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Money Shot The Pornhub Story movie review: New Netflix documentary takes timid approach to potentially scandalous story

If Netflix were to ever share audience retention data for its new documentary, Money Shot: The Pornhub Story — impossible, since the streamer doesn’t even share proper viewership data — it would be interesting to see where exactly viewers dropped out. Because they will drop out. Not because the film isn’t as salacious as they might expect, but because it has absolutely nothing new to contribute to an argument that has already been resolved.

Pornography is consumed around the world — and has been, for decades — by people who are fully aware of the victimhood embedded at the core of the industry. But they’ve reconciled with this moral dilemma. And a major reason behind this is that most people have made the distinction in their minds that as long as their actions are above the board, what happens on the fringes of the internet isn’t their problem. But what happens when Pornhub, the world’s biggest porn website — and, indeed, one of the world’s biggest websites, period — is accused of not only distributing illegally obtained content, but also turning a blind eye to it because it’s generating massive revenue? Would this be enough for the average consumer to reconsider their patronage of that website? Or do they keep relying on the hate-the-sin-not-the-sinner logic even now?

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During the pandemic, Pornhub came under the scanner of Canadian authorities — the website is owned by a tech company headquartered in Montreal — when it was alleged that it was hosting non-consensual videos, a significant portion of which featured underage girls. In less diplomatic terms, it was alleged that the website was hosting child pornography and rape videos. Worse, it wasn’t doing enough to curb the distribution and visibility of such videos, even after it was brought to their attention. Pornhub began mitigating the crisis only when Visa and MasterCard ended their partnership with the site, effectively shutting off its revenue stream instantly.

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Pornhub, like most websites, relies primarily on two sources of revenue — advertising and subscription. The documentary correctly avoids spending too much time on how the abrupt end to subscription revenue hurt the website, and the wealthy tech bros behind it, but instead focuses on the performers who were making a living by posting their content on Pornhub and selling it directly to consumers with the platform getting a cut. For them — ostensibly the law-abiding section of the website’s content providers — this was a death knell.

But when Money Shot actually finishes the foreplay, you can’t help but shrug your shoulders and wonder why you’re supposed to care. Of course the greedy tech company — MindGeek is often described as a ‘porn monopoly’, by the way — was guilty of unethical practices. And of course enterprising sex performers became the collateral damage as the company introduced a series of overcorrection measures. These are facts; the performers’ vote of confidence doesn’t absolve Pornhub of its malpractices, and nor should Pornhub’s damage control be mistaken for social service.

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Confoundingly, Money Shot doesn’t feature voices from Pornhub — big or small. And this is its biggest failure. In the end, it forms a loose narrative based only on the opinion of collection of spectators, ranging from performers, former employees, and one guy who’s described as a ‘porn advocate’. What does that even mean? Nor does the documentary feature the folks who waged the most prominent crusades against the website. Money Shot didn’t need to be salacious to be entertaining, but it didn’t have to feel like a seminar either.

Money Shot: The Pornhub StoryDirector – Suzanne HillingerRating – 2/5

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