image for Catfish

Short takes

Not suitable under 13, PG to 15 (Themes; Sexual references; Coarse language)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Catfish
  • a review of Catfish completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 27 January 2011.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not suitable due to themes, sexual references, coarse language.
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Catfish
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes, sexual references and coarse language
Length: 84 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

A New York photographer, Nev Schulman, receives a painting of one of his photos from an eight-year-old artist by the name of Abby. His brother Ariel and filmmaker friend Henry decide to make a film about the child prodigy Abby who lives in Michigan with her family.

What starts as an online friendship between Abby and Nev, extends to the rest of Abby’s family and in particular, Abby’s mother Angela, and sister Megan with whom Nev begins an online and phone relationship. After eight months, Nev accidentally discovers that the song that Megan is supposed to have written and recorded was actually downloaded from another musician’s YouTube site. Nev then begins a journey to discover that Abby’s family are not what they seem.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

The risks of befriending people online; living with family members with a disability.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • one of Angela’s disabled children slaps himself repeatedly

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Tense scenes where Nev and his friends drive into a farm at night time and walk around in the dark looking through windows.
  • Two of Angela’s children are severely disabled. One is pictured in a wheelchair having drugs administered with syringes

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above mentioned scenes.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Facebook

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Facebook and phone text messages containing sexually oriented messages between Nev and Megan
  • Nev and his brother discuss Nev ‘making out’ with Megan and ‘taking her virginity’
  • Nev reads out a sexually explicit text message between him and Megan

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • A photoshopped image of Nev and Megan naked from the waist up. Megan has her back to the camera so you only see her naked back.
  • In one scene Nev walks around in his underpants

Use of substances

None of concern

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  •  “crapped”, “bullshit”, “Jesus Christ”, “F-ing ‘(pronounced effing).

In a nutshell

Catfish is a documentary film best suited to older teenagers and adults. The main messages from this movie that what people say about themselves in their online profiles and communications may not always be true.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include the importance of telling the truth and how lying can get you into trouble.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • being careful about who you make friends with online, what you reveal about yourself, and how involved you get with people
  • that face to face meeting with people you have met online is not always a good idea