A Psychographic Interests Platform

In today’s fragmented world, psychographic profiling is more important to marketers than ever. Yet the art of figuring out how to effectively reach and convert audiences remains a daunting task. Ranker Insights brings precision and depth to what has typically been the very “fuzzy” exercise of psychographic profiling.

Each month over 35 million people visit Ranker to cast their votes on thousands of online polls about Films, Celebrities, TV, Music, Sports, and more, providing a treasure trove of proprietary self-reported preference data across 1.1 million interests.

Powered by Ranker’s unprecedented data collection engine, the Ranker Insights platform was developed to provide data-driven audience insights, both at scale and in precise context. Contact us to learn more about how we can work with you on a custom API basis.

Ranker Insights has made a portion of its data available for free here.

by    in Data

Ranker Voters Predict Matt Ryan’s NFL MVP Win

The 2016 NFL season is now in the rearview mirror, ending with a Super Bowl that will be talked about for years to come. Most of the records in the Big Game were set by winning Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, leaving Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan with plenty to despair. The day before the Super Bowl, however, Ryan had something to celebrate: he was named the league’s MVP.

Ranker has a popular list for Players Most Likely to Be the 2016-17 MVP. The list was published in November 2016, and over 20 players received a total of more than 30,000 thumbs-up and thumbs-down votes. We were interested in whether this list predicted Ryan’s win, and how the patterns of opinions expressed by the voters changed over time.

The figure above summarizes the raw voting data for Matt Ryan. The black cross markers show the empirical proportion of up-votes to total votes on each individual day that votes were cast. The size of the crosses corresponds to how many votes were cast on that day. There is an increase in the proportion of up-votes, beginning around January 15. The two Sundays, marked on the x-axis, which includes the NFC Divisional Round and NFC Championship, on January 15 and 22. Ryan and his teammates played their best games of the year as the franchise made its second Super Bowl appearance.

The blue line in the figure above shows the cumulative proportion of up-votes to total votes over each day voting was active. This cumulative proportion increases after January 15, but not to a large degree, because of the accumulated earlier votes continuing to affect the overall proportion. The problem with this analysis is that it assumes voting always reflects the same opinion, so that all votes are lumped together, and the thumbs-up or thumbs-down votes last November count equally with votes registering an opinion right before the MVP was announced.

So, we developed a new model to analyze these data, as an alternative to cumulative opinion. Our new model tries to measure current opinion, rather than cumulative opinion. It does this by allowing for swings in opinion. For something as hotly contested like NFL MVP, it’s easy to imagine opinions changing based on a good or bad game, or even an injury. Between change points, our model assumes the crowd has a stable opinion, but each time a change point is encountered, the opinion can shift. Our algorithm for applying the current opinion model is able to identify how many changes are evident in a sequence of voting data, where those change points are, and what the stable opinion in each stage are.

The results of applying the current opinion model to Matt Ryan’s data are shown in the figure above by the red line. Two change points are inferred, around November 22, 2016 and January 22, 2017. Opinion starts just below 60%, drops to about 30%, and then rises again to a final value just above 60% in time leading into the award’s announcement.

 

The two panels in the figure above shows the cumulative opinion (left-hand panel) and current opinion (right-hand panel) measures for eight leading candidates for the MVP award, including Ryan. These players were all heavily voted on, and include the leading candidates discussed in the media. For both opinion measures, the natural way to make a prediction is to order the players according the opinion right before the February 4 announcement. Cumulative opinion ranks Ryan in fifth place, behind Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers. Rookie stars Elliott and Prescott had dominant seasons for the Dallas Cowboys, but the early MVP excitement faded to a more realistic assessment that rookie winners are less likely, nevertheless teammates. Their prospects of winning were faded once the Cowboys lost in their playoff game. Brady and Rodgers, contrarily, are well-established and high-profile perennial favorites for the MVP award.

The current opinion measure shows that Ranker voters had it right, correctly predicting Matt Ryan as the winner. It is interesting to see that Brady ranked second according to current opinion, since he was widely tipped as the only other serious possible winner in the days before the award was announced. Both Elliott and Prescott show plausible and interpretable downward changes in opinion over the period of voting. Rodgers shows an interesting large, but short-lived drop in opinion immediately after Green Bay was eliminated on January 22. Generally, many of the inferred change points occur immediately following a significant game result, although there is no constraint in our analysis that requires this. In effect, the change points reveal that game-day performance is the most likely thing to sway opinion.

The overall message is that voting data on Ranker expresses valuable crowd opinions, especially when analyzed in the right way, by allowing for opinion to change. When making predictions about an upcoming event, more recent opinion will often be better. More information is available, and less time must pass before the answer is known, reducing uncertainty. Whether or not it makes Matt Ryan feel better, our analysis shows that Ranker voters are on board with him being the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.

– Michael Lee and Lucy Wu

by    in Data

The Big Bang Theory: America’s “Favorite” Television Show

The self-proclaimed “geek community” hates it. Critics are lukewarm about it. It’s fairly undecorated awards-wise, considering its stamina and ubiquity. But CBS’s multi-camera, laugh-track laden The Big Bang Theory has consistently been one of the most-watched shows on television throughout its 10-season run, meaning millions and millions of people are watching it on a regular basis — but who, exactly? If it’s not geeks, critics, tastemakers, or industry insiders, who’s left? Regular people? What does that even mean? Isn’t this the “nerd show?”

Before we dig into what Ranker Insights data reveals about the show’s audience, let’s first explore just how successful The Big Bang Theory really is. It rivals Seinfeld and Friends during their heydays in its eyeball-attracting dominance, pulling in a steady stream of 19-to-20 million viewers at its peak between seasons 6-9. Season 10 has also been a ratings winner, never dipping below 14 million viewers per episode. That makes it the number one comedy on television this season among adults aged 18-49. It’s also a huge hit in syndication, with reruns on TBS frequently topping the weekly ratings.

But unlike Seinfeld, Friends, or even recent ratings juggernauts such as The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, The Big Bang Theory has never really risen to the level of genuine pop-culture phenomenon, which is surprising for a show watched — and presumably adored — by so many. It has never been the kind of show you can safely assume your friends and co-workers are watching week-to-week or binge-watching as soon as a new season hits Netflix.

The watercooler talk about The Big Bang Theory, such as it is, has generally been a conversation about why it’s an insult to “real nerds” or how it can possibly be such an insanely popular show. After all, the argument goes, no one really knows anyone who even watches it, including professional TV critics such as Joe Reid from The Atlantic and Rob Hoerburger from the New York Times Magazine. How is such a massively popular show also so off-radar? Back in 2013, during the show’s ratings peak, Hoerburger admitted he had to cajole his sneering friends and elitist peers into giving it a shot, not even meeting a fellow fan until he wore his “Bazinga” t-shirt while on summer vacation and finally caught a fellow fan’s eye. “Twenty million nerds can’t be wrong,” he concluded, counting himself proudly among the pack.

But aren’t “real” nerds and/or geeks famously up-in-arms about the show? A widely-held grievance is that the show “makes nerd culture the butt of, not the subject of, the jokes.” If that’s true, then our data would reveal a fanbase largely devoid of self-proclaimed nerds, or full of folks okay with some light nerd-roasting, or maybe something in between. However, it probably wouldn’t reveal that “twenty million nerds” are what make this show so wildly popular.

The Internet, characteristically, has a lot of opinions about who watches the show or for whom the show is intended. Dan Seitz waves the “Real Nerd” banner over at Uproxx, arguing that the show’s most loathsome quality is that it’s not even aimed at nerds, despite making a whole lot of noise to that effect, but instead at “that mythical creature, The Average Television Viewer.” Tom Nicholson, in a sassy takedown over at WhatCulturethinks The Big Bang Theory fans must be “united by a complete lack of imagination and cultural adventurousness,” a common sentiment from the show’s harshest critics. So which is it? Did the show become a 10-season-strong monster on the back of an army of culturally adventurous nerds or a bunch of hard-to-pin-down “Average Television Viewers?” What binds the show’s diehard audience together?

The mind-boggling amount of data Ranker Insights has about The Big Bang Theory fans contains the answer, and — Bazinga! —  it looks like Team “Real Nerd” is onto something.

We’ll start with TV habits. You would think fans of a show that purports to celebrate nerd culture would love stereotypically nerdy TV shows such as Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Game of Thrones, and all things Marvel and DC, right? And they do, somewhat, with affinity scores between 100% and 200% for all of those shows, meaning they’re at least twice as likely to be a fan of those shows than the average person. But the shows in the 250%-400% and above range — the shows The Big Bang Theory fans are far and away the most passionate about — reveal they really prefer far less fantastical fare.

The Big Bang Theory fans, more than anything else, love sitcoms and comedy-dramas that were made in the 1990s or feel like they could have been made in the 1990s. The kind of shows that were made back when “Average Television Viewer” was much easier to pin down, before DVR and streaming splintered the monoculture.

These throwback shows get the fanbase excited far more than anything The Big Bang Theory’s characters would actually geek out about, suggesting the show’s biggest fans don’t seek out the fantasy worlds the show constantly name-drops, but instead prefer entertainment that harkens back to a bygone era of watching TV as a nation —  the “lockstep world of three networks,” to quote Scott Timberg of Salon. The Big Bang Theory fans appear to yearn for an era of TV programming that arguably provided, as Timberg puts it, “a communal sense of belonging together, sharing concerns and values at a time when politics, ethnicity and religion often divide us.” We’re talking a lot of Venus vs. Mars domestic comedies — lots of couches facing the camera. Shows starring stand-ups and industry legends, full of hugging and learning. Shows known more for consistency and crowd-pleasing, frankly, than for quality. Shows, in other words, like The Big Bang Theory.

Let’s look at the data. Even if you discount The Big Bang Theory creator Chuck Lorre’s other big hits Two and a Half Men, Mom, Grace Under Fire, Mike & Molly, and Dharma & Greg — all 250%+, by the way — you’re still left with Friends, 2 Broke Girls, How I Met Your Mother, Reba, Rules of Engagement, 8 Simple Rules, and My Wife and Kids dominating the upper echelon, with affinity scores of 225% or more. All of these shows are studio-based, multi-camera, laugh-track-heavy sitcoms. Seinfeld, which famously rejected hugging and learning, is notably absent from this tier, sitting at 71%. A mix of comfortable TV staples including popular police procedurals (NCIS, CSI: NY) and light dramedies (Hart of Dixie, with a whopping 473%, as well as 7th Heaven) round things out.

So no, The Big Bang Theory fans do not appear to share the tastes of the show’s main characters. Anything related to superheroes, for example, is walloped in the the rankings by the likes of mainstream favorites iCarly, House, Dateline, and even ‘90s cartoons such as Bobby’s World and The Wild Thornberrys. Perhaps the most damning revelation? There’s not a single iteration of Star Trek on TV with an affinity score even half as high as Ben and Kate, a 2012 sitcom FOX canceled before finishing a season. That’s pretty shocking, considering the constant stream of Trek references on The Big Bang Theory, and that multiple former Trek cast members have made cameos. Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Wesley Crusher) even has a recurring role as a fictionalized version of himself.

It’s also telling to look at the shows The Big Bang Theory fans have the least affinity with. Unsurprisingly, single-camera, laugh-track-free critical and cult favorites such as Louie, Party Down, Broad City, Veep, Peep Show, and Master of None all have negative affinity scores, along with hip sketch comedy classics such as Mr. Show with Bob and David and The State. The Big Bang Theory fans, it appears, don’t like shows that try to break — or even stretch —  the mold, preferring instead the cozy world of the American sitcom. That’s not exactly shocking, but it is out of line with the tastes of the show’s comic book-obsessed cadre of characters, who revel in their knowledge of obscure pop culture.

Based on TV affinities, The Big Bang Theory fans appear to be nostalgic, proudly uncomplicated people who appreciate consistency. They’re fairly conservative, avoiding racy, obscene, or controversial content in favor of content that likely confirms their core beliefs. They are not, in other words, your standard nerds. But that’s just TV. What else?

A look at film affinities paints a similar picture. A few nerd classics make the cut with 100%+ affinity scores, but the films The Big Bang Theory fans are the most passionate about are exactly the kinds of movies the characters would proudly mock. Michael Bay’s Transformers, for example, tops the list at an alarming 382% affinity, while two Star Wars prequels and the universally-panned Fantastic Four are all in the top ten. Meanwhile, anime classics such as Akira and Spirited Away, as well as comedy-nerd classics such as This is Spinal Tap and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, all have negative affinity scores.

This means The Big Bang Theory fans are less likely than the average person to enjoy these films — more evidence that fan tastes do not match those of the main characters. They appear to be less discerning, leaning heavily toward the popular and populist in their entertainment, but perhaps in their politics, as well. (The Big Bang Theory fans skew, ever-so-slightly, to the Midwest, South, and Southwest, aligning nicely with Trump’s America, but that’s a topic for another day.) Proudly touting such widely-reviled films and having negative affinity for more experimental, difficult work suggests they’re not the kind of people who care about critical consensus or canon-building. Again: not nerds.

Peering across Ranker’s vast library of lists lends more credence to the idea that “nerds” are not the core fanbase of The Big Bang Theory. Fans who think the show is the “Best Show Currently On the Air” also think forgotten ‘90s late-night staple Paula Poundstone is the funniest stand-up comic of all time, with Tim Allen — a ‘90s sitcom star still plugging away on ABC’s multi-camera Last Man Standing — close behind. Users who think the show is “The Greatest TV Show of All Time” also think Julia Roberts should top the list of “Greatest Actors or Actresses of All Time.” Roberts is many things, but she’s not exactly a geek icon.  

This brings us to an ugly-but-useful-for-our-purposes word: basic. If you’re unfamiliar with this mild pejorative, here’s Urban Dictionary to the rescue: “Used to describe someone devoid of defining characteristics that might make a person interesting, extraordinary, or just simply worth devoting time or attention to.” There’s also this: “An adjective used to describe any person, place, activity involving obscenely obvious behavior, dress, action.”

Julia Roberts, while undoubtedly one of the most charming and talented actresses of all time, is just about as basic an actress as you can get, at least to the hordes of fans, meme-makers, and critics that glob together, Flubber-like, to elevate a piece of entertainment to “pop culture phenomenon” status. The Big Bang Theory fans, according to Ranker Insights data, love things that cultural tastemakers — and that definitely includes nerds — consider safe, obvious, unchallenging, and above all, basic.

Everywhere you look as you pore over the data, things typically derided as “basic” keep popping up. For fast food, The Big Bang Theory fans turn to Arby’s, Taco Bell, Subway, and Papa John’s, all “basic” choices compared to, for example, the woke-ness of Chipotle or the kitschy cult cool of In-N-Out Burger. The show’s fans clearly want consistency, value, and an unchallenging, thoroughly basic menu. Musical affinities also point in this direction: fans favor safe, middle-of-the road wedding and digital jukebox staples from artists such as Shania Twain, Bryan Adams, Sting, Steve Winwood, and the Foo Fighters, while the genre-bending experimentation of Radiohead, Kanye West, Prince, or Bjork, all have negative affinity scores. (The thoroughly unbasic rapper Wiz Khalifa ranks high, but that’s likely because of his 2015 appearance with The Big Bang Theory actor Jim Parsons playing Catchphrase on The Tonight Show.)

This all lends credibility to the theory that nerd culture is ultimately the target of, not the subject of, The Big Bang Theory’s rapid-fire jokes. After all, if the show’s fans aren’t fond of the hallmarks of nerd culture — A -25% affinity with Mystery Science Theater 3000? Seriously? No affinity at all with Doctor Who? — what are they laughing at, really? Are the show’s most passionate defenders so devoted because, as Variety’s Katherine Brodsky theorizes, the culture has shifted and become more geek-friendly, and the show “lets audiences identify with and be part of that geek world?” Or are the show’s fans, happily in thrall to all things basic, just laughing at the geeks?

Ranker Insights reveals that if these fans are, in fact, geeking out vicariously through Sheldon, Leonard, Penny & Co., they aren’t exploring geek culture outside the show like you would expect. It appears they enjoy laughing at, as the show’s most vocal critics claim, what they perceive to be a caricature of nerd culture, but aren’t card-carrying members of that culture themselves.

A charitable reading of the data could lead one to conclude that the show, by inserting “geeks” into a time-tested sitcom formula, just tries to appeal to “everyone” — a sitcom-by-committee, superficially inclusive of outsiders, appealing to our most basic — and “basic” — impulses. But the hundred of thousands of The Big Bang Theory fans on Ranker suggest, instead, that the version of nerd culture the show depicts is most appealing to viewers unfamiliar with the real thing.

by    in Data

One Size Doesn’t Fit All : How Taco Bell and Chipotle Fans Differ On More Than Just Their Food Choices

“Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are,” extremely French guy Jean Brillat-Savarin said. Everyone thought this was clever enough that JBS had an entire subset of cheese named after him. Doc cannot claim the same breadth of vision, but if you tell him what you want in your burrito, he has a good idea of what movies and TV you like.

Seriously.

When you’re craving a fistful of Tex-Mex fast food, do you find yourself thinking “barbacoa” or “XXL Grilled Stuft?” That answer is more revealing than you’d expect. One of the slickest features of Ranker Insights is its ability to cross-reference movie/TV/entertainment affinities with individual brands. When you compare something as simple as the tastes of Taco Bell customers versus those of Chipotle fans, you’re seeing two vastly different fan communities.

For instance, if you’re sitting down to a hearty tray of Crunchwrap Supremes and Beefy Nacho Grillers, Doc is gonna take a wild guess that you saw Rogue One. If there’s one thing we do know, Taco Bell fans love the Star Wars franchise. And Lord of the Rings.  And Batman. Basically, they love Hollywood franchise blockbusters with monster special effects; the very top movie among this crowd is Independence Day. Thirty-one films are linked with an affinity score over 100 percent, meaning that a Taco Bell fan is at least twice as likely to be a fan of that film than the average person.  Of those 31, all but 10 were part of a cinematic franchise. Of those 10, most boast established Hollywood A-listers like Will Ferrell, Steven Spielberg, and Bruce Willis.

What’s happening at Chipotle? For one, its fans aren’t as forthcoming. Taco Bell fans cluster around their favorites in greater volume and concentration. Collectively, Chipotle fans are more muted about their pop culture choices. Whereas Taco Bell had 31 films crossing the 100 percent threshold, for Chipotle, that number is 17. While 67 percent of the Taco Bell favorites are part of franchises, that number is 29 percent for their fast food rival. In fact, if Chipotle fans have a soft spot for anything, it’s for coming-of-age films. The Breakfast Club, Stand By Me, Dead Poets Society, Juno, and Superbad all sprint past the 100 percent threshold. When the person in line in front of you orders a taco bowl with a tender wistfulness suggestive of poignant life lessons from a simpler time, now you know why.

You’ll see a similar enthusiasm gap with comparison to their respective TV choices. Taco Bell fans are, if nothing else, more passionate about their TV than their movies, with 38 shows surpassing the 100 percent affinity mark Chipotle? A mere 22. Taco Bell fans are all about animated shows and sitcoms. Of those 38, 17 were animated and 18 can be defined as sitcoms. Some shows, like The Simpsons and King of the Hill (Taco Bell fans’ top show), counted on both lists. Within those genres, you can see a wide variety ranging from youth programing like Rugrats, Thundercats, Saved by the Bell, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch through the more risqué fare like South Park, Beavis & Butthead, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Over in Chipotleland, things are the same, yet different. There’s a preference for animated content, but A) not nearly as strong and B) the favored shows are different.  Chipotle animation fans have a more off-center sensibility—after South Park (the only common denominator), you’ll find more cerebral meta-cartoons like The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show, Invader Zim and Rocko’s Modern Life. As for comedies, here’s a simple distinction: Taco Bell fans generally enjoy shows that feature a laugh track; Chipotle fans don’t. Chipotle fans have 12 sitcoms at or crossing the 100 percent mark. Only one of them (Roseanne) features a laugh track; the rest are single-camera series with no laugh track and off-center comic sensibilities like Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Louie. Among the Taco Bell shows, It’s Always Sunny is atypical in this respect; most of the favorites are ‘90s stage-based, laugh track-heavy classics like Seinfeld, Friends, and That ‘70s Show.

Doc isn’t saying that there’s little these groups have in common, however. Among the over 100-plus affinity movies, there are a handful of joint favorites: Independence Day, Fight Club, The Bourne Identity, and The Empire Strikes Back. Not so much with TV. Only two shows, South Park and Parks & Recreation, overlap between the competing groups.

What about music? It’s a similar pattern, but even starker.  Taco Bell fans’ music tastes are the dead center of the classic/alternative rock spectrum: Jimi Hendrix, Pearl Jam, Metallica, Queen, Guns N’ Roses, Stevie Nicks, Green Day.  All that’s missing from that list is a commercial break from your Jack FM sponsors. Once you cross the mini-mall to Chipotle, you’ve entered an alternate universe of hipster musical tastes: KT Tunstall, Mos Def, M.I.A, Sia, Smashing Pumpkins, and Tegan & Sara.

So what does this tell us? The Taco Bell fans are taking up a big spot smack in the center of mainstream pop culture. Their preferences are things that are on everyone’s radar. Chipotle fans favor sleeper hits and cult classics, the stuff you have to find on your own. What else would you expect from customers of a restaurant that requires you to be an active participant in the creation of your meal? The whole point of Chipotle is to create an order to your particular tastes. Clearly, Chipotle customers are used to that challenge, rejecting the one-size-fits-all offerings of box office blockbusters and Nielsen champions in favor of an individually curated sensibility.

What else does this tell us? Chipotle fans are older than their Taco Bell counterparts. After all, curating one’s individual sensibility and taste preferences requires years of experience. The kids at Taco Bell only have enough time to absorb the biggest and the broadest items off the entertainment menu. As they get older—some of them, anyway—those tastes will mature and diversify. Someday, they may find themselves watching an old movie or an offbeat TV show, or maybe even embracing the cosmic uncertainty of the great black bean/pinto bean divide.

Of course, even Doc doesn’t want to make the effort to figure out what’s going in his burrito.  Sometimes, Doc just wants a Supreme and a Mountain Dew and Will Ferrell. That’s when you’ll find him in line at the drive-thru.

by    in Data

ACROSS THE GREAT DIVIDE: What REALLY Separates DC and Marvel Fans

Doc had a great idea; at least he thought so. Working from the same approach as his taxonomy of Batman fans, Doc decided to do another survey, this time on one of the great divides in pop culture: Marvel vs. DC films.

Until you’re confronted with the raw numbers, it’s hard to conceive of the staggering amount of data that Ranker Insights collects. There’s such an abundance of it compiled around these two companies that wrapping anyone’s head around it in one blog post is, well, scientifically speaking, crazy talk. That said, Doc found some evidence to suggest that when it comes to Marvel and DC film fans, we’re looking at two distinctly different animals.

First, consider Marvel fans. Doc looked at movie affinities for a number of films, and if anyone is at the epicenter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s none other than Robert Downey Jr. Not only do fans of his Iron Man films overlap with several other Marvel audiences (most notably The Avengers), but that fan enthusiasm spills over to his Sherlock Holmes franchise, as well as a few decidedly non-superhero titles, like Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and Due Date.

Even Marvel fanbases that don’t have a strong actor preference are tilted heavily towards the characters. However, directors don’t factor too heavily into the equation for Marvel fans. You don’t see the Thor fans seeking out Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V or Dead Again, and Marvel fans’ love for director Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man doesn’t extend to films like Yes Man or Down with Love. On the surface, it seems that Marvel Studios’ tendency to push their directors in the direction of the Marvel “house style” standardizes their differences and allows the actors and characters to take center stage.

Marvel fans are also on the younger side of the spectrum, as evidenced by some pretty startling passions. For instance, who’d have guessed the surprisingly strong correlation between fans of Iron Man and fans of Penguins of Madagascar? (Not Doc, that’s for sure.) Maybe it should be no surprise that fans of Spider-Man—who happens to be one of the youngest major superheroes—also have strong connections with other touchstones of teen pop culture, like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars.

But the common character trait across Marvel fans lists is their pronounced loyalty to the studio itself. Fans of Captain America are also fans of Spider-Man. Fans of the X-Men (whose films, it should be noted, are made by Fox, not Marvel) are also fans of Thor. Despite it not sharing any major characters (yet) with any of Marvel’s other franchises, people who like Marvel movies are big fans of Guardians of the Galaxy. (Left out of the Marvel love fest is The Fantastic Four, who have been ill-served by Fox’s adaptations.) But the sense of brand loyalty you find among Marvel fans couldn’t be stronger.

When you look at DC fans, however, it’s a different story. Within the DC film fan world, Batman is, by far, the hero with the largest following. For those fans, the post-Dark Knight trilogy output is having a tough time getting out from under the long shadow of director Christopher Nolan. For as much as Marvel fans don’t care about directors, DC fans—particularly The Dark Knight trilogy fans—care deeply about their directors. Nolan’s non-Batman films like Inception, The Prestige, and Memento dot the upper reaches of the DC fans’ movie affinities, while Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands rank highly for fans of the 1989 Tim Burton-directed Batman.

DC fans are also older than Marvel fans. While there’s some overlap in the non-superhero movies that fans like—Transformers and Lord of the Rings are popular across the board—once you drill down into the DC favorites lists, you start to see some decidedly grown-up titles you simply don’t see on the Marvel lists, like Platoon, American Psycho, and Full Metal Jacket. If you look at the TV affinities of Wonder Woman comics fans, the list seems to have been ripped wholesale from a stray copy of TV Guide from 1978: Baretta, The Love Boat, Quincy, M.E., Starsky & Hutch, The Bionic Woman. Doc ran the top dozen movies for several comic book fanbases, and the DC lists had more than twice as many titles from the 20th century as the Marvel lists.

Doc isn’t surprised by this. After all, the DC superhero movies aim for an older audience than the Marvel output. Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder like their movies dark and serious, a far cry from the pop and fizz of Marvel filmmakers like Joss Whedon and the Russo brothers. When Superman and Batman fight, it looks like it hurts. When Iron Man and the Hulk fight, it looks like a crazy good time. (Maybe this is a long, roundabout way of confirming something you already suspected might be true. If that’s the case, welcome to data analysis, buddy.)  

Remember how a distinguishing feature of Marvel fans is the consistency with which Marvel movies showed up on their lists? Well, one of the distinguishing features of DC fans is also the consistency with which Marvel movies show up on their lists. DC fans have plenty of love for Marvel product, but that fondness isn’t exactly reciprocated. The Dark Knight is the only DC film that shows up frequently on the Marvel lists. Meanwhile, DC fans readily appreciate Marvel titles, particularly The Avengers and the movies of that group’s constituent characters.

Want an even starker example? The good folks at Warner Bros. will weep to hear it, but for fans of The Dark Knight, on their list of affinities, the recent offering Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice sits at number 922. 922! That’s the room number of your hotel, not the distance between your best movie and your most recent movie in the eyes of your biggest fans!

Doc is gonna put it as plainly as possible. The fanbase The Dark Knight shares with the fanbase of Dawn of Justice is roughly the same size as the fanbase it shares with:

Chicken Run (2000)

Do the Right Thing (1989)

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Carrie (1976)

Grandma’s Boy (2006)

Die Another Day (2002)

Grandma’s Boy. That should be a wake-up call to somebody at DC. When Dark Knight fans are considering what movie to watch that night, and it’s a tossup between your most recent Batman movie and Grandma’s Boy? That’s a sign that your cinematic universe could be in trouble.

Interestingly enough, DC does have a crossover success… just not on the big screen. The DC title that’s actually made the most inroads with Marvel comics fans is The CW’s Arrow, which turned up more often than Marvel serials like Daredevil and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Perhaps DC’s film division could take a few notes from its TV team.

For all the distinctions Doc sees between these two fanbases, there is one truth that everybody agrees on: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a damn good show. Look, it’s not like anyone needed massive amounts of data to tell us that lots of people really like a sitcom that’s openly acknowledged as a beloved classic, but it was striking. Across the affinities of movie and comics fans of both companies, no title, in any medium, showed up as consistently as Fresh Prince. (Who knows?  Maybe Will Smith’s presence in Suicide Squad will turn out to be that movie’s ace in the hole.)

See? If Marvel and DC can find some common ground, there’s hope for us all.

by    in Data

Voters Gonna Vote – Has Liberal Hollywood Produced (Half) a Nation of Haters?

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Okay, Doc is going to be up-front about this: Regardless of the outcome, Doc hereby agrees to abide by the certified results of the upcoming presidential election. There, he said it. Anderson Cooper, you can stop calling now.

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But seriously, election season is mana from heaven for data analysis junkies like Doc and his pals. So many polls! So many data points! So many trends and subsets and margins of error!  It’s going to be hard to get back to normal after so many months of high-leverage number crunching.

Doc may just have to hunker down and re-review the Brexit referendum results until the withdrawal tremors subside.

But Doc was curious to see how the Clinton/Trump battle royal was playing out in pop culture. What cultural preferences look to be ascendant, and which might be in decline?  What popular passions are driving the voting blocks inside the U.S.?

As there always are, there were some surprises and some confirmations of conventional wisdom. (It will come as no surprise, for instance, that Trump fans dig Ted Nugent and The Patriot.) But underlying all of these specific preferences and antipathies, the data suggests an unsettling meta-question that, on most days, Doc would prefer not to ask.

Being a man of science, however, he is going to swallow hard, bite the bullet and wonder out loud: Is pop culture really just for liberals/Democrats? Has Hollywood failed the conservative/Republican half of the country?

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Now, Doc has heard AM talk radio hosts voice those sentiments before, but he always assumed that it was just angry right-wing shock jocks demonizing Hollywood for effect. But the numbers from Ranker Insights suggest that there may be something to it.

Let’s start with some basics: Ranker users, by and large, go onto sites like Ranker to voice support for their favorite personalities and cultural products. Most users giving us data are doing so because they like a certain item, pushing it up the respective lists with their votes, and occasionally voting down entries they feel are less deserving.
If you look at Ranker’s correlation data, you’ll see the majority of cross-referenced preferences are positive: If a user likes A, she’ll probably like B, C and maybe D, but probably won’t like Z. But overall, it usually paints an upbeat picture: People like more things than they dislike.

Trump fans? Not so much. Not much at all, actually.

Crunch the numbers and you discover that you’re through the looking glass: They’re more likely to vote against stuff than for it. Of the movies that have a strong enough correlation to Trump fans, 70% of those movies summon an aggregate dislike, rather than support. Look at the music preferences, and 81% of them are more likely to be downvotes than upvotes.

It’s hard to stress just how unusual this is. Hillary’s breakdowns are a lot more typical. For the 95 musical acts and releases that correlate with Hillary fans, 61 of them, or 64% are positive associations.  Among the movies, 52% are positive associations… a lot closer to the norm for Ranker fan categories.

Well, Doc thought to himself, maybe that’s just Trump, who’s notoriously polarizing and liable to elevate the “haters” among his constituents.

Nope.

Doc ran the numbers for a (slightly) less polarizing guy, our last Republican Prez, George W. Bush.  Now even though W. has repeatedly declined to endorse Trump’s Republican candidacy, the pop culture numbers of their fans are comparable: W fans are more likely to dislike a movie (65/35) or musical artist (76/24) than they are to like them.

What about Ronald Reagan?  As our sunniest and most fondly-remembered Republican President—as well as the only one to make the leap to the White House from Hollywood—surely those fans would be better disposed towards pop culture, right?  The numbers are a little better, but still, fans of the Gipper dislike more movies (53/47) and music (61/39) than they actually like at all.

(We also ran numbers for fans of moderate Republican poster boy Paul Ryan, but the sample was small enough that Doc doesn’t feel confident enough to share them. But for the record, they looked a lot like Trump’s.)

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Others on the Democratic/liberal side, on the other hand, reflect the numbers of Clinton fans. Fans of President Obama like more music than they dislike by a 71/29 spread, and like more movies by a 55/45 margin. (President Obama fans also watch enough television for TV to get a cross-tab; they’re more likely to like a given show by a 63/37 breakdown.) Looking at fans of Clinton’s spirited primary rival Bernie Sanders shows that they’re also more likely to like a musical act (64/36) or TV show (67/33) than dislike it; Sanders fans do, however, show their angry maverick side when it comes to movies, which are more likely to be rejected than embraced, by a Trump-like margin of 84/16. (It’s probably too late to turn the tide, but if Trump wants to try and find that elusive common ground with the Bernie voters, he might consider hosting a cross-country series of screenings of Tommy Boy.)

Here’s a few more numbers to round out the picture. Among Ranker users, all current politicians draw negative overall approval numbers. That is to say: Ranker is not a particular haven of Hillary/Bernie fans versus Trump/Bush fans. Of all of the politicians mentioned in this article, only Reagan has an overall net positive approval rating.  Ranker users overall disapprove of Trump (60/40) by virtually the same margin they disapprove of Hillary (57/43). So it’s not like Ranker users have a particular love for Hillary herself. But her fans, like most Ranker users, like more pop culture than they dislike. Not so for Trump and his Republican cohorts.

Finally, the results for Trump/Republicans are true only of fans of the politicians and not fans of the pop culture itself; the relationship isn’t reciprocal

Doc is sorry if that sounds confusing, but here’s what it means.

As noted above, Trump fans are most likely, by far, also to be fans of Ted Nugent. However, when you cross reference with fans of the Motor City Madman himself, the Hollywood/pop culture antipathy vanishes. Turns out, fans of The Nuge like movies, TV shows and music in proportions that look a lot more like Democrats/everyone else than they resemble Trump fans. The same is true for fans of The Patriot: As a group, their preferences are a lot more typical than those of the Trump fans. Basically, it’s the fans of Republican politicians—and only Republican politicians—who are more likely to reject popular culture than they are to embrace it.

As for what this means in a larger cultural sense (and what Washington and/or Hollywood might want to do about it), Doc is a lot less sure of himself. Doc admits, he always considered pop culture to be one of those things that binds us together even when politics pulls us apart.

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But even that may be wishful thinking, as it turns out. All election season, we’ve been told that we’re a divided nation. Maybe Doc shouldn’t have been surprised to see it played out so starkly in Ranker’s data, but there it is. It’s too much to expect us to all like the same movies and music, but Doc thought that everybody at least liked movies and music in general. He can hear the response now, cutting into his train of thought, just like during those debates – “WRONG.”

Either way, Doc encourages you to vote on Nov. 8, both at your designated polling place and on Ranker.com.

by    in Data

Why Batman This Halloween? The Anatomy of a Batman Fan

So it’s Halloween time.  What are you going as?  Wait!  Let Doc take a guess.

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Batman.  Right?

Unless you’ve got a lot of green hair dye lying around, in which case you’re probably going as The Joker. Or Harley Quinn, if you’re into bats. Well, baseball bats.

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See? It was a bat joke. No, a bat joke.

Y’see, the National Retail Federation recently announced its top selling Halloween costumes for 2016 (Doc always wakes up extra early to get to the press conference). And topping the list for “millennials” (the 18 – 34 crowd) is Batman and his bat-ilk. Captain America: Civil War and Deadpool may have outpaced Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad at the box office, but when it comes time to don a costume themselves, millennials are drawn to Gotham.

Now, a franchise doesn’t just claw its way to the top of the Halloween heap by appealing to just one segment of our media-hungry millennials.  The folks dressing up in Batman costumes include everyone from the person who’s been collecting comics for 20 years (Batman costumes are the #5 on the list for the 35 and over crowd) to the college freshman who just saw Suicide Squad last week.

MOST POPULAR HALLOWEEN COSTUMES FOR MILLENNIALS (National Retail Federation 2016)
1. Batman Character
2. Witch
3. Animal (Cat, Dog, Bunny, etc.)
4. Tie: Marvel Superhero (Deadpool, Spider-Man, etc.) AND DC Superhero (Wonder Woman, Superman)
5. Vampire
6. Video Game Character
7. Slasher Movie Villain (Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, etc)
8. Pirate
9. Yoda
10. Zombie

So who are these people?  How do we separate the comics fans from the movie fans?  Obviously, there’s going to be some overlap, but thanks to Ranker Insights, it’s not hard to see that we’re talking about some pretty distinct groups.

Here we go. There are two different kinds of Batman fans. First, let’s talk about the movie fans.  On Ranker’s Best Movie Characters of All Time, The Joker ranks as #6 and Batman himself is #11. (Doc guesses Warner Bros was right to give Jack Nicholson top billing over Michael Keaton back in 1989.)  As you’d expect, when you narrow the list to millennials, though, The Joker jumps outright to #1, and Batman uses his utility belt to climb to #7.

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Dig deeper into that data, and you find some stuff that’s surprising, and some less so.  For instance, when fans of Batman as a movie character are cross-listed against Ranker’s list of Best Movies of All Time, the result is a lot of love for Batman movies; they’re 4 or 5 times more likely to be boosters of the Chris Nolan trilogy and the Nicholson/Keaton outing.  Doc was less than stunned by this finding. But if there’s one thing this group loves, it’s epic franchise filmmaking.  After the Batman films, the movies most likely to be admired by movie-Batman fans are Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Godfather parts I and II, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.  It’s only when you get to #11 that you find a stand-alone film, Nolan’s Inception.

So what about the folks who are fans of Batman as a comic book character?  Like their movie-fan brethren, The Dark Knight tops the list of movies these guys are likely to admire.  But after that, the list is a bunch of films that, for the most part, you’ll find on or near the AFI top 100: Citizen Kane, Chinatown, Ben-Hur, Amadeus.  Add in a sprinkling of cult classics (The Big Lebowski, The Truman Show, The Princess Bride) and animation milestones (Finding Nemo and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?), plus one more superhero flick—significantly, NOT a Batman movie but Spider-Man 2, for Doc’s money by far the best of the Tobey Maguire trilogy.  This is an impressive bunch of films, with tastes that run both deep and broad. Those tastes may be more refined than the movie fans’, but they’re also less intense. A Batman movie fan is about 7 times more likely than the average ranker to vote up The Dark Knight; the Batman comic-book fans are only about 2.5 times as likely to vote to push The Dark Knight up the lists.

The picture gets clearer once you look at the kinds of TV shows the two fandoms watch.  According to Ranker Insights, Batman movie fans love one show above all others, and that show is… Scrubs.

Wait, what?  Doc did not see that one coming.

But the numbers don’t lie.  If you like movie Batman, you’re almost three times more likely than the average Ranker to call Scrubs one of the better shows of the past 20 years.  Less strongly, the tastes of this group overlap with How I Met Your Mother, Supernatural, procedurals like Law & Order and Criminal Minds, and Sesame StreetSesame Street?  Hmmmm… a picture is starting to come into focus here.

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How about the comic-book fans?  The show they’re most likely to overlap ain’t Scrubs… it’s The Wire.  The rest of the list has the grown-up sensibility of the group’s movie list: Band of Brothers and Justified appear near the top, and the comedies (Arrested Development and It’s Always Sunny…) have a lot more of a TV-MA feel.

How about each fandom’s all-time TV characters?  Batman himself unsurprisingly tops both lists, but after that, the movie fans go for pretty lighthearted icons… Family Guy‘s Peter Griffin, Ron Swanson of Parks & Recreation, Homer Simpson and even Carlton Banks from The Fresh Prince.  The comic fans run in the opposite direction—serious-minded anti-heroes like Tony Soprano, Walter White and Don Draper.  For comic relief, this group turns to Peter Falk’s Columbo and Fred Gwynne’s Herman Munster.

Okay, one group likes Scrubs, Sesame Street, Supernatural, Peter Griffin and Carlton Banks.  The other likes The Wire, Breaking Bad, Mad Men and The Munsters.  What do we draw from this?  The fault line here is age. Doc wonders if the movie-Batman fans have even seen an episode of The Munsters.

You even see it in the overlaps with non-pop culture lists like The Greatest Minds of All Time.  For the movie fans, the top answers are MLK, Abe Lincoln, Mozart and Einstein… in other words, the great minds you learn about in grade school and high school.  The comic book fans line up behind Immanuel Kant, Socrates, Hippocrates, Plato and a bunch of other guys whose work you have to go to college in order to blow off.

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And Doc’s got one more telling fact, not based on cross-referencing any single list, but the range of lists that the fans tend to vote on.  Across all of Ranker, enough movie-Batman fans have voted to create cross-listings with 181 other lists.  The comic book fans have voted enough to be cross-listed with 134 lists.  Of those 134 lists, 38 of them (28%) are lists that, not to put too fine a point on it, rank female celebrities and/or characters on physical attractiveness.  Across the movie fan voting, only 18 lists (10%) have a similar focus.

Doc isn’t sure if the movie fans are more enlightened, or just haven’t hit puberty yet.  In any event, those comic book fans can’t get enough of weighing in on the top animated sex symbols or which actresses cross their legs most spectacularly.

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Doc admits it, he was looking for something to maybe cut against the stereotype of the horny comic-book geek obsessed with women he has no chance at (partly because some of them are fictional), but the data paints a picture that supports it: Older, better educated, with more refined tastes, except for an unmistakable emphasis on completely unattainable fantasy women.

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Meanwhile, the movie generation is young, in the first flush of fandom, relying on the consistency of franchises to point them towards movies they’re gonna like, and then probably going home to finish up their bio homework while watching Scrubs reruns.

So that’s the citizenry of Bat nation this Halloween. As time passes and Ranker absorbs the consensus around Suicide Squad and the character’s continuing evolution in the Affleck Era, its contours will probably shift a little. We’ll keep watching. Until then, Doc is gonna let his freak flag fly and power up the 1966 Adam West/Burt Ward camp classic. POW. THWACK. BYE.

by    in Data

Baby Bomb – Here’s How We Knew Bridget Jones’s Baby Would Tank

Doc is going to be honest here. He was probably never going to buy a ticket for Bridget Jones’s Baby… mostly because Doc believes in restricting oneself to just an apostrophe when a possessive word ends in “s.” But also because the travails of a winsome Anglo-dumpling with a journaling fixation never held much personal appeal.

But movies that Doc doesn’t personally care for make bank all the time, and clearly there were plenty in Hollywood (or at least at Universal Pictures) who were convinced that the franchise’s devoted fanbase would turn out for another spin on the Bridget-go-round. And why not? Over the past couple of years, Sequels That No One Asked For actually have been a pretty safe bet, especially the ones targeting women over 25. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 wasn’t the surprise smash of the original, but it more than made its budget back, grossing a respectable $60 million in the U.S. And last year’s Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel took in over $80 million worldwide, with a little over a third of that total coming from the U.S. With this summer’s sleeper hit Bad Moms proving the strength of the women-over-25 market, and credible critical response, most experts were looking at Bridget Jones’s Baby opening at $15 million, if not higher.

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Of course, the gang here at Ranker are not “most experts.” And accordingly, Doc can say that we had a pretty strong idea that Bridget Jones’s Baby was due for a troubled birth and a sickly, blighted existence on this earth. How’d we know?

Easy. We pulled up Ranker Insights, and dug into the numbers on Bridget Jones’s Diary, the first and best-regarded of Bridget’s misadventures. After all, the fanbase for Bridget Jones’s Diary seems like an obvious—really, the obvious—group for the movie to market to. And we learned all sorts of interesting things, like that it’s the 66th best rainy-day movie, and that Bridget’s stateside popularity is strongest in the southeast, then wanes as you move north and west across the country.

And then we pulled up the list of other films that Bridget Jones fans were most likely to voice their approval of. The first on the list, unsurprisingly, is Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, the (widely derided) first sequel to Diary. But how about those next six titles? See if you can spot any pattern…

  • Love Actually
  • Elizabeth
  • About a Boy
  • Notting Hill
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral

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You’re a smart cookie—you see where Doc is going with this, yes? No fewer than five of those six movies feature the harried, boyish stammerings of one Hugh John Mungo Grant. (And in related news: Mungo? MUNGO? Doc swears he isn’t making this stuff up.) Yes, Love Actually additionally features Grant’s Bridget Jones co-star Colin Firth, which probably accounts for its placement at #2 on the list after Edge of Reason. But otherwise, the message is clear as day: Above all others, Bridget Jones fans love, love, love them some Hugh Grant.

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This would be just peachy, except for the tiny, easily-overlooked detail that Hugh Grant decided he wanted no part of Bridget Jones’s Baby, and isn’t in the movie.   Even if you’ve just seen the film’s traditional three-shot poster, you know that the role of “handsome douche” previously filled by Grant is this time assayed by Patrick Dempsey (nee McDreamy). Now Bridget Jones fans don’t seem to have anything especially against Dempsey. On the list of TV shows most liked by Bridget Jones fans, Grey’s Anatomy ranks #9. (It’s still behind Pinky & the Brain and Golden Girls, so go figure.) But there’s no comparison between their mild affection for Dempsey and their deep and abiding passion for Hugh Grant. Their feelings for Grant’s co-stars Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth similarly pale by comparison. After Edge of Reason, the top Zellweger film on the list is Chicago, at #19. Zellweger’s breakthrough film, Jerry Maguire, sits at #532.

Wouldn’t you think that if the Bridget Jones fanbase was really devoted to Renee Zellweger, they’d be more inclined to like Jerry Maguire than, say, The Mighty Ducks or American History X? But no. Apparently, fans of Bridget Jones would rather watch Ed Norton curb-stomp a dude than see Renee Zellweger “complete” Tom Cruise. Good stuff to bear in mind when you’re planning your next at-home double feature.

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And so there was zero astonishment around Ranker HQ when Bridget Jones’s Baby didn’t even crack $9 million in its opening weekend. Doc takes no joy in being right about this stuff. He wants all the movies to do well, what with a rising tide lifting all boats and everything. But when you blow it this big, and this obviously, you deserve to get called on it.

So for future reference, trying to sustain a movie franchise after shedding its fans’ favorite character/actor is a lousy idea. And that’s the only truth Doc has for you this week, baby.

by    in Data

Big Data Shows Movie Fans Love Tom Hanks, Just Not in Sequels

It’s summertime. And when it comes to big-budget movies, that also means it’s sequel time. We’ve already seen remarkable successes like Captain America: Civil War and Finding Dory, and a few flops (at least, based on their allotted budget) like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 and Independence Day: Resurgence. This got us at Ranker Insights thinking: what goes into making a successful sequel? The truth is, there are a lot of extenuating circumstances that contribute. The box office success of the original just happens to be one of them. From solid, open-ended plot lines and apparent depth of main characters to preordained fan bases and predictably bankable actors, big data suggests many factors come into play when creating a flourishing movie franchise. However, this much seems certain: you’re probably better off casting anyone but who voters consider the greatest actor of all time.

Allow us to explain. Big data can tell you big things when it comes to making a great film. But if you’re planning on getting the most bang for your buck on your original idea, even the smallest minutia might make a big deal. For instance, let’s take a look at the top 30 of the Best Movie Characters of All Time. Notice anything? Sure, you see all the memorable characters you would expect to see near the top: Forrest Gump, Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Bruce Wayne/Batman are all in the top 10. This makes sense, especially when you consider their names are usually in the title of the movies their characters star in. Look a little closer, and further analyze the films from which these characters came. Of the top 30, 22 of them were strong enough to star in a sequel or trilogy. Now, let’s look at the eight that didn’t return to entertain you once again. What do all these movies have in common? That’s right. They all involve the indisputably lovable Thomas Jeffrey Hanks.

Why is this you ask? Good question. Certainly Toy Story was a smashing success, and went on to create not one – but two – great sequels. Toy Story 2 was even voted 8th on Ranker’s list of Best Movie Sequels. But for obvious reasons, that franchise just featured his voice, not his face. The only sequel in which Tom Hanks participated in and had to actually act, The DaVinci Code, produced far less favorable results. While Angels & Demons still proved to be a box office success, it only took in about 2/3 of the box office its predecessor did. And as for the character Hanks portrayed, Robert Langdon, well, he is nowhere to be found on the Best Movie Characters of All Time list.

It doesn’t seem to be Tom’s directorial choices either, as the Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg combo are a whopping 975% more likely to be liked by Tom Hanks fans, with the Tom Hanks/Ron Howard team coming in a close second at 809%. And it’s not like these fans are adverse to the idea of sequels either. Voters who like Tom all like their action, adventure, and animated sequels. In fact, Tom fanatics are 549% more likely to enjoy Captain America: The Winter Solider; 258% more likely to have high praise for Back to the Future II; and 396% more likely to be a fan of the previously mentioned Toy Story 2. Heck, the analytics show that voters on the Greatest Actor & Actress in Entertainment History are willing for a sequel of any kind: they’re 38% more likely to vote up the universally agreed upon clunker, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles. Maybe Tom Hanks-related sequels were meant not to be seen, but simply heard.

Perhaps it’s just a demographic thing? Nope, as that doesn’t seem to matter either. In fact, Toy Story 2 even drops in the rankings to number 9 among international voters and even further to 10 among female voters. Judging by the data mined from Actors You Would Watch Read The Phone Book, analytics show that Tom Hanks fans are 200% (or more) likely to listen to Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp or Liam Neeson go through the names from A to Z, and all four know a thing or two about sequels. However, with Hanks ranking sixth on that same list, we can now confidently deduce that the reason for so few sequels from the actor is probably not his acting itself.

In all likeliness, it’s probably just a content thing. Most of Hanks roles have a historical end, or at the very least, a distinctive one. The stories he stars in just don’t lend themselves to sequels. Voters must agree, as there is nary a Hanks movie to be found on Ranker’s list of Movies That Need Sequels. Saving Private Ryan? Saved. Catch Me If You Can? Caught. Philadelphia? Finished. So don’t hold your breath waiting for Forrest Gumper or Sully 2: Nursing Home Boogaloo, regardless of how well it does upon release in early September. These Hanks vehicles just don’t seem to be in demand, success be damned.

Now, Ranker Insights would never be one to tell you how to create a successful movie franchise, because frankly, that would be a thankless job. But if your job is to create a character that is memorable enough to secure a sequel, big data shows your main character should probably be a Hanks-less one. He’s seems to be the epitome of Mr. One-and-Done.

by    in Data

Using Data To Determine The Best Months Of The Year

Why do people like some months more than others? For many, it is all about the holidays:

“I love the scents of winter! For me, it’s all about the feeling you get when you smell pumpkin spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, gingerbread and spruce.” – Taylor Swift

while for others, it is about avoiding the cold

“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” – Carl Reiner

and for some more disaffected souls, it is about the specifics

“August used to be a sad month for me. As the days went on, the thought of school starting weighed heavily upon my young frame.“ – Henry Rollins

Presumably all of these preferences and this angst is reflected in Ranker’s Best Months of the Year list. The graphic below provides a visualization of the opinions of ranker users. Each row is a different person, and their (sometimes incomplete) ranking of the months is shown from best-to-worst from left-to-right. The months are color coded by the four seasons: Spring has the hues of green, summer is yellow, fall has the rustic earth hues of brown, and winter is blue.

BestMonthsOriginal

The patchwork quilt of colors and hues makes it is clear that different people have different opinions. We wanted to understand the structure of these individual differences, using cognitive data analysis.

To do this, we used a simple model of how people produce rankings—known as a Thurstonian model, going back to the 1920s in psychology—that we have previously applied successfully to Ranker data. Rather than assuming everybody’s rankings were based on a shared opinion, we allowed this version of the model to have groups or clusters of people, and for each group to have their own preferences for the months. We didn’t want to pre-determine the number of groups, and so we allowed our model to make this inference directly from the data. Our modeling approach thus involves two sorts of interacting uncertainties: about how many groups there are, and about which people belong to which group. Bayesian statistical methods are well suited to handling these sorts of uncertainties.

For fans of Bayesian cognitive graphical models — we know you’re out there — the final model we used is shown in the figure below. For non-fans of Bayesian cognitive graphical models — we KNOW you’re out there — there are three important parts. The variable gamma at the top corresponds to how many groups there are, the variables z to the side correspond to which of these groups each individual belongs, and all of this is inferred from the rankings people gave, represented by the variables at the bottom.

GraphicalModel

The figure below shows the first key insight from the model. It shows the probability that there are 1, 2, …, 17 groups, ranging from everybody having the same opinion about the best months, to everyone having their own unique opinion. There is uncertainty about how many groups the rankings reveal, but the most likely answer is that there are four.

Gamma

Assuming there are four groups, the figure below organizes the ranking data  by grouping together the people most likely to belong to each group. Group 1 shows a preference for late summer and early fall, and hates cold weather. Group 2 shows a preference for the holidays. They like fall and Christmas time and despise hot weather. Group 3 loves the summertime and hates the winter. We had a look at where these people were from, and it probably comes as no surprise they’re all from the north-east of the US. The last group, a bit like Henry Rollins, stands out as a consensus of one.

BestMonths

This analysis shows how cognitive models with individual differences can help understand opinion groupings, and deal with difficult questions like how many groups exist. One especially interesting feature of the Best Months list is that at least one of the groups is defined more by what comes at the bottom of their lists than the top. People in group 1 don’t agree very precisely on which months they like, but they all agree they don’t like winter months. This shows that it is not just the top few items on a Ranker list that carry useful information: what comes at the bottom can be just as informative. Both what you love and hate matters.

“When I was young, I loved summer and hated winter. When I got older I loved winter and hated summer. Now that I’m even older, and wiser, I hate both summer and winter.” – Jarod Kintz

 

Crystal Velasquez and Michael Lee

by    in Data

According to Big Data, Millennials Don’t Care Much About America’s Pastime

Does Respect for the Past Bode Well for Baseball’s Future?
Breaking Down the Big Data of the Greatest Baseball Players of All Time List

How much does America’s Pastime’s current popularity factor into the rankings of who are the greatest baseball players of all time? And, what factors beyond simple player statistics come into play when one makes their own list? Well, the resulting Ranker data speaks – or rather, cheers – volumes when it comes to players of past generations. While nostalgia might have some effect on the voting, is the lack of current players represented on the list a sign that voters have an unwavering respect for the legends of the past, or is our national pastime becoming just that? Past its time.

Ranker asked participants upfront to list the best baseball players only by their on-field accomplishments. Nearly 115,000 votes from almost 7,500 participants have chimed in, and it’s no surprise who was the consensus top pick. With a lifetime batting average of .342 and #1 in all-time OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), the voters made their choice clear: Babe Ruth. Anyone who has had a casual conversation around this topic knows the Great Bambino is always one of the first names mentioned when it comes to ranking the greatest players of all time, and he’s usually a favorite across all ages.

Whether you are an astute baseball statistical historian, been sitting in your team’s bleachers since you were a child, or are one of nearly 60 million people who play fantasy sports, you probably have at least a passing opinion about who is the best of all time. According to Ranker’s data, your top 5 has some combination of the Babe, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, and Willie Mays or Hank Aaron, the latter being the latest retiree of the group, which was all the way back in 1976. Once you break down the demographics even a little bit further, that’s when things start to get interesting.

Gone, but not forgotten.

The most glaring data at first glance is there’s nary an active player on the all-time list’s starting roster. In fact, it isn’t until you get down to #44 where you’ll find someone who is still an active player in Ichiro Suzuki. For the record, Ichiro is ranked only #76 on Ranker’s Top CURRENT Baseball Players List. Does this imply that voters know and respect their history? Or could it be that the current crop of baseball players aren’t well represented because they aren’t being watched? Television ratings data suggests that a steady decline in viewership over the years might play a factor in the voting. Major League Baseball as an entity is as strong as ever (just have a look at some of the salaries they’re handing out), people aren’t as interested in the game as they used to be.

How much does a voter’s age factor into the results? A deeper dive into the big data analytics suggests quite a bit. Baby Boomers are 184% more likely to have Mel Ott on their list than any other age group because, you know, they’ve actually seen him play. If you’re between the ages of 30-49, you are a whopping 305% more likely to have Sadaharu Oh of the Yomuiri Giants on your list (which suggests that internationally, fans aren’t only passionate about their soccer). If you’re a Millennial, you must enjoy a good quote. They are 248% and 234% more likely to vote for the non sequitur machine Yogi Berra and the forever quirky Rickey Henderson, respectively. Ranker doesn’t have analytics to suggest that voters in the 30-49 age demographic were all mustache enthusiasts, they were 281% more likely to include Rollie Fingers on their list.

However, those stats focus on specific characters in the game that a certain demographic is drawn to. Where are the Mike Trouts (#1 with people under the age of 29 on the Top Current Baseball Players List), Clayton Kershaws (#2), or players who have brand recognition among fans like Troy Tulowitzki (#20)? All of them, gaudy numbers and all, failed to crack the top 100. In fact, the only other active players on the list (besides the aging Ichiro) were the also-aging Albert Pujols (#48) and Miguel Cabrera (#90). Maybe, there’s just not a large (or long) enough sample size to include current players on this list of all-time greats.

Is today’s game yesterday’s news?

Perhaps voters are just into something else. When you look at the voting demographics, Young voters are the least represented participants, with the majority being aged 30 and up. But with nearly 23% of the votes, you would think at least a couple more current players would sneak in, wouldn’t you? Perhaps baseball just doesn’t resonate with this new generation. They’re gravitating toward playing lacrosse, on their video game consoles, or even fiddling with their smartphones. As a recent article in the Wall Street Journal even suggests, younger people are just tuning out.

So who’s got next?

The times may have changed, but according to Ranker data, the best baseball players really haven’t. From Cobb in the dead-ball era and Satchel Paige of the Negro Leagues to various International Leagues and beyond, the voters know that the greatest all-time baseball was played beyond just the Major Leagues here in the States. Records were made to be broken, but which of the best baseball players of today do you think will eventually break into the all-time list? Only time (and the fickle, under the age of 30 voters) will tell. So if you should happen to ask a Millennial if they saw the game last night, just don’t expect them to inquire who won. You’ll probably just get a “who cares?”

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