New System for Handling Films Marked as Adult
Recently, a lot of sexploitation and other classic exploitation and cult films have been removed from Letterboxd because someone on TMDB has been marking them as Adult. I think that the process of importing titles needs to be rethought, because it is drastically affecting my abilities to keep track of my lists and reviews, and it really hurts to see titles disappear after I have put effort into writing reviews and managing lists.
Something really needs to be done about this, because this has continued to be an issue since I first started using the site, and so far there has been no solution to these issues.
We are undertaking a process to import a number of classic or historically significant adult films, and aiming to have this work complete in July. More details to follow.
You need to extend this beyond "a number of classic or historically significant" adult films. If films like Love or 9 Songs can be on Letterboxd, then there shouldn't be any rules for adult content. MUBI has it set up that you can add any title provided there's an IMDB number. This should be the case with Letterboxd. Stop with the censorship and selective inclusion.
I’m just hear to throw in my support of adding adult films. There are tons of Vinegar Syndrome and Severin releases I would like to add to certain lists that I currently can’t because of this prudish rule
Morbus Iff commented
I'm gonna reedit and repost my summary from 2020 (née 2018) as the latest comments are an echo of what's already been discussed, some even suggesting the actions that Letterboxd has _already_ started. Most of the new comments since 2020 (née 2018) all promote the "simplest" or "easiest" solution and, as a developer (entirely unaffiliated with Letterboxd), these solutions and suggestions are anything but.
First, though, the most recent update. Read:
I'll money-shot (see what I did there, wink wink nudge nudge) the important bit: "We [Letterboxd] are about to start [in March 2021, with a last-known ETA of July 2021] a collaboration with you and a few other erotic film experts to separate out the cinematic erotica and hardcore art titles that get caught up in our ‘adult films’ filter, so that they can appear on Letterboxd. Can you give readers some insight into the exceptions you feel should be on the platform?"
And now the recap from 2020 (née 2018).
Let's assume the following, as good faith:
* Some Letterboxd users want to track adult films.
* Adult films are divisive and many feel disgusted by them.
* From a historical perspective, any film of any genre can be important.
* Creating a singular list of "important films" of any genre is impossible.
* The Letterboxd team is small and busy and has other priorities.
Then, to clarify my role in this:
* I'm a user of Letterboxd. I, too, want to track adult films.
* I'm a developer who has written software and books about software for 30+ yrs.
* I literally own every Vinegar Syndrome release.
* I am not a lawyer.
And, finally, to reiterate "how it works right now":
* Letterboxd DOES NOT decide what films are adult or not.
* Letterboxd (LB) uses the crowd-sourced data from TheMovieDB (TMDB).
* Anyone can set, and unset, an "is adult" flag on a film in TMDB.
* TMDB defines "is adult" as a minimum of two hardcore scenes.
* If an adult film is listed in LB, it's because the data is inaccurate in TMDB.
* If the TMDB data is corrected, the entry is removed from the public LB.
* If you logged or reviewed the film in LB, your data remains in your export.
There have been two primary suggestions on how to "fix this":
Remove the "adult film" filter entirely. From (my) developer's perspective, this seems the easiest programmatic solution because it's "just" a matter of removing the "is this film flagged as adult in TMDB?" check within the importer and updaters. It sounds soOoOO easy that, why, jeez, it must be SUPAH simple to accomplish for such a "small and busy" team like Letterboxd. However, it opens Letterboxd up to a huge can of worms when it comes to search engines and content filters (marking Letterboxd as an adult site because it has adult film covers or pornographic text across hundreds of pages), when it comes to parents and children (nudity in the movie posters, salacious text in the descriptions), and when it comes to the fervency of the "adult films are the devil's work" crowd (consider the obsessive details of IMDB's "parents guide" for a film, which is "acceptable" in its salacious details because we're "saving the children" dontchaknow). Add in differing definitions of adult content and child protection laws depending on where you live, and this "simple solution" would likely cost Letterboxd MORE time, MORE hassle, and MORE money (legal fees, a wider audience of angry users no longer subbing, etc.). It's just not tenable.
The other solution seems the safest from a user experience perspective: adding an "I want to see adult content" flag to a user's profile. However, from (again, my) developer's perspective, this is also the most costly to implement. Nearly every single "view" (not "page") on the site would need to be modified to support this flag. It's not just a matter of "me" wanting to add adult content to my lists, but also of "you" viewing my profile and feeds. It'd require a rewrite of the caching engines of the site to support adult vs. non-adult preferences. It affects everything at the stupidest level of detail: should the "You've watched 17 of 34" films statistic on a list count adult content? Should it show "17 of 34" for one user and "17 of 26" to another? Or some horrible amalgamation of "17 of 26 (8 adult films hidden)"? What about all the other stats that are calculated and then cached to prevent recalculation on every page load? For a "simple" site with little traffic, sure, doing all this would be plausible. But when you've got hundreds of thousands of users and millions of page requests, you've got a very different set of problems to solve. For a "small and busy" team, this suggestion would take months of careful and concerted work likely for the smallest percentage of their user base. And any rendering bug would open Letterboxd to the same can of worms as the first solution above.
Scrambled Face commented
Powers That Be: please consider changing the filter that hides films tagged as "adult" on TMDB to something we as users can turn on/off for ourselves. I am a confirmed adult (in literal age, anyway) who appreciates the education I get from reading about all kinds of films, and have seen the current filter force plenty of folks to slip reviews of LB-forbidden movies under other titles. Meanwhile, other clearly "adult" films are up here with dozens of views/reviews logged. It's a frustrating and arbitrary system, and I believe Letterboxd would be an even better, more inclusive place without it.
Absolutely in agreement with Kyle, giving that a bump - it's quite frustrating writing reviews that I save nowhere else but here and then finding they've disappeared. I would have no problem contributing to a committee helping to differentiate between porn and Jess Franco... it's really not complicated to at-a-glance that stuff. Maybe it could be as simple as after 1 year on Letterboxd and 100 films logged or some basic requirement of being part of the community here then the ability to sort films would be an option.
Also there are tons of actual 70s porn films that are full length films with "plots" and tube socks and bless that stuff why don't we just allow it? Censorship with sex is so archaic... for crying out loud what is the logic when you don't censor violence?
To be clear, my preference would be that everything is allowed, irk the purists... but given there are drove of hideous pearl-clutchers lurking everywhere Kyle's suggestion of a team of us deeming films "art" vs "porn" is fine until the world stops acting like babies and recognizes that once you point a camera at something and hit record it's All Art Babe.
I am completely in agreement with Kyle, and I, and I'm fairly certain a decent number of just the people I personally follow, would happily volunteer for some sort of committee if it is possible to implement. This issue goes far beyond just "adult" films and runs deep into exploitation and horror cinema in general, as well as into various arthouse and experimental avenues.
Kyle Faulkner commented
The current rules are absurd and should be scrapped out of hand without further delay. The distinction to be made about whether or not a film belongs on LB is not a question of whether or not it is 'adult', since that simply reverts to archaic sanctions over definitions of 'pornography'. The world is thankfully moving on from such nonsense. It is a question not of CONTENT but of MODE. I believe all of cinema should be permitted on the site, but I also believe that contemporary mainstream pornography has no place there. Personally I would find it a completely straightforward task to determine the difference, and would love to take on the curatorial duty. It'd be like shooting fish in a barrel for me. No problem. The issue lies in the labour time involved, no matter how big the team is, in sifting through decades of content and tossing it into yes and no buckets like a factory line. Seems very impractical to me. Therefore there are two options: 1) Create the adult toggle feature that seems to be the most appealing option to everyone concerned here, thereby allowing all titles and people (like myself) who are opposed to rank commercial porn will just have to live with the presence of it on the site, or 2) establish a committee to receive and process submissions from members for titles to include. I personally prefer the latter option. I don't know how difficult that would be to instate, since it would involve setting up a workaround of adult-tagged films on TMDB and a list of films that once cleared for LB can no longer be taken down. It's the constant removal and replacement of titles that's so infuriating for users and that's what has to be overcome. Once a title is submitted and cleared it needs to stay up and not be removed again on a whim. So the question remains who. Whoever is involved in managing this task has to have an effortless sense for the difference between cult/classic/arthouse/underground/special interest etc, and, well, C*m-Sl*ts 6. Otherwise it'll have to be option 1. Allow everything and have the inappropriate titles weeded out over time, again through a committee. Doing little or nothing about this is NOT an option.
It's worth bringing up that this issue does not just apply to classic hardcore porn. There's a lot of films that are marked as adult despite most definitively not being hardcore porn and plenty that are not even softcore. Take a film like Monamour (2006) by Tinto Brass. This is most definitively not hardcore and it's from 2006 so I'm sure it won't (and shouldn't) make a list of "classic adult films." Because it has a very brief moment of fellatio and a single penetration shot(separated by 90 minutes) that makes the film fall under their adult films classification despite this film being tamer than a many non "adult" films. A number of films by Jesus Franco and Ewrin Deitrich (to name some bigger names) also fall under this issue of not being hardcore porn yet having very brief content that gets that adult tag applied.
These are just big names but there's a lot of minor erotic films (many not porn by soft or hard standard) that are tamer than many softcore films but trigger the adult tag for reaching the penetration threshold despite that content being mere minutes or in some cases seconds of the films run-time. This is not a criticism of TMDB because for them it makes sense but for LB ignoring these films is a detriment (minor albeit).
While I'm probably in favor of importing everything considering both that TMDB already has strong standards and doesn't allow web scenes, and IMDB and TMDB have filter options that work well. If a select import and a "do-not delete" box on the backend is implemented (I imagine that's the solution you're thinking of) than there should be some way to petition Letterboxd directly for future erotic films that aren't porn. Erotic films may have a stigma but arousal is every bit a human experience as the fear that horror films create, the adrenaline action movies insight and the sorrow that a good drama elicits.
If you read the discussions before, this is exactly what the users didn't want. Please, add all films or nothing and make a filter for those not interested, simple as that. Trying to add only a few films is just making it worse. Or let users add the films they want later on. It's mindboggling why you would only want to add certain films, especially more than six years after this discussion started.
Define "classic" and "historically significant", because I'd really hate to see directors like Andrew Blake and Michael Ninn left out despite their high creative/expressive/visual value for living outside the 70s porno chic scope, never mind watching LGBT erotica continue to be criminally overlooked, since let's be honest: biggest majority of the 'classics' are straight and cisgender dominated.
Allowing only a tiny handful of people to gatekeep makes this whole situation little more than symbolic gesture at best. As far as I'm concerned, anything that saw a theatrical release and/or made it on to physical media has as much of a right to be here as anything else, regardless of the irrational and unjustified fear of people reviewing their Brazzer's streams, or whatever absurdity it is that's made adult films on Letterboxd such a needlessly drawn out sticking point.
Louise Weard commented
Thanks Matthew! Happy that you have found a potential solution and never gave up on this suggestion. I can’t wait to finally import my Vinegar Syndrome catalogue at the very least :)
However, I highly recommend that you really really really think about the gatekeeping of what titles you end up deciding to include in this first pass, as it would be extremely unfortunate to see a perceived erasure of “historically significant adult films” with a diverse bent (let’s not see the list of films added as acceptable only feature white cishet themes and actors).
And here is how broadly TMDB defines the “Adult” tag, in case anyone was wondering why this has been such a frustrating issue for the last five+ years: “ Full length movies are set to adult:true if they have a minimum of two hardcore scenes in their original version.”
Michael V. commented
Where is this discussion of exempt movies taking place? Contributions from the Letterboxd community would be appreciated, instead of being held in the hands of a few "adult film experts". I fear we will end up with the same two dozen hardcore films that we've seen shilled by the same few distributors for the last few decades. As an avid film fan, user of Letterboxd, and collector of historically-significant erotica on all formats, it would be nice to have an open forum where our voices can be heard about certain titles.
Also the insistence on "classic" adult films leads me to believe that contemporary but historically-significant films may be ignored. There was a lot of progressive, genre-bending films being made in the early 2000s that may be overlooked (see: alt-porn era).
This was seemingly done with little regard for how many important films would be lost from many of our lists and from regular user access. I mean..."Boys in the Sand" gets cut from the database? "Behind The Green Door"? I totally understand the desire to not have a bunch of adult films pop up in search and on the homepage, but perhaps what everyone is suggesting - an opt-in option for including adult films - is truly the way to go.
David G. commented
Any chance Debbie Does Dallas can get added here?
Lexi Turner commented
As someone who is part of a "Trash/Arthouse/Exploitation Cinema" group and soon-to-be podcast, it's so dispiriting to see this bowdlerisation policy still in place. We shouldn't have to petition for "historically significant" adult films - as I've already seen suggested, we should be able to add, discuss and remove all cinema and you can provide an optional filter for those who don't want to engage with that content. It's not difficult.
Morbus Iff commented
Hello, I’ve been looking for a place where this is being discussed and I want to add my voice. I think IMDB has a great system for adult titles where you can only access them by googling or using a link, and they can’t be found internally on the website. I do think it’s very important to include the films marked as “adult.” It feels like a crime to not have pages for films by Roberta Findlay, Gary Graver, and Roger Watkins (to name a few). I’m an avid Letterboxd user and I think the only obvious, gaping flaw is the restriction on adult titles.
I think ALL classic adult films should be added to letterboxd. They are essential to film history and it is insulting to those involved to exclude them simply because you aren't a fan or find them offensive. If that's the case, maybe just keep the posters hidden or have settings to hide the titles.
Keenan Tamblyn commented
Just popping in to add my voice, someone really needs to take care of this, I understand the filtering system making it difficult to include or exclude certain titles but when something like Roberta Findlay's A Woman's Torment which is no less pornographic than In the Realm of the Senses isn't on here that's a little weird.
Been over 4yrs since my last comment. Just popping in again hoping for some word from the dev team. Put the feature behind the paywall! I already happily support the site on a yearly basis.
Why was Behind the Green Door removed, despite happily being visible on Letterboxd for a very long time? It's adult flag hasn't been edited since 2015, leaving the onus of removal solely on Letterboxd staff, and in turn, hiding one of my most popular reviews over a childish, puritanical, and oblivious crusade. Adult cinema is an important aspect of film history, and deserves to be analyzed alongside everything else.