People are quick to cry censorship these days, nearly as fast as organizations like the FCC are to engage in actual censoring. But for some reason, this instance of it really shocked me. Shocked me in a way nothing else quite has.
If you’re any kind of a movie lover, you’ve no doubt spent a lot of time surfing the Internet Movie Database. It’s an incredible resource, the only place to go for information on any and every movie you can think of. It’s been around so long, that most of us have become used to using it as a matter of course. For me, using IMDB is almost like breathing. It’s your one stop shop for raw data. They’ve earned that kind of trust and credibility over the years, but in one fell swoop they’ve just lost nearly all of it.
Long time CB reader “Sam” sent me a link tonight to a piece over at the Rabbi Report in which they claim that IMDB is censoring search results for movies they deem to be “adult”. At first I didn’t believe it, but a few quick clicks confirmed it. If they consider a movie to be “adult”, you will not find it in their search results, even if you type in the name exactly as written. IMDB admits to what they're doing on a buried page you can find here.
I’m not talking about porn movies here, I’m talking mainstream films and in some cases classics. For instance, try and look up the movie Shortbus. It was released in 2006, fairly critically acclaimed, but it does contain a lot of mature content. Try searching for it. You won’t find it. Oh it still exists in the IMDB database, they just won’t show it to you unless you register an account with them, and then click to this obscure page here and enable the display of adult content. By default, it's turned off. They of course haven’t told anyone about this, so if you search for Shortbus odds are you will simply think it doesn’t exist.
The thing is, it’s completely random. Search for Orgazmo, a raunchy porn industry comedy and you’ll find that. Search for the 1979 Helen Mirren film Caligula, and it’s nowhere to be found. You can find Caligula by going to Helen Mirren’s IMDB page and it’s linked to there, but you won’t find it simply by searching for the title. Search for the acclaimed documentary Inside Deep Throat, and IMDB pretends it doesn’t exist.
Not all movies have award winners in them though, and for those films it gets worse. Let’s look at Shortbus again. Not only is the movie not listed in searched, but if you go to director John Cameron Mitchell’s IMDB page, you won’t see it listed there. Search for one of the movie’s stars like Jay Brannan, and IMDB pretends they don’t even exist. That’s right, they aren’t just censoring the movie, they’re censoring anyone who appeared in it.
Worse, this seems to be completely random. If you’re famous enough, they throw their adult censoring policy out the window. Search for hardcore porn actress Jenna Jameson and you’ll find her instantly, and be taken to a page listing dozens of her films. Search for notorious porn whore Ginger Lynn Allen, and you’ll easily find a page listing such hardcore sex films as Whore, Miss Passion, Kinky Business, Trashy Lady, Beverly Hills Cox, Pleasure Hunt II, and hundreds more. Important movies.
This is completely indefensible. IMDB needs to be called to the carpet for this one. They’ve had us all hoodwinked into believing they were a serious resource for serious film fans, when in fact they’re just another mega-corporation so scared to death of offending anyone that they’d rather throw their credibility out the window by hiding huge sections of film history away from their users rather than risk offending some crazed, overzealous soccer mom in Bartlett, Texas.
The guys over at Rabbi Report recommend going to this IMDB comment page and ripping them a new one, and I agree. Let IMDB know what you think of their weak-kneed corporate pandering. There’s no excuse for this. We’re not talking about them displaying adult photos, this is raw data. Cast listings, movie titles, crew credits. There’s nothing offensive in any of this for any kid of any age. Hell, these aren’t even adult films. They simply contain mature content. Stop it IMDB. Stop it now.