Most people are familiar with the metaphorical strand of chaos theory known as the butterfly effect that determines small or minor changes in initial patterns can greatly alter the outcomes of certain events. In Jon Ronson’s podcast, he applies this theory to examine a professional industry that is often maligned or sneered at, but of which tiny variations can hugely impact the real lives of a great many people.
Specifically, over the course of seven challenging, thought-provoking and often humorous episodes, the British journalist and best-selling author looks at the lasting and hugely consequential effect of one simple idea that a teenager in Brussels had: to make porn free to stream online. Across the series, Ronson speaks to the people for whom this culture shift affected most, from the porn stars and actors whose work virtually dried up because their requisite traits do not match very specific SEO terms, to the lives that have been destroyed by the industry. Young kids who have unfairly forever been tainted by their naive misadventures, the Silicon Valley-type men who have gotten rich profiting from their ability to ‘game’ search engines, and those who work in the films who detest the mastermind behind the mega-shift, Fabian Thylmann, are all given a fair and equal platform to tell their story to Ronson.
Each approximately 30-minute episode of The Butterfly Effect makes you laugh, makes you sad, makes you furious and even a tad fearful of what is to come in a society that is obsessed with pornography of some sort – or if indeed it is even an obsession. Ronson’s soothing Northern droll makes the subject seem somehow less taboo, although each time he says the word ‘porn’, he enunciates in such a way as to sound like a naughty kid saying it for the first time, which only adds to his overall charm.
The series was originally released to Audible subscribers in April 2017 before it was shared to iTunes for free in November that year. Both times it was met with a tidal wave of positive critical reviews for good reason. It also plugged a gap that the lagging true crime shows (that were so popular at the time) were leaving behind, despite not actually being about crime and more about business. Or, rather, about people and the consequences of their actions.
Only a couple of months ago was it officially revealed that Ronson would be returning for a second part in the tale. This time, he is looking at the motives behind the public suicide of 23-year-old porn actress August Ames who was allegedly bullied into killing herself by online trolls from within the porn industry. The investigative journalist is no stranger to online witch hunts, having authored So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. The first trail released in October teases an intriguing and complex story that if the first series is anything to go by, will be impossible to resist.