are no makeovers here, and most likely not even a happy ending for the young people who participate. Watching Catfish is not about wanting what you see. When hosts Nev and Max pull up to the house of the catfish, they are usually visiting humble places, in small towns. The young people on the show are often unhappy with where they are and who…

 
 

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The Newsfeed

“I observe holidays and religion-based traditions but am more connected to it as a culture than as a religion.”—Female, 27, MA

Chinese youth have a “selfie obsession” that’s changing beauty standards and creating a new tier of celebrity. The Influencer Effect is full blown in China, where young consumers are beautifying their selfies via filter apps like Meitu and plastic surgery—all in the quest to look more like wang hong, their internet celebrities. One influencer, HoneyCC, argues that “Selfies are part of Chinese culture now, and so is Meitu-editing selfies.” But some say the trend is pushing the population to become more homogenous by favoring certain features, and headlines have lashed back against the whitening of skin prevalent in social apps. (The New Yorker)

Eighty-one percent of Bustle, Romper, and Elite Daily’s Millennial readers say social media is the best way for advertisers to reach them. Bustle’s latest questionnaire also found that 40% of their 18-34-year-old readers prefer Instagram for brand communications, followed by trusted websites, email, and online articles. Some other fun insights: Over half believe that a company should give back, instead of just turning a profit, and 49% think “companies should do more to protect the environment.” (Adweek)

Drug use is down among teens—except when it comes to marijuana and vaping. From the 1990s to 2017, the percentage of teens who said they’d been drunk dropped from 46% and 58%, and those reporting they’ve smoked cigarettes from 26% and 17%. However, marijuana use increased for the first time in seven years in 2017, while vaping is up as well, with at least 19% of high school seniors, 16% of sophomores, and 8% of eighth-graders saying they’ve vaped in the past year. (LATimes)

Two modern dating shows are coming to Facebook Watch. The first “unscripted dating show” from SoulPancake, Love & Longitude, is shot on iPhones and shows two potential love interests’ relationship blossoming across FaceTime, social media, and other digital interactions. The second dating show from Machinima, Co-Op Connection, plays into the esports craze. One bachelor gets to pick his partner based on their personality—and their skills at the videogame, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. (tubefiltertubefilter)

Some cities are past their “peak Millennial” populations, as the generation increasingly finds new digs in the suburbs. Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles all reached their highest Millennial population in 2015, and New York and Washington D.C. are showing slowing Millennial growth, according to U.S. Census data. Meanwhile Chicago’s suburbs and others have seen an uptick in their young adult populations—another Millennial myth debunked. Which urban centers are still attracting the demo as they age up? “Tech hubs” like Seattle and San Francisco. (Time)

“Crochet and knitting are very relaxing, therapeutic, and have tangible results."—Female, 31, AL

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