Fight Club’s Facebook Fans Are a Bit Like Tyler Durden: Sophisticated, Thrill-Seeking Non-ConformistsConsumer Share
Do the movies people list on their Facebook profiles say something about who they are? Common sense says they do, but it’s not clear what they say exactly or how reliable the message is. Over the past several months, MyType users have provided us with a wealth of data to explore this question. Nearly 100,000 people who completed a core psychology quiz also shared the movies portion of their Facebook profiles. In a series of blog posts, we’ll dig into this data to see what it can tell us.
This initial post profiles the fan bases of four popular movies: The Lord of the Rings, Sex and the City, The Notebook and Fight Club. Each movie’s fan profile highlights how its fans differ from everyone else. Sex and the City fans, for instance, are 1.4 times more likely to be moody, and 1.7 times more likely to value power. Yeah, they’re complicated.. just like the four women the movie revolves around. Fight Club fans, as you will see, are also more likely to have traits embodied by the movie’s characters.
Please keep in mind that these fan profiles are statistics, not stereotypes. A more accurate, less fun headline would be “Fight Club’s Facebook Fans Are More Likely To Be Sophisticated, Thrill-Seeking Non-Conformists”. There are plenty of unsophisticated, conventional Fight Club fans out there. We can’t all be like Tyler Durden.
Lord of the Rings
Considering that the The Lord of the Rings movies are some of the most popular of all time, you might expect fans of the trilogy to be pretty normal, or statistically average. While this is mostly true, the fan profile highlights a few key differences — some predictable, others more revealing. Predictably, LOTR fans are more likely than others to be imaginative and to value tradition. An immersive fantasy world requires some imagination to appreciate, and the story’s themes are about as traditional as they come.
Fans are also 25% more likely to value conformity, which is again in line with the films. But I suspect there’s another factor at play. Liking a movie (or anything) on Facebook is often a two-part decision: 1) how much do I actually like the movie, and 2) what will Facebook-liking this movie say about me to others? (For some people, #2 operates semi- or even un-consciously. For others, it’s very consciously the most important factor. If you’re sincerely skeptical about #2’s existence at all, please read Hugo Liu’s Social Network Profiles As Taste Performances, or subscribe to this blog, we’ll write about this topic in depth another time. In the meantime, ask your friends about it, you’ll be surprised.) Given the extreme popularity of the LOTR movies, Facebook-liking them says in a small way that you’re not that different. People who value conformity should be comfortable with this signal, perhaps even welcome it. For non-conformists, on the other hand, it’s a deterrent.
The least predictable part of the LOTR fan profile, at least for me, is the set of relatively high scores on all five moral foundations we measure. But in hindsight this makes sense. LOTR is fundamentally a story of good vs. evil, and there is no subtlety about who is on which side. This kind of black and white morality play should appeal to those with strong moral convictions, especially when good wins over evil.
The Lord of the Rings Fan Profile
Based on 5,674 fans. The figures are likelihood ratios, for instance LOTR fans are 1.2 times (20%) more likely than others to score high on imagination as measured by our psychology survey.
Other Standout Characteristics Religiosity: devoutly religious (1.4x). Professional Values: morality (1.4x). Interests: books and literature (1.2x), computers and electronics (1.25x), religion and spirituality (1.2x), science (1.2x), video games (1.55x).
Sex and the City
The Sex and the City movie is inseparable from the TV show, both of which revolve around four New York City professional women in their 30s and 40s. Carrie Bradshaw, pictured to the left, is the narrator and embodiment of the series. A writer and member of the New York glitterati, she enjoys her independence, continues to date well into her 30s, lives in a one-room apartment and uses her oven for storage. She feels lonely at times, however, and can’t wait to find “ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other” love. All four of the women are a complicated mix of ambition and femininity, allowing the series to dramatize issues surrounding the changing roles and set of expectations for the modern woman.
The Sex and the City fan profile suggests that many fans relate closely to the characters and, in the case of the TV series, may even live vicariously through them. Like the ladies of the show, fans tend to be extraverted, diligent and competitive, all strong traits. But fans are also moody, i.e. more emotional and easily upset than others. This is an unusual mix of traits, a pattern that repeats itself across all of our measurement categories. People who value power and achievement are less likely to value pleasure, and vice versa, but Sex and the City fans tend to value all three. Professionally fans are more likely to value independence and respect but also team work and relationships. And their standout interests defy gender patterns: business, fashion, finance, shopping, etc. They’re a multi-faceted bunch, just like the show’s characters.
Sex and the City Fan Profile
Based on 624 fans. ”NOT” is used to identify the low extreme of a scale, for instance the “NOT Tradition (1.7x)” figure means that Sex and the City fans are 1.7 times more likely to score low on Tradition.
Other Standout Characteristics Religiosity: somewhat religious (1.3x). Professional Values: independence (1.3x), relationships (1.25x), respect (1.35x), team work (1.2), work ethic (1.3). Interests: business (1.3x), dance (1.5x), dating (1.4x), fashion (1.85x), finance (1.2x), movies (1.2x), nightlife (1.7x), shopping (2.1x), travel (1.3x), TV (1.4x).
I’ve not seen The Notebook. It’s a story of separated lovers that most consider a cliched tearjerker. Some are repelled by the sap, others acknowledge it but consider the characters so endearing and/or the overall story so touching that the sap is worth it, or even a good thing in its own right. (Check out the Rotten Tomatoes page for detailed opinions.) The fan profile suggests that personality is a particularly important determinant of which side a person falls. I wonder if people with those four personality traits are prone to sap in general — the tearjerker personality type? Worth looking into..
Of all the results, I find the conservative/religious leaning the most intriguing. Is it simply that liberals and the non-religious are more skeptical, or is there something ideological about this movie that I will never see?
The Notebook Fan Profile
Based on 2,987 fans.
Other Standout Characteristics Religiosity: devoutly religious (1.3x), somewhat religious (1.2x). Professional Values: morality (1.25x), order (1.4x), relationships (1.35x), respect (1.3x). Interests: dance (1.55x), dating (1.4x), family (1.3x), fashion (1.5x), nightlife (1.35x), shopping (1.7x).
For those (hypothetical people) who don’t know the basic premise of Fight Club: an insomniac who’s bored at work meets the rebellious Tyler Durden, shown to the left, and together they form a underground club for men frustrated with societal conventions. They vent their rage by fighting each other and eventually direct it at society itself, when Fight Club graduates to “Project Mayhem”. Netflix describes the critically-acclaimed film as “witty, mind-bending, gritty, dark, violent”.
The fan profile reads almost like a psychological assessment of the Durden character, the primary subject of fan fascination. (There’s a popular blog called What Would Tyler Durden Do.) A few pointers as you look it over. ”Competitive” may not sound Durden-esque until you realize that it refers to a confrontational and manipulative kind of competitiveness. The “stimulation” value refers to the love of excitement, novelty and challenge in life.. in other words, the thrill-seeker’s raison d’etre. Lastly, Fight Club fans score lower than others on all five morals that we measure, making them fairly morally permissive as a group, at least when compared to others. What would Tyler Durden do, indeed.
Fight Club Fan Profile
Based on 3,666 fans. Again, “NOT” is used to identify the low extreme of a measurement, for instance the “NOT Group Loyalty (1.5x)” figure means that Fight Club fans are 1.5 times more likely to score low on the Group Loyalty moral scale.
Other Standout Characteristics Religiosity: neither religious nor spiritual (1.7x). Professional Values: creativity (1.6x), innovation (1.6x), intelligence (1.6x). Interests: the arts (1.2x), automobiles (1.3x), computers and electronics (1.35x), dating (1.3x), internet (1.2x), movies (1.2x), nightlife (1.6x), science (1.35x), video games (1.7x).
We Like Movies Like Us
These four fan profiles suggest that fans of a given movie are (on the whole) different from others in meaningful, often predictable ways. In particular, it seems that we tend to like movies that are like us, whose characters are like us and whose worldview we share. The MyType team calculated dozens of other fan profiles and this pattern popped up again and again.
But not always. And I don’t mean “not always” in the statistical exception sense, i.e. that just because Fight Club fans are more likely to be non-conformists does not mean all Fight Club fans are non-conformist. That goes without saying. I mean that sometimes a movie’s fan base is statistically more likely to be different from the movie’s characters and/or worldview. For example, though the movie Titanic portrays strength, the 896 Titanic fans in our user base are 25% more likely to be insecure. Are insecure people more likely to be drawn to films with strong characters? Perhaps, though I expect the relationship will be more complex. Either way, we’ll look into it.
Bottom line, while similarity seems to be one of the primary factors drawing fans to a movie, it’s not the only one, and in the case of certain movies not even the dominant one. As you would expect, the relationship between movies and their fans is multi-faceted and complex. This brief blog post is just scratching the surface. I’d like to explore some of this complexity in depth by diving deeper on a single movie, ideally one recognized as enigmatic. Napoleon Dynamite seems like a good choice. What do you think?
Fine Print For Nerds
This document provides a full description of the methodology for calculating Facebook Fan profiles. We’d like to give a shout out to Google Refine for making it so easy to run a series of sophisticated string-matching algorithms, which comes in handy when working with messy Facebook profile info.Share