Tell me something, since when did Amazon become the king of moral faggotry? More and more I am hearing from friends who are both vendors and filmmakers complaining about Amazon’s ever-increasing hostility towards the horror genre. They are imparting their sense of morality on filmmakers and if the filmmakers don’t comply, then their film is placed behind the dreaded “age gate.” Once behind this age gate, the film will never show up on a normal Google or Amazon search, which is death to an indie filmmaker. The minds behind the film Other Halves know this battle all too well, and I invited the filmmakers to write an op-ed piece explaining what is going on over at Amazon and how not only is this a threat to indie horror filmmakers, but it should be seen as a threat to our right to choose what we want to watch.
Other Halves is a film for adults; it’s a horror movie about sex and death and was never meant to be anything else. Our red band trailer made this very clear:
There’s plenty of nudity and violence in the film, although it’s never pornographic or gratuitous. We felt it would appeal to a certain mature horror fan base.
Apparently, Amazon agreed, far more strongly than we realized.
Being an independent film, Other Halves didn’t have a large, theatrical release, but it did play in several festivals and at a few local theaters (where the filmmakers had hometown connections). We won some awards and garnered some great reviews from the horror press.
Then there was Amazon Prime. Amazon placed the movie behind an “age gate.” This meant Other Halves wouldn’t show up in a search of Amazon, even Amazon Video. Instead, just above the search results, there was a tiny line of text reading ‘Excluding adult and mature items,’ followed by a link that read ‘Show all results.’
If you know anything about website design, you know a second click is death. No one clicks a second time when searching for something. (How often do you go to the second page of Google search results?) Essentially, no one would accidentally stumble on our film; they had to know the direct link. For an independent movie with no stars, this basically ruined our chances of finding an audience organically.
What was most surprising is that there are seemingly hundreds of low-budget horror films with plenty of gore and even more nudity than Other Halves. So why was our film hidden from search results when others weren’t?
Turns out, it was because we had a nude man.
We were told by our distributor that if we removed the shots of the naked man (a grand total of only seven seconds), the age gate would be removed and Other Halves would appear in normal searches on Amazon.
This was pretty astonishing, since Other Halves has several scenes containing nudity, including a lengthy shower scene. The objection wasn’t to sex or nudity per se, but specifically male nudity.
So, we dutifully removed the “offending” shots, and resubmitted the film to Amazon Prime. Lo and behold, it’s now available for any Prime subscriber to watch for free!
But the film is incomplete. One of our goals with the film in general, and these shots in particular, was to play with genre expectations. Instead of a hot girl taking off her top and getting stabbed, it’s a hot guy. Yes, there’s a shower scene, but it also passes the Bechdel Test. And yes, there’s a naked woman covered in blood, but there’s also a naked man.
This small, but thematically resonant portion of the film is now absent. The cuts don’t render the plot incoherent or undo character motivations, but they don’t represent the filmmakers’ vision for the film.
The irony of the situation is not lost on us: While we were striving for equality, we were forced into a double standard in order for the film to be seen at all.
Now, Amazon is a private business, and they have every right to set their own standards for what films they wish to appear on their streaming service. But as a customers who subscribe to that service, we’re disappointed to learn that Amazon treats male and female nudity differently.