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Ashley Madison: The Movie

The cheating website’s founder Noel Biderman apparently had a horrible screenplay in the works

Rachel Shukert
August 27, 2015
Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images
A man looks at his computer in Washington, D.C., February 10, 2014. Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images
Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images
A man looks at his computer in Washington, D.C., February 10, 2014. Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images

Look, we all have complicated feelings about the Ashley Madison hack. On one hand, it’s a hideous invasion of privacy and a reminder of just how vulnerable our personal information can be online. It also raises a lot of uncomfortable moral questions about whether people who cheat—or consider cheating—on their partners deserve to have their reputations and lives publicly destroyed by people who have little interest or personal stake in the matter apart from sheer prurient venom.

And yet, this leak really is the gift that keeps on giving. First, there’s the fun reveal of the staggering sexual hypocrisy of professional fundamentalist Christian Josh Duggar. Then, it turns out that my other least favorite reality TV Josh—Josh Taekman—the hideous fedora-wearing husband of Real Housewife of New York city Kristen Taekman, was also a frequent user of the infidelity site. (Side note: I’m actually sad about Jionni LaVelle, the husband of Snooki from Jersey Shore, who also got caught as I love Snooki and feel she deserves better than this.)

And now, courtesy of Gawker, comes the delicious news that Noel Biderman, the CEO of Ashley Madison, has in progress a 100-page screenplay about the inner workings of—wait for it—Ashley Madison! The plot, apparently, could use some streamlining, but it includes at least one sex act involving a teddy bear (perhaps in an effort to capture some of that Ted 2 box office magic) and also, intriguingly enough, features a meeting in which the main character, a female advertising executive, must present some sort of pitch to a group of Orthodox Jews, all of whom seem to be initially fascinated with her.

I’ve heard a lot of ideas for movies in the two years I’ve been in Hollywood, and I have to say, despite the nonsensical plot and the lack of recurring characters, this isn’t the worst one I’ve ever heard. Just the fact that Ashley Madison—an organization that only a couple of short months ago I thought was a vaguely imaginary spambot who lived up in a cloud along with the Nigerian princes and penile enlargement people—has held the entire Internet rapt for nearly two weeks, is more than proof of its narrative potential.

If I was the development executive on Biderman’s project, I’d tell him he was sitting on his greatest source of raw font material: the aftermath of his subscriber hack. How are these men going to pick up the pieces of their lives? Will their wives forgive them? Will anyone ever want to speak to them again? Are they ashamed of themselves? A veritable opera of male entitlement and male shame—the way both of these themes are intrinsically linked to the well-being of the women in their lives: it’s like something out of a Jonathan Franzen novel (if Jonathan Franzen, you know, used the Internet).

That said, my gut tells me that Biderman may not be quite capable of this level of writerly introspection, so the wannabe agent in me tells him he’d be better off selling his story to the highest bidder and walking away with a hefty check. But there is one thing in the whole website-to-screenplay chronology that makes me wonder: in a landscape where writers now routinely have to crank out their own source material in order to sell it as a film or TV show, was the Ashley Madison movie always the entire point? Did Noel Biderman start Ashley Madison, and subsequently ruin thousands of marriages and possibly lives, just in order to ultimately sell a screenplay? Have we just witnessed the greatest sales stunt of all time? Because that, my friend, is just the kind of sleazy pseudo-heist that, say, David O. Russell movies are made of. And if that’s the case, touché, Biderman, touché. Just remember, the Jews stay in the picture.

Rachel Shukert is the author of the memoirs Have You No Shame? and Everything Is Going To Be Great,and the novel Starstruck. She is the creator of the Netflix show The Baby-Sitters Club, and a writer on such series as GLOW and Supergirl. Her Twitter feed is @rachelshukert.

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