May 30, 2024
Peter Calder

"Ashley Madison": Dipping your toe in Sandal and Ethics (1 minute read)

The Ashley Madison Netflix documentary has been gaining a lot of attention. It dives into the business practices of a website/app, from the conception to the downfall and everything in between.

The business itself was to provide a service for people wishing to involve themselves in extramarital affairs. There was indeed a want or need for the app because it thrived and grew monstrously to 40 million users in 2015. Then, even after the hack and leak today, in 2024, it is said to have 80 million users.

My key takeaways from the film were ethics in and around the business and business practices, as well as the characters in the film.  

First of all, the app and business itself had an interesting ethical line it danced through: is the concept of having a place for people to cheat on their marital partner wrong? We saw both sides of the argument. On one side, the film leaned on religion being a strong aspect of the negative side of the business. On the other hand, it showed the business's insight into the platform as a necessary place to continue their relationships healthily, physically and mentally.

The film did a good job, seeming to come from a somewhat unbiased way,  bouncing from both parties on whether a platform or site like this should exist. 

Following the ethical theme, the film also explored the ethics of the people inside the business,  from false marketing and expectations to creating fake accounts and saying one thing and doing another. Then there came the hack, which was what the entire plot revolved around: the leak of everyone's supposedly anonymous identities and data from the site. We hopped from each person or entity; who was to blame? The company, the employees, the CEO or the hacker? It would've been nice to explore all areas' perspectives; for example, we couldn't hear from the CEO or the hacker(s). This is very unfortunate because the real juice of the story felt like it was those two, not the vlog family or a handful of ex-employees from the company.

The victims of the hack and leak making their lives exposed were very interesting to explore, particularly Christi, whose husband took his own life over the leak. Her story should've been the series' centrepiece, not Sam, who wasn't a very interesting focus point. It became almost cringy.

Christi's story reminds me of how people can go through many struggles, embarrassment, and shame that they may not express. There can be a lot of ripple effects from big destructive events in the world, such as this hack/leak, that we may never see.  

The ethical conversations the film dived into were captivating, and Christi's unique story was important to explore. 

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