Categories: Movie News

Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal Director on Netflix Doc’s Surprising Hidden Message

Published by
Margeaux Sippell

When you press play on Netflix’s three-part docuseries Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal, you’re probably not expecting a wholesome message about the importance of communication in romantic relationships.

But, believe it or not, that’s what you’ll get.

The docuseries tells the story of Ashley Madison, the infamous dating website for married people looking to cheat on their spouses. Specifically, it focuses on a data hack perpetrated on the website in 2015 that resulted in millions of users’ personal information getting leaked online, exposing their extramarital affairs.

The website’s provocative slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair.” And despite the challenges it faced following the hack by a mysterious online entity calling itself the “Impact Team” — who were never caught despite a half a million dollar reward from police — Ashley Madison is still around today, just under new management.

Director and co-executive producer Toby Paton says the doc isn’t about shaming cheaters, nor is it about excusing their behavior. He delights in the docuseries’ surprisingly simple takeaway: the importance of being honest with your partner about how you feel.

“It’s kind of unexpected, isn’t it? For a series about Ashley Madison to have a kind of wholesome takeaway about how marriages should work,” he tells MovieMaker.

Ashley Madison Director Toby Paton on Communication

Among the most frequently interviewed couples are Sam and Nia Rader, the stars of a popular family vlogging channel whose marriage nearly ended when Sam’s data was breached in the Ashley Madison hack of 2015, exposing him as one of the site’s many male users looking for sex outside of their marriage.

After years of keeping secrets while maintaining the illusion of a perfect family life online, Sam describes how he finally broke down and told his wife Nia that he’d been cheating on her for years. But by the end of the series, it’s revealed that Sam and Nia were actually able to mend and preserve their marriage through open communication.

“In the journey Sam and Nia go on, what really changes in that relationship is communication. The first half of the series, they’re just not talking. They’re not talking about their feelings to each other really at all. And by the end, it’s been a very kind of painful journey, but they’ve learned to talk to each other and learned to communicate. And that really, I think, is the reason why they’re still together and that their marriage is working,” Paton says.

Also Read: 18 Riveting True Crime Docuseries on Netflix Right Now

Juxtaposing Sam and Nia’s relationship is the relationship between another featured couple, Rob and Stephanie. At first, they’re introduced independent of each other, and they discuss their struggles with cheating on their partners in the past. Towards the end of the docuseries, it’s revealed that they are now married to each other — and that they have an open marriage which involves honest communication before they go and see other partners.

“It’s only really by kind of seeing the way that they manage their relationship and kind of negotiate the issues that they’ve potentially got between them that you kind of understand what’s missing from those other relationships,” Paton says of Rob and Stephanie.

“I always think it’s a great moment when you kind of meet Sam early on and he seems to be so warm and full of love for his wife, and then you meet Rob and you think he’s a bit kind of sleazy, and he had to sleep with loads of other women. And then suddenly, it flips on its head and you realize, actually, Rob has kind of got the most grown-up marriage in the whole series.”

All three episodes of Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal are now streaming on Netflix.

Main Image: Sam and Nia Rader pictured in Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal

Margeaux Sippell

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