So I was watching an episode of Unforgettable on the weekend, and could not help but be intrigued by the car driven by Carrie during the show, and since I live in South Africa, where the specific car is not common at all, decided to ask the following question on the site which I considered to be on-topic, after reading the FAQ:

What car does Carrie drive in Unforgettable (2011)?

I asked since googling the question didn't come up with any possible answers for the question, and going to all the normal sites, like TV.com and Wikipedia didn't produce any results either.

I checked all the SE sites I visit as normal this morning, and then realised I received a down-vote for the question and that it's been closed as off-topic. According to the moderator it was closed because:

Closed as banal trivia as per our faq. If you feel that I closed this in error I invite you to check otu our Movies and TV Meta – DForck42♦

At the same time it received an up-voted answer, with screenshots explaining exactly what car it is.

Since my command of the english language isn't brilliant, I had to look up the meaning of the word banal:

ba·nal/ˈbānl/ Adjective:
So lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring. Synonyms:
trite - commonplace - hackneyed - trivial - platitudinous

Now, to Americans, this question my be boring and obvious, but to 99% of the world outside of the America, this question could be very intriguing, as we do not get the cars that is available in the US everywhere in the world.

I then reviewed the FAQ as suggested and I am extremely confused by the following glaring issue:

If I had asked:

What show does a woman named Carrie, played by Poppie Montgemery, where she drives what I think is a blue Ford mustang called?

Would have been considered on-topic, however asking for what type of prop is used is not?

Does that mean questions like:

What car is the original KITT from the original Knight Rider series?
What car is the new KITT from the 2000 remake of Knight Rider?
What helicopter was used in the original Airwolf series?

would also be considered off-topic?

Being a retired moderator, I respect the decision of moderators, however in this particular case I think the site needs to seriously revamp it's FAQ and make it clearly that asking what type of prop is used in a movie and/or TV show is off-topic, however it does however clash directly with allowing identify this movie and/or TV show questions. Keep in mind, Gaming SE, disallowed identify this game questions because they were degrading the community and since 17 of the questions on the home page when I posted this was identify this show/movie questions, it's easy for someone to make a mistake and ask what type of prop is being used questions, since it's not explicitly excluded from the FAQ in a way that non native english speakers can understand without the help of a dictionary.

I considered myself an established SE user, and will put a lot of effort into a site, however, in this case I have asked for the question to be deleted so I can remove my account from this site, because I am not willing to support a site that has such a glaring mistake in their FAQ or does not consider giving a better explanation of why a question is closed, when the site is in beta, and already only gets 3.4 questions a day. Unlike established SE sites, a beta site cannot afford to alienate users with their first question, especially if it is well written and detailed, and moderators should put more effort into explaining what they feel is wrong, to give the user a chance to fix it.

I put effort into my question, and I got a good answer, although it was off-topic. Please fix the FAQ, so no-one else makes the mistake I did, and expect this site to be a useful resource.

  • It should also be noted that gaming's identify decision came through after literally years of debate.
    – Tablemaker
    Apr 1, 2012 at 17:49
  • 1
    @TylerShads I think years is a bit of an overstatement. The site is just 3 months over a year old. Either way, point taken. I don't have to be part of the site. Be so kind as to delete this question, as well as the one linked so I can remove my account.
    – user1098
    Apr 1, 2012 at 18:12
  • 1
    I am very sorry that you are taking such offense at the dictionary meaning of something in the FAQ - as we have said we will review the use of that word as a result. Your question however has an upvoted answer, so it would be unfair to delete it. As someone with significant meta-stackoverflow rep, I am sure you are aware of the procedure should you still wish to delete your M&TV account. Please read the following meta-SO post and follow the suggested procedure: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5999/can-i-delete-my-account
    – iandotkelly Mod
    Apr 1, 2012 at 19:59
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    @iandotkelly Done.
    – user1098
    Apr 2, 2012 at 6:40

3 Answers 3


Yes, the wording does need to be changed. It can come across as a bit offensive when on the receiving end.

Robert already had this idea in his head of what he thought MTV would be

a film aficionado site; a real experts/critics site

Under that setting the only questions to be seen would be those seeking deeper understanding of the movie's plot, mood and direction. That is, you would never see identify-* questions which Robert was opposed to. Yes, this makes figuring out what is on-topic a bit of an uphill.

Currently the film aficionado idea is impossible we don't have the volume of those questions (as you have seen 120 questions are tagged identify-*) nor the backing of experts to hold such a title.

You will find many users here to be viewers but not necessarily hardcore enthusiasts.

Therefore, I think the word "banal" should be removed for a more friendly explanation as to why the community would prefer to stay away from Trivia questions.

This wording was never agreed on and taken from an employee whose idea is significantly different from what MTV is about and as such that sentence in the FAQ is not representative of the current community.

The new sentence I propose would be

Trivia that does not add to the understanding or appreciation of the title.

This, to me would solve any harms that could play to show that MTV is looking for questions that inspire users to seek further meanings into their favorite films. [such a simple change ;)]

In addition I think it is in the mods' best interest to help the user understand why their question does not work. Sometimes templates like the one used

Closed as banal trivia as per our faq. If you feel that I closed this in error I invite you to check otu our Movies and TV Meta – DForck42♦

are needed for high traffic sites when the work is too much to concentrate on each and every question but I am not so keen that they should be used here (especially when there are spelling errors in it ;) doesn't seem very welcoming at all). I really like when I saw some posts had "Welcome to Movies" attached as comments. If you are looking for more users, you may need to get a bit more personal and friendly for the time being.

Under this new point, I would inquire why is the car important to the plot for the Unforgettable show.

  • Did she have a new car before this?
  • Was her old car memorable?
  • Did she normally take the bus?
  • Does this link to another important plot within the show?

I have not seen the show so I don't think I will be able to give any evidence that proves that the car prop is a significant part to the show.

Take other examples such as

Who is the guy in the Picture in Naked Gun 2 1/2 "Blue Note" jazz bar scene?

Which is trivia but necessary to understand the meaning behind the joke and seeing that the movie is a comedy, this adds to the appreciation under this genre.


What has the greatest chance of being in Marcellus Wallace's briefcase?

Which is trivia but it's the main plot device and thus always sparks curiosity throughout the movie. (What was so important in that briefcase to kill over)

Now you could argue the same for Unforgettable but as I said I don't know the show. Without taking offense allow me to demonstrate with something a bit more extreme

What shirt is Jacob wearing in Crazy, Stupid Love (2011)

In the movie Crazy, Stupid Love (2011) what shirt is Jacob (Ryan Gosling) wearing when talking Weaver about his new New Balance shoes?

From my experience, I suspect it to be cotton-stretch HM white tee but I cannot be sure

Or in between

What car does the Driver drive in Driver?

The thing is with both these questions and getting the knowledge nothing really adds to understanding what's going on in the plot. Mere curiosity drives these questions but not the type of curiousity that is needed for film appreciation.

That's our goal here, film appreciation, only trivia that adds to the understand of the title. Banal was the wrong word and it's best to just remove it.

If the reason for your trivia is "just because I Was curious", it's not what is desired here. Ideally we would like plot-explanation and analysis to be out most used tags and identify-* to be in the minority.

We are a long way from our goal but we are getting there with mistakes along the way.

The identify-* is another issue that many community members have taken upon to give point for why they think that is on-topic. Maybe with more community members this decision will change, maybe not, but at the moment this is how it is. It looks weird on first glance but we just have to make do.

If you have some ideas that can point us better in the direction for film appreciation site please ping the mods or any of the community users (e.g. me) in the chatroom. You raise valid points and as a former mod, I think we need people like you to help us stay on target.

  • 1
    Thank you for a much more detailed and understandable answer. I have to admit, I do see that my question does not add value to the appreciation of the show, however the follow up questions may have been. I am more offended by the way the moderators on this site handled it, rather then the question being off-topic, which your answer clearly identifies. I appreciate you taking the time to provide your answer, and I don't think the goal of the site is something I can help with, however, I also think it leaves a small scope for a growing user base based on it's current goal.
    – user1098
    Apr 2, 2012 at 6:44
  • It's not a template... I typed that out... hence the typo.... Also, thank you for explaining this more eloquently that I could have.
    – DForck42
    Apr 2, 2012 at 6:47

Thank you for your question.

I think that you have a valid point questioning the application of the 'trivial' rule when being applied to a post. Speaking personally, I saw your question and it did not occur to me to close it as trivial but one of the hard things about being a moderator is that you often have to make judgement in isolation and we don't all have the same opinion.

That said I think that it is a big stretch to say that this means that the FAQ is unclear or that somehow the fact that we allow identification questions is a deep flaw in the site - just because you can twist any question to be an identification question somehow.

However I do think that it is perhaps a good time to revisit some of the groundrules of the site and the trivia issue is a good example. We clearly don't want to see questions like:

  • Who starred in Movie X
  • What year did Movie Y appear
  • When did Actress X get her Oscar

The 'banal trivia' line in the FAQ came about from almost day 1 of the private beta when the groundrules were being drawn up:



To sum it up, Robert Cartaino (guiding the early development of the site) suggests that a trivial question can be tested by asking "Does this question help my understanding or appreciation for the film (beyond idle curiosity)?". Unfortunately for you, I think that applying this test to your question, the answer is probably no - and therefore by this metric DFork42 was correct in closing your question.

Personally I think this provides a slightly narrow film-aficionado approach to the site. In another answer to the above questions, Gilles (a moderator on SciFi and Fantasty) tries to distinguish between interesting and non-interesting trivia, and suggests that the voting mechanism be used to determine that. This tends to be more my approach with such questions - if it is truly trivial to find the answer elsewhere (i.e. something easily found on IMDB) then I will close it - if not I allow the community to say whether it is interesting or not and leave it open.

I am not going to reverse DFork42's closing just because I personally would not have closed it. It would however be interesting to see other user comments on whether they want to see this or a more lax approach to closing trivia be applied.

  • Honestly, what you mentioned about trivia is a better description then using banal, a word firstly, myself, and I suspect a few others, have to look up in a dictionary. Secondly, it's actually quite offensive to call a question boring and lacking originality. Lastly, how does identify this tv show or movie meet the understanding and appreciation of idle curiosity? My argument is not with the question being closed, I want it deleted and want to leave the site, my issue is with the wording of the FAQ, which would be better with your description then the word banal. It's a bit subjective.
    – user1098
    Apr 1, 2012 at 16:25
  • @Diago: Your point about the word banal is taken, and I am sorry that you have taken strong offense to what I am sure was not meant to be as strongly given. I do hope that you reconsider your desire to no longer be involved with the site.
    – iandotkelly Mod
    Apr 1, 2012 at 16:36
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    @Diago to be fair, offense is subjective. Its a question, it got an answer, but it got closed due to not being on-topic with the FAQ. You raised your concern, and my fellow mods and I appreciate that and will now re-look at what our FAQ says and how to word things better. But honestly, I think you're taking it too far to be offended by a question being closed. This site has only been in beta for a few months and is also the point of a beta to hammer out details like this, and improve our site as a whole.
    – Tablemaker
    Apr 1, 2012 at 17:55
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    @iandotkelly Since I am obviously wasting the mods time, can you or any other mod please delete this and the linked question so I can remove my account, or alternatively please just go ahead and delete my account.
    – user1098
    Apr 1, 2012 at 18:14
  • @TylerShads I am not offended by the question being closed, I am offended by the wording in the FAQ after looking up the meaning in a dictionary.
    – user1098
    Apr 1, 2012 at 18:16
  • @user1098 "Since I am obviously wasting the mods time" - If that is your opinion, it seems so, even if the mods have repeatedly clarified this to not be the case.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Nov 18, 2013 at 14:29
  • @ChristianRau - he's no longer on the site, despite being a moderator of another SE site at the time, he quickly took offense and got SE to delete his M&TV account. I remember being pretty pissed off at his immaturity at the time
    – iandotkelly Mod
    Nov 18, 2013 at 15:52
  • @iandotkelly I know, I am a little late, but this had to be said, even if nobody cares anymore about it (at least I care, since I probably share the feelings you had back then).
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Nov 18, 2013 at 16:06

What show does a woman named Carrie, played by Poppie Montgemery, where she drives what I think is a blue Ford mustang called

That would be closed by me because you can go to the actress' IMDB page and do a find for "car" to find that entry. My bar for identification questions is such that, being relatively unfamiliar with the topic, I shouldn't be able to find the answer within a couple minutes of googling (which I have tried).

Also, your question is the first one that I've ever closed as a banal question because, to me, it didn't add any appreciation to the show and was only a skin-deep question, so I closed it. And, IMHO, it should stay closed, but should the community decide that this question is ok then I'm ok with it being reopened.

I'm not going to say I was right or wrong or point fingers, I was only trying to do what I thought was right by our FAQ.

Do we need to reword the FAQ? Sure. I agree with phwd's choice of new wording:

Trivia that does not add to the understanding or appreciation of the title.

So, given that new line possibly being added to the FAQ, I still find myself saying this question doesn't add any value, at least as it is currently worded.

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