by Samyuktha Varma
The best way to find a new podcast is on another podcast. So when I heard Michaela Coel on Grounded by Louis Theroux raving about The Butterfly Effect I went straight to it. The 7-part series by journalist Jon Ronson was on all the lists a few years ago because it’s a brilliant, kind, funny, deep look at how the internet has changed the porn industry.
Starting high “up” in the offices of a digital porn platform with Jon Ronson meeting with a digital porn entrepreneur, the show then goes all the way “down” to the San Fernando valley, where the porn industry has its roots, to see how it has affected its actors, directors, and producers. The show is much more than a voyeuristic view into the porn industry, and shows the real people at the centre — their struggles with a rapidly changing business, and the forces that are shaping these changes like how online search has created new genres of porn, and the rise of bespoke porn production.
Jon Ronson is well known for his journalism and recent book, “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” which came out in 2015. The book presents cases of public shaming, the circumstances under which they occured, and its consequences. After he produced the Butterfly Effect, Ronson came upon a story of porn star August Ames who tragically killed herself after a brutal public shaming over a tweet she wrote where she refused to work with a co-star over the fact that he appeared in gay porn. This lead him to produce a follow up show, The Last Days of August, which tried to piece together the real reasons for Ames’ suicide and the roll that her shaming played in all of this.Del
It feels like we’ve been in a long season of public shamings of public people. But like all news these days, we follow along intensely for a little while and then never get any real resolution, because it seems to vanish as soon as the next one blasts forward. Often the real story behind it is lost, we don’t get a sense of what really happened, and also what happened later on, in the years that follow. The Last Days of August exposes all of our roles in the construction of public people, especially those who have grown up on the internet, and explores what happens when they make the inevitable mistake.