Money Shot – The Story of PornHub, review: the cold algorithm of pornography

Money Shot – The Story of PornHub, review: the cold algorithm of pornography

Money Shot – The Story of PornHub, review

Pretend you don't know the name PornHub, erase the history with ill-concealed nonchalance but we all know the truth: PornHub is an integral part of contemporary digital culture. Whether it's because of the infamous Rule 43 ('if something exists, then there is a porn version too') or because it is mentioned in the most disparate discussions, PornHub is a universally known name, which has become the symbol of pornography in the digital age, a titanic enterprise that hides, behind groans and paradoxically exciting situations, a much more complex reality. And it is to the world behind the camera that Suzanne Hillinger looked with her Money Shot – The story of PornHub , a reportage available on Netflix which tells not so much the history of the site as its social impact.

Talking about pornography is always divisive. That it is a subject considered uncomfortable is certainly no mystery, considered as the summa of every sexual depravity slammed on the front page, but it cannot be denied that it also has several more intimate and psychologically pressing aspects that are all too often ignored. If we mention the PornHub speech, this clear separation becomes even more evident, especially in recent times, where the porn site of the moment has been pilloried due to an open source approach that has proved decidedly counterproductive. It was precisely these two elements that animated Hillinger's research, intertwined in a measured way to give the viewer a more rational vision of what is, to all intents and purposes, a contemporary cultural phenomenon.

Money Shot – The story of PornHub , the cold reality behind digital pornography

Money Shot – The story of PornHub therefore delves into a complex mosaic of visions and perceptions, with the awareness that it is not up to this report to sanction or not the legitimacy of porn. It is not Hillinger's purpose to be the spokesperson for a moralistic campaign or to stand as a champion of sexual freedom, the final intent of this almost two-hour documentary is to understand exactly what PornHub is, what is hidden behind this giant of pornography. Starting with an all too often forgotten reality, and which is already revealed in the title: in the end, with the cameras off and the performers dressed, it's all about money.


The truth is that the video that we see scrolling on our monitors is the culmination of an activity made up of algorithms and advertising placements, of research aimed at capturing the impulses in the trend of the moment and of authors who, for as ironic as they are, they have to create plots to frame these flashes of sexuality. Hillinger is therefore not limited to the hormonal facade of PornHub, but breaks through it, assimilates the more material details leaving out the carnal ones, points to the heart of the story. The practical aspect of PornHub is in the public domain, it doesn't make news and it doesn't interest, the interesting aspect is the mechanism that keeps this economic empire standing, capable of going from a pornography sharing site to a content production house and imposing itself as the reference point of digital pornography, also undermining previous myths such as YouPorn in the collective imagination.

--> The investigation carried out by Money Shot - The story of PornHub moves on two levels, dividing this documentary film into two clear parts. First of all, through the presence of well-known performers in the sector and ex-employees of MindGeek, the company that owns PornHub, the social perception of the site is reconstructed, especially by those who made it successful. Actresses who reveal how they have gone from mistrust to dogmatic alignment in favor of PornHub, employees who reveal the most disparate backgrounds and references to moments that have sanctioned the portal's consecration as a pop icon are the fixed points used to push the viewer's eye beyond the hormonal storm and see the cold calculation that animates this empire. To tell the truth, this first segment of the documentary seems to want to extinguish any libido, managing to bring that sense of forbidden and humorous sexual transport back to the mere economic calculation that leads to the creation of a porn video that is not spontaneous, but the result of a careful study of viewers' preferences and therefore the result of a trivial market research. And the much acclaimed categories, capable of imposing a sort of affirmation even in everyday slang, are also nothing more than controlled choices to make clicks even more profileable.

How the world of porn works

Let's not forget how PornHub in recent years has become a mirror of society also in terms of profiling, thanks to its now traditional sharing of user searches, one of the best-planned digital profiling works currently available. Hillinger skillfully concocts a story with ironic traits, in which pornography loses all visceral fascination, demolished by the same actresses interviewed, who, far from artificially itchy situations and envied acrobatics, become women who see, in their profession, different expressions of their own personality, from freedom to personal revenge up to the affirmation of a career. This first step of myth busting is the necessary step to prepare the viewer for the brutal truth behind PornHub: the system doesn't work.

The idea of ​​open source pornography is not only an ethical failure but especially legal. What became a no-cost content creation tool for MindGeek quickly turned out to be a case of ethical and, above all, legal failure. In the era of revenge porn, of videos stolen and thrown on the net without hesitation, PornHub's approach has made possible child pornography, sharing of non-consensual material and other crimes that have become a source of embarrassment for MindGeek, which is called to answer criminally for own shortcomings, has discovered that its own system of controls and checks, trivially, does not work. And Hillinger points precisely to these flaws, reconstructs the path of a video that is posted and its diffusion, follows its life and critical issues, coming to show an unsuspected nature of PornHub that no user could imagine.

--> The true nature of Money Shot – The Story of PornHub is not to give an answer to the eternal discussion about the validity or otherwise of porn, but instead to show how the industry of MILFs, lascivious teachers and enterprising housewives is actually a cold mathematical calculation, delve into the controversies and manifestations of open hostility to dissect the mechanism behind this economic empire, disregarding the cultural impact of porn as a category, but focusing on the microcosm of PornHub. Money Shot – The story of PornHub defuses the hormonal fascination of the infamous site to bring out a more technical and practical curiosity, removes the trick based on algorithms and artificial sexuality to reveal the sad and cold truth behind a billionaire economic enterprise.

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