How Holes in Data Analysis Can Overstate the Prevalence of Racism, Sexism and Success in Film

By Beanie Barnes

Data is a funny thing. It can, at once, confirm and discredit the exact same theory. For example, if a $500m film makes $100m at the box office on its opening weekend, it could mean that the film is a) a bust or b) gaining momentum. Such was the case with Avatar. By the end of 2009, several people were calling the film a “flop,” but by mid-2010, it was obvious that, of all the words to describe Avatar, “flop” was not one of them. And although the film has been hailed as a marketing and technological success, if it had failed, it very likely would have been called it a marketing and technological bomb (with marketing heads rolling at the studio).

Misreading data is prevalent in film. It isn’t so much that we misread the tea leaves, so much as it is that, rather than reading
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