IMDb's new F rating will flag woman-focused movies for users — and it has some flaws

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On IMDb, an F is no longer a bad grade — though whether readers will get that remains to be seen.

The movie database is adopting a new system called the F rating that will identify and flag movies with focus on women for users. In order to earn the rating, movies will need to either have a female writer, director or prominent character. The feature isn't live yet, but reportedly will be soon.

The F rating isn't IMDb's invention. That credit goes to Holly Tarquini, director of the Bath Film Festival who created the designation in 2014. In a festival context, the identifier is helpful to moviegoers looking for women-focused pictures among a large lineup.

On IMDb, on the other hand, one has to imagine that a giant F on a movie's database entry might not be the most comforting sign. The site already has a notorious problem with its male users purposefully sinking the ratings of women-focused pictures and TV shows. (Remember what happened with the Ghostbusters remake?)

'Ghostbusters' stars Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon  Columbia

Considering the movies that receive F ratings will still have a number score as well — and considering that many of those movies are the ones on the receiving end of users' purposefully lower scores — it's easy to take this idea to its natural, unfortunate conclusion. Movies about women will have lower scores and a giant F on them; meanwhile, servicing the cycle, users seeking to sabotage female-focused movies will have a clearer target than ever. They just have to find all the movies marked with an F.

In short: This is a smart-in-theory idea to combat IMDb's existing gender problem. Much will depend on how savvy IMDb is in their display and maintenance of the ratings, however — and the sad reality is that this will probably only make IMDb's problems worse.

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