I’ve gone down the Lifetime Movie rabbit hole. In a manner not unlike so many Lifetime female protagonists obsessed with solving the case, uncovering a conman (or conwoman!), and/or surviving being trapped under a pool cover for an entire holiday weekend.
Honestly, I’ve always enjoyed the plot audacity and general digestibility of a Lifetime movie. They’re not even a guilty pleasure, because I don’t feel guilty for watching. Then, a few weeks ago, my friend told me he worked on a recently-premiered Lifetime movie (A Dangerous Date) — AND, he and two other friends are pitching ideas to the network for new original movies. This got my data juices flowing. The rabbit hole was dug.
I wanted to use data to help my friends become successful Lifetime movie creators. (And I fully expect to be credited in the end-scroll.) Primarily, I wondered:
- What are the general “kinds” of Lifetime movies? Is the network interested in expanding existing genres, or putting a new spin into an under-explored area?
- What Lifetime movies are considered “successes”? Is it a property that’s generally well-reviewed? Or a property that’s notorious, regardless of what critics say?
- Can math help me decide what Lifetime movie to watch this weekend?
Enter, my Complete Taxonomy of Lifetime Movies, based on every single property in the March 2018 Lifetime Movie Club streaming catalog:
This is a network diagram that’s inspired by a poster I’ve seen by Wine Folly, that diagrams all the major types of wine. I like that it’s basically a qualitative arrangement of the topics, the simple purpose being visual entertainment. That is, as opposed to “true” network diagrams that use statistics to determine the size of each circle (“node”), the relationship/distance between circles (“tie”), and all that good nerdy stuff. (Here’s an awesome overview from a Violence Reduction Network presentation about using network analysis to quantify gang dynamics, which crime-fighters can apply to intervene on high-risk and high-influence nodes [based on their “centrality” to the network]. I AM GEEKING OUT HARD. Note that my Lifetime work is not even close to that level of statistical rigor or subject mater importance.)
I like this Taxonomy as an exploratory tool. An introduction to the Lifetime universe. One of my objectives of this analysis was to help my friends identify opportunities. So let’s see. It seems like stalking movies are a big area of interest, but that there aren’t many female-being-stalked-by-an-unknown-person stories (usually the stalker is known to the protagonist). Or, it seems like stories about Traumatic Violence, like wrongly-accused-child-abuse and victim-escaping-domestic-violence, are actually pretty well-received; it’s a heavier subject area than, say, a woman being stalked by the man who saved her from a shark attack. But a good writing team could handle it.
While the Taxonomy is a good way to organize all these individual movies into one big picture, I wanted to play around with some other ways to represent this information. Mostly because I needed some guidance on which movie to stream this weekend. But also, it could help my friend pitch to the business folks. Let me show you what I mean:
Here’s professional me at the Lifetime pitch. “I realize stalking movies are your biggest genre. Among these movies, regardless of how well it was reviewed, only 300 people on average are generating reviews. Whereas Fight-For-Survival movies by far get the most viewers, even though it’s a smaller genre and generally less well-reviewed. I want to combine the strength of stalking movies with the draw of survival movies with [I’m making this up but I love it] our new movie where a woman and her female stalker neighbor must fight together for survival.”
Here’s lazy me on Sunday afternoon. “Oooh, the most-viewed Teen Drama movie stars Jenna Dewan Tatum? I’m in for Fab Five: The Texas Cheerleading Scandal.” [Cue me on the couch with a bloody mary for the next 90 minutes.]
Right now, this analysis only includes the 105 movies in the Lifetime Movie Club streaming catalog. Lifetime has A TON more properties than what’s listed here. So let’s consider the streaming catalog my “training set” for the Taxonomy, and hopefully down the road I can get access to additional Lifetime movie data; the idea is that the categories that emerged from the “training set” should persist even when new datapoints are added. For example, the Lifetime movie we watched in high school health ed class would fall into Mental Health-Compassionate Drama-Eating Disorder-Mother Helps Child Overcome; my friend’s movie, A Dangerous Date, would fall into Crime-Deceit-Protagonist Victim. I hope the taxonomy holds up, but I also would fully-welcome a genre-defying datapoint.
Enjoy the shows, Dataheads.