TV Shows

Review Disney+-series ‘The Ashley Madison Affair’

The entertaining documentary highlights all sides of the scandal surrounding the notorious cheater dating site.

Director: Joanna Hamilton | Episodes: 3 | Time to play: 43-44 minutes | Year: 2023

Ashley Madison is the American dating site where married people who want to cheat can meet without qualms, comparable to Second Love, which is controversial in the Netherlands. This concept seems doomed to angry moral knights and duped partners, but founder Noel Biderman knows how to play the market like no other. It is perhaps his own fascinating marketing that ultimately proves fatal for him, as we see in the documentary. The Ashley Madison Affair.

A dating site especially for those who want to cheat? That is a time bomb. He’s waiting for all those secret matters to come out. When news broke in 2015 that a hacker wanted to make the data of millions of Ashley Madison users public, there was widespread panic. Cheaters get what they deserve, most people think. But is it really that simple?

People are going crazy in droves. Allegedly for many reasons: a lack of physical or emotional attention, or, conversely, too much alcohol. However, this phenomenon is often despised, especially in conservative America. This combination results in a lucrative business idea, which is difficult to market. Because who wants to advertise such a site? Creator Noel Biderman has his ways of marketing his shady dating site, each crazier than the last.

Biderman operates under the motto: there is no such thing as negative publicity. He looks for conflict on talk shows, and his TV spots are often pulled off the screen because they go too far. Biderman dares to claim that his site doesn’t exploit cheaters, but actually helps them, and his aversion to conventional marriage and monogamy serves as a marketing ploy. It works: every time your remarkable advertising is discredited, your website gets free attention again. But then it goes too far.

Biderman claims that he saves marriages instead of destroying them: If people can cheat nicely, they don’t have to get divorced. Others try to put strain on their faded relationships with swingers, an open marriage, or even a threesome, but Biderman sees only cheating as the solution to save family life. It doesn’t occur to him that all this cheating could come true and cause more marital problems than if the partners had been honest about how they felt.

In 2015 the time has come. A hacker threatens to make all data public. This ‘hacktivist’ doesn’t want money, but he demands that the dating site cease to exist. This might make you wonder if Ashley Madison brought it on herself. The documentary takes a long look at how users of the dating site have been tricked, all to make even more money. But the worst is yet to come.

Ashley Madison takes no action and the hacktivist reveals all the data. From well-known reality TV stars to the Vatican, countless names and user details suddenly become public. With serious consequences for these people: divorce, dismissal, extortion and even suicide. Non-users applaud the exposure of these cheaters, but the documentary clearly shows that this is a one-sided judgment.

Some Ashley Madison users had not even cheated but created a profile on impulse during a difficult period in their marriage or to see if they could find their match on the website. Whether they correctly forfeited their right to privacy is debatable. The end result is that the hack has made the website more famous than ever, because Ashley Madison is still around. Biderman was right: there is no such thing as negative publicity. The question is therefore whether this documentary will ensure that a large number of new users are added.


The Ashley Madison Affair can be seen in Disney+.

Ritika Prasher

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