Massachusetts Loves Itself

The Departed, Gladiator, and the Bay State’s self-regard.

Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker

Last week, I wrote about the fun and the pitfalls of viral maps, a feature that included 88 super-simple maps of my own creation. As a follow-up, I’m writing up short items on some of those maps, walking through how I created them and how they succumb to (and hopefully overcome) the shortfalls of viral cartography.

First up, here’s a map that looks at the state-by-state popularity of all the Best Picture Oscar winners since 2000.

Data source: Public Facebook data. Map by Ben Blatt/Slate.

For this map, I used Facebook’s Audiences calculation, which lets you determine the number of Facebook users in a given area who like (or who are talking about) a certain movie, album, book, or anything else. This map leaves you with two obvious takeaways: 1) America loves Gladiator and 2) Massachusetts loves The Departed, a movie set in Massachusetts.

Unless you’re a Massachusetts hater or fanboy, this isn’t very thought-provoking. If you were hoping to assess the popularity of The Hurt Locker or Argo, this map is not for you.

To drill down further, here’s a map of the most distinctly popular Best Picture winner in each state. This was calculated by looking at the Oscar favorite that’s the most popular in each state as compared with its level of popularity across the entire country.

Data source: Public Facebook data. Map by Ben Blatt/Slate.

These results show a lot more regional variation. The Artist is popular in New York and California, 12 Years a Slave has a lot of fans in the Deep South, the Midwest digs Chicago, and New England is all about The Departed.

It’s important to remember that the map above shows distinct, not absolute, taste, so while Argo is marked as the most distinctly popular Best Picture winner in Texas, it is not that state’s most-“liked” Oscar honoree. In fact, a movie with a large and broad audience like Gladiator will be unlikely to have a high likability ratio in any state. And that’s how you can make data tell two totally different stories. One map leads you to believe that Gladiator is everyone’s favorite, but another doesn’t include Gladiator at all.

Here’s one more map for you, Massholes and Masshaters. This time, let’s compare the popularity of Massachusetts-born (and star of The Departed) Matt Damon to that of another famous actor.

Data source: Public Facebook data. Map by Ben Blatt/Slate.

Yep, that seems about right.

See more of Slate’s maps.