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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.

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    Turner Stewart shared this idea  ·   ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
    under review  ·  AdminMatthew Buchanan (Admin, Letterboxd) responded  · 

    Let’s do this: can someone in this thread compile a list of “important/historically significant” adult films that should be on LB. Then we can see about adding an exceptions list to our importer that uses this list.

    83 comments

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      • Morbus Iff commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        It might be time to summarize things for new folks coming in:

        * Read the original idea above. It remains an accurate feature request.

        Let's also assume the following, as good faith:

        1. Some Letterboxd users want to track adult films.
        2. Adult films are divisive and many feel disgusted by them.
        3. From a historical perspective, any film of any genre can be important.
        4. Creating a singular list of "important films" of any genre is impossible.
        5. The Letterboxd team is small and busy and has other priorities.

        And, finally, to clarify my role:

        * 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 25+ years.
        * I've stopped paying for Letterboxd Patron status because of this issue.
        * I am frustrated with Letterboxd's inaction, but I understand it.
        * I am not a lawyer.

        There have been two primary suggestions:

        1.
        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.

        2.
        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 relatively easy. 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 like Letterboxd, this suggestion would likely take months of careful and concerted work for, likely, 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.

      • AdminMatthew Buchanan (Admin, Letterboxd) commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        @Morbus Appreciate you coming to my defense. Please note that no reviews are "permanently lost" if a film is removed from the site — they’re always available in your personal Export file (in Settings). As you point out, as a moderator of TMDb I’m also charged with correctly flagging content according to their classification rules, and sometimes this means films get removed on our side.

        May I reiterate that we are a very small team maintaining and moderating a huge platform/community of film lovers. While we’d love to have prioritized this topic, others have proven more important. We’re still thinking about how best to action it, particularly given the subjective nature of introducing this type of exception to our import criteria ("if you let x, why not y?" etc).

      • Morbus Iff commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        @Evan: Was it actually an adult film? Taking your comment at face value, it's hard to tell if you're inferring deliberate "wrongdoing" on Matt's part or not. (i.e., if it IS an adult film, then setting its flag on TMDB is technically correct, and the side-effect of having it removed from Letterboxd is less nefarious). Still, I agree: especially in regards to minority groups, it could easily be considered a matter of systemic racism (or sexism)

        (To clarify: Matt himself is not sexist or racist, but if Letterboxd can be manipulated so easily that all black films on TMDB could be flagged "adult", and all that viewing and reviewing data would immediately be deleted from Letterboxd, with no recovery at all, then Letterboxd is hopelessly and systematically racist and sexist.)

      • Evan Purchell commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        @Matthew Buchanan: You personally edited one of my tMDB submissions a few months back so that it would be removed from this site. As someone who studies queer film history (which the films I submit are very much a part of), not being able to log and review movies *that are historically and culturally significant to a minority group* is frustrating and makes me want to move away from using Letterboxd.

        This thread has been running for three years now. Will you ever make some sort of decision regarding allowing these films to be on this site -- toggle or not?

      • Mothravka commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        It's been far too long and nothing has happened. There is no need to make a list of “important/historically significant” adult films concerning this matter, that will just make things worse, more annoying and uneven.

        Just make a filter so the users can choose to see or not to see adult films on the site. Or even better, just lift the ban. But that will probably not happen.

      • hill89 commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Checking in again to see what's going on. This is getting annoying, and seems like it would be the one of the easiest suggestions on here to get fixed.

      • J. commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I would also really like to see a solution to this. I buy a lot of the hardcore titles that Vinegar Syndrome puts out and it's incredibly annoying not to be able to log any of those (or other adult films for that matter). Not only that but the whole thing seems incredibly arbitrary because there ARE some movies that have been up on the site for a long while now that definitely would be classified as hardcore, not to mention movies that at the same time unjustly disappears, for example Malabimba that was mentioned earlier in the thread which most definitely is not hardcore.

        Other than the points above I struggle to see the boundary when something crosses over to the "unacceptable" according to Letterboxd. There are tons of sexploitation movies that aren't hardcore but with heavy emphasis on sex, that are allowed on the site. Is the problem then that the movie contain unsimulated sex scenes? Well, that can't be the case since there are many "mainstream" movies with unsimulated sex that wouldn't be considered adult films, Nymphomaniac, Love, The Idiots etc. Is the problem that the films main intention is to arouse? If that's the case who will be the judge of that? The point I'm trying to make is that I find the whole label of "adult film" problematic in many ways, because it isn't as clear as it's made out to be many times.

        If you are concerned about opening the flood gates to all manners of Gonzo porn then one solution would be to only import movies that has had a cinematic release which I assume is data that is obtainable from TMDB.

      • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I’ve seen Alabama Jones on Letterboxd, which is less artistically directed than many other hardcore films out there. It’s okay to have on the site because it’s not hardcore? Then what about films like Nymphomaniac that use real sex?

      • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Why don’t people take adult films seriously? Especially with vintage adult films from the 70s making comebacks on Blu Ray with 4K restorations and special features like in-depth interviews, these really need to start being looked at as films themselves instead of smut. A movie is a movie. They’re still works of art, even if they’re for a niche group of people. They even got theater play and promotion back in the day. There just needs to be a filter switch like on every other social media site. It can’t be that difficult to do.

      • Nick Chaney commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Please actually do something on this front. Steer away from a "curated by Letterboxd staff" list, and allow people to flip the switch on the filter if they want to or not. Adult films are such an incredibly important and vital part of filmmaking history that it's insane that we can't log them as films in our diaries. The idea that this topic is of no real importance to the Letterboxd staff is extremely disheartening. It may not be everybody, but no film is for everybody.

      • KarlMalden commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        so uhhhh any update?

        was curious why Alice in Wonderland (1976) was missing - even wikipedia says it has an R-rated cut. But marking it adult automatically triggers deletion.

        Glaring oversight on letterboxd's part.

      • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        This needs to be fixed immediately. It makes Letterboxd essentially useless. I'll be deleting my account soon.

      • hill89 commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Checking on this again, and will keep doing so until this issue is resolved.

      • Nick commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        This has been annoying me too in regards to Vinegar Syndrome titles. Out of curiosity which VS title was removed?

      • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        When are you finally going to address this issue? I wrote a review of a title put out by the very respectable and great Vinegar Syndrome recently, only to see the movie (and the review) removed because someone woke up and classified it as "adult". This is getting ridiculous. You should stop ignoring this important part of cinematic history. At the very least, please allow logging of all movies that are released by companies like Vinegar Syndrome and Synapse. I can see why you wouldn't want to open the floodgates to include contemporary porn, but at the very least please do allow the classics.

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