Review: ‘Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal’ – A Disjointed Documentary on Cheating

By Daniel Hart
Published: May 13, 2024
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Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal Netflix Image
Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal Promotional Image (Credit - Netflix)


Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal merely observes events rather than take a meaningful stance on adulterous affairs in Western society.

Maybe I’m heartless, but it’s doubtful that I’ll feel sorry for anyone who uses a dating site to cheat on their partner and gets exposed for it due to a data breach. That’s why Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal, a documentary series on Netflix, slightly irritated me

If you lived under a rock, Ashley Madison is a dating website set up primarily for married couples. The slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair”, encouraging partners to seek their best match for an affair. Their sub-slogan is, “When monogamy becomes monotony,” which implies that you should seek arrangements outside the marriage secretly if the relationship gets too routine and less exciting. 

Of course, I understand that cheating will always happen. It’s in our biology, and it’s merely our evolution that understands the importance of commitment and structure in romantic relationships. However, it’s a sure sign that Western society is hemorrhaging on its own two feet when we accept a website that facilitates extramarital affairs. 

Ashley Madison’s Sordid History

Evan Beck in Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal Netflix Documentary Series

Evan Beck, who used to work for Ashley Madison (Credit – Netflix)

The documentary delves into Ashley Madison’s founding, bringing back former employees who helped form the company’s DNA and interviewing a few brave couples to discuss their marriages’ downfall due to the website. It’s substandard documentary fare in terms of approach, but it really gets interesting when it references the site’s near-demise in 2015.

In 2015, a team of hackers called “The Impact Group” completely hacked and locked down the Ashley Madison website and database. They gave the company 30 days to shut down the business, or their entire database of customers would be leaked. Whoever was behind the hacking had a distaste for what the website stood for. And, in an insane turn of events, the CEO, Noel Biderman, who was as sleazy as his product, called the bluff. “The Impact Group” was not bluffing, and data was released to the public, potentially impacting over 30 million people. 

The documentary delves into the anxiety-induced experience at the time and the clock running down from 30 days. It all felt strange, though; the former employees did not seem so affected by the ordeal. Their relaxed state in this series was off-putting. Even Cathi, a former Customer Service Representative, admitted to being a supporter of monogamy but supported those who wanted a discreet service in having an affair. There’s certainly a value misalignment in the series. It’s handled softly, and I’d have preferred a more critical output. 

An Unintentional Red Pill Versus Blue Pill Debate

Nia Rader in Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal Netflix Documentary Series

Nia Rader in Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal (Credit – Netflix)

The most interesting aspect of the series is the interviews of a young, attractive Christian couple, Sam and Nia Rader. They are the poster for the perfect marriage in the modern day: photogenic suitability, beautiful children, seemingly good values, communication, and a marriage tied by their faith. Their marriage was so appealing that they became a YouTube sensation, with millions of fans subscribing to their family life. 

Of course, Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal reveals the dark secret that the husband, Sam, used the website. The interviewing of this married couple is certainly the documentary’s biggest strength. It also, probably unintentionally, fits well into the whole vicious “red pill versus blue pill” war, as the couple would be an excellent discussion for debate. Seeing the wife, Nia, navigate this complex challenge in their marriage felt inspiring, and ironically, they found the one couple to interview that debunks the ideology behind the website. 

The documentary series surprisingly has no strong angle

The entire idea behind Ashley Madison is that long-term relationships are boring. Our growing generation is encouraged not to take accountability and communication seriously. Marriage has turned into a throwaway dynamic rather than a meaningful commitment. We’ve convinced ourselves that marriage is about happiness and love, not a commitment to stand by each other and ride out the moments, no matter what. That’s why divorce rates are high; marriage has become about the selfishness of our feelings, not the selflessness of what marriage represents. 

Ironically, Sam and Nia Rader support the notion that Ashley Madison is a sign of societal collapse in the West. Their resilience to work through it will predictably annoy many when, in fact, they are a great story of what marriage is really about. While the West has forgotten the value of family, marriage, and gender, Sam and Nia are a glimmer of hope. No, I’m not supporting cheating — I’m supporting communication, accountability, and teamwork in a relationship. Cheating is only cheating when it’s a betrayal. 

And that folks, is why Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal is confusing. I’m not entirely sure what the message of the documentary series is. Are we supposed to feel sorry for the cheaters who used the website? Are we supposed to be dismayed that Sam and Nia’s marriage survived rather than breaking up the family? Is this a privacy data breach case study?

The fact that, in 2024, we have a documentary series about extramarital affairs as part of a dating website, and the makers have no idea what angle to take is a worrying sign. This is merely an observational series with little opinion or angle. And while it’s entertaining due to its subject matter, I’d argue it’s a poor documentary. 

Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
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