NY Times’ Netflix Map Generator
Netflix gave The Grey Lady access to the rental patterns for their top movie titles in 2009 and the Times went to town converting zip code based data into graphical renderings of rental patterns for said movies. The generator is fun to play with and features some interesting patters like the limited, Manhattan and hipster Brooklyn appeal of Mad Men and the exclusively suburban draw of Last Chance Harvey.
I’ve got some of the more interesting maps, including a stark comparisons that perhaps reflects the persistent residential segregation of New York and the appeal of homosexually themed films in minority communities. On a more comfortable level, a movie about robots was most most popular among non-humans.
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Let’s start with the fun. Zip code 11371 is a Queens County district that fully encompasses JFK airport… and nothing else. Its population formally is zero. The demographic information fully flatlines as well (city-data.com is my source).
And yet there is still Netflix data for 11371. Wall-E was the 41st most rented title for Netflix in 2009. It cracked the top 10 only in one zip code in the New York metropolitan area. It did so as the most popular title in 11371 (creepily, Oz: Season 3, Romancing the Stone, Crocodile Dundee II and something called The Midnight Meat Train were all top 10 titles). Assuming that the electronic baggage sorting machines at JFK were placing the orders (and not airport employees or, say, Tom Hanks’ character in The Terminal), they love their Pixar but they otherwise have some serious issues.
On the less fun side, we’ve got the stark comparison between the areas of New York not considered to be low-income and minority filled and the rest of the city. It’s long been a very poorly kept secret that New York has been a bastion of that most insidious form of silent racism — residential segregation.
This has existed throughout New Amsterdam and New York’s history. New York was home to the first tenement slums and the first suburbs. It became the first commuter community and the most prominent strap-hanger refuge. The irony is that the commuter / strap-hanger veil makes people forget that their suburbs and co-ops (as well as the incredibly high cost of living and home ownership in the city) keep the occupants of the city (the very ones you share that subway car railing with) well insulated from each other.
Well the Netflix data also reveals that tastes remain pretty segregated as well. The first of the following two slides shows the rental base for Tyler Perry’s Family That Preys. The second shows viewership for the Sean Penn bio-pic “Milk“, depicting Harvey Milk’s crusade as the first publicly gay elected official in America.
The maps almost remind me of the map game of piecing South America into the horns of Africa. Where one starts, the other ends. Milk was not alone in its failure to appeal to African American communities (Burn After Reading and Rachel Getting Married had somewhat similar patterns), so it may be a bit presumptuous to pre-suppose that the homosexual content influenced rental patters. That said, it is not too much of a reach to connect the targeting of Tyler Perry’s movies to African American audiences (to tremendous success, I might note) and the rental patterns.
What is also notable is that I get to continue to be a Manhattan snob because my island did not fall prey to most of the truly crap movies on this list, such as the Nic Cage disaster movie (which happened to be about disasters as well… dang… hard to deliver a joke like that via type) Knowing.