Movie Analysis, part II – Politics


I’ll start with the conclusion here: movie critics are more liberal than the general population. Duh! This probably falls somewhere in the category of bears in the woods and the religion of the pope. Still, now you have data to prove it. The above chart shows political movies in blue and non-political ones in red. It’s not hard to see that a large majority of the blue diamonds are to the right of the diagonal line, meaning the critics ratings were higher than the viewers’ ratings. That could just mean that critics like political movies more than the general population does, and that’s probably true, too, but more significant is which movies fall on the right and left sides.

Before I go on, you may ask how I distinguished between political and non-political. It was a subjective judgment on my part, so feel free to discount the validity, but most were pretty obvious choices. Almost anything that had a strong theme related to traditional GOP-Dem type politics was included, but I also included anything heavily themed on social issues that are controversial or divisive, such as race relations, drugs, religion, women’s rights, and sexual orientation. Examples are Selma and Dallas Buyers Club. Less obvious are the ones I included because they were controversial or political within a particular community, even if not among the general public, such as Temple Grandin and Kon-Tiki. Most documentaries, fact-based (or “inspired”) movies, and biopics were included because they almost all dealt with controversial events or people. In case you’ve noticed some dots on this chart that weren’t there in yesterday’s, that’s because I used a larger percent of my database in order to include more political movies. Political movies in general had fewer viewers.

I’ve labeled most of the notable outliers, i.e. where the greatest differences are between viewers and critics. Since there are fewer of those on the left side, let’s examine those first. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Unbroken are both World War II movies where the Allies are the good guys and the Axis are the bad guys. It’s not difficult to see where these would be more appealing to conservatives than to liberals, but not by a great deal, which is why they rate fairly high with the critics, too. The Song is a faith-based story according to the description. You should be able to figure out which side of the political spectrum that falls on. As for Atlas Shrugged, if you are having trouble understanding why a total of zero critics liked it, go back to Poly Sci 1 or read the book. Perhaps less obvious to some is Memoirs of a Geisha. It’s not inherently political in its subject matter, although the notion of a geisha as an oppressed or exploited woman is not hard to put onto the political scales, but I think it likely offended critics for another type of politics: movie politics. The star was Chinese, not Japanese like the character, and the time frame depicted, spanning world War II, is one in which there was bitter hatred between those two nations. The director, screenwriter, and author of the book on which it is based are all white. I remember reading an article where the Hollywood elite allegedly thought this was an inherently Japanese story that should have been told and acted by Japanese, not their former enemies.

I’ll leave to you to look up the movies I’ve labeled on the other side of the line. I don’t think it will be difficult to reach agreement that they are more appealing to liberals than to conservatives. Lastly, we have to explain why the bulk of the blue diamonds falls to the right of the line, much more so than the bulk of movies in general. If movies, on average, are basically neutral, or equally biased on both sides, the dots should be more or less equal on both sides, if my premise about critics is true. That one is easy to explain. Movie makers and media people in general are more liberal than the general public. It is not the case that movies are evenly distributed over the political spectrum. A lot more “liberal” movies are made than “conservative” ones. Anyone who follows politics know that it is Democrats who go to Hollywood for campaign funds. Sure, we can point to Ronald Reagan and Clint Eastwood as conservatives, but they’re the exceptions that prove the rule.