Clown: reflection on and a Bayesian analysis of a Danish comedy

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Bayescontingency

In December 2010 the Danish pseudo cinéma vérité sitcom Klovn (English: Clown) made the transition to silver screen with the å-movie Klovn: The movie, and with great success ticket-, award– and critical-wise, – and one American(?) blogger even referring to the Klovn-duo as part of The Danish cinema trinity – the two others being Susanne von Bier and Lars Trier. Now the movie is scheduled to have its North American premiere in Montreal July 22th 2011 at the Fantasia International Film Festival, and we have, what I believe, the first longer non-Danish English review by one Simon Howell. Previously the movie has also roamed other Nordic countries: Iceland, Norway and Finland (Swedes, I am told, have no humor so it hasn’t been running there apparently).

In Klovn we get embarrasment comedy coupled with a half-serious story on maturation with the issue of harrassment and a realistic dialogue, nakedness and setting in camp school and nature, – some elements reminding me of Nils Malmros 1981 film “The Tree of Knowledge“. In Malmros’ case the realism is gained by closely directing amateur actors and paying particular attention to the Aarhus prosody. In Klovn the realism comes from the Curb Your enthusiasm-inspired improvised dialog and perhaps a Riget-inspired non-imposing discontinuous editing and handheld camerawork. Reviewer Simon Howell further tells us that Klovn shows elements of Apatow‘s manchild maturation movies (which I haven’t seen or heard of before) as well as “the debauched bro humor of 2009 film The Hangover” (another one that I didn’t know of). I had to look up what “debauched bro” meant: I think it might mean something like Danish drengerøv.

I wonder how the self-exposuring de-tabooing humor sits with an American audience? Could this disinhibited piece start a new crisis as Muhammed Cartoons did or scale the Lars Trier nazi Cannes controversy? The “south of the waist line” and “expose everything” Freudian tsunami comedy in this “drengerøvs”-movie portraying self-promoting immature males can generate some mixed attitudes. Although Danes have generally been positive, negative response are found here and there, e.g., in the conservative news Berlingske comment section where one woman stated she had never seen more pervert entertainment. Care for a taste the American blogger suggests one (I would say) very innocuous (for the audience!) clip from the TV-series.

Are we dealing with a movie only for males? IMDb rating voters for the Klovn TV-series shows a much larger proportion of male compared to female voters (7% female of total). The same pattern occures for the movie (8% female votes). The Shawshank Redemption reaches 13% female voters and Amélie 23%. I theorized that female reviewers rate the movie lower than males.

So with the help of a small poster on Odense train station listing many reviews I tracked and I went through the movie reviews noting the gender of the reviewer and the number of stars given. In Denmark you can usually give up to six stars. However, comedies are not allowed to get six stars unless they get special permission, so for Klovn all reviewers either gave the movie 4 or 5 stars. That is, we have a two-by-two problem: female/male-times-four/five. And what is then more natural than to use the Bayesian version of test with the hypergeometric statistical distribution on the two-by-two categorical contigency table to examine if female reviewers on average give Klovn a lower score than male reviewers. How do we do that? Luckily, prominent statistician Andrew Gelman has suggested using two parallel binomial distributions and one of his blog readers Bob Carpenter implemented a simulation in R. Below are some of the data listed after I lost the original data:

Review Publication Gender Rate Link
Iben Albinus Sabroe Berlingske F 4 link
Birgitte Grue BT F 4 link
Morten Dürr Børsen M 4  
Frederik A. Vandrup CinemaZone.dk/24timer/MetroXpress M 4 link
Henrik Jonsen Citylife M 5 link
Per Juul Carlsen DR P1 Filmland M 5 link
Kristian Ditlev Jensen Ekko M 4 link
Henrik Queitsch Ekstra Bladet M 5 link
Rikke Rottensten Femina M 5 link
Bjørn Kryger Larsen Film-nyt.dk M 5 link
Søren Ildved Filmz M 4 link
Simon Staun Fyens M 5 link
Holger Madsen Jydske Vestkysten M 5 link
Palle Schantz Lauridsen Kristeligt Dagblad F 5 link, (star link)
Nanna Frank Rasmussen kpn.dk F 5 link
Christoffer Dvinge Onfilm M 4 link
Sofie Rosendahl Q F 5 link
Erik Jensen Politiken/iByen M 5 link
Jonas Varsted Kirkegaard Information M ? link
Nikolaj Mangurten Lassen Weekendavisen M ?  

Several bloggers have reviewed the movie: A woman giving 3/6, male giving 1/4, woman giving 4/5, male giving 5/5 and a blogger of too me unknown gender giving 6/6. We will ignore these.

In the main data set I find 8 out a total 13 male reviewers gave ‘5’, while 3 out of a total 5 female reviews gave ‘5’. The Bayesian analysis results in a fairly symmetric distribution, where males are not very much more likely to give a higher rating than females: There is only a 50-51% change that males are more likely to rate the movie higher than females using the hyperprior 0 for the beta distribution.

If you care to read more about the Klovn-phenomenon there is a Danish research article hypothesizing Klovn to be inspired from ideas of Goffman, Zizek and Sloterdijk and introducing the article with (my translation attempt):

“‘Klovn’ is read as a portrait of a radical postmodern condition,
characterized partly by the porous construction of identity of the agents through fragmented social games, partly by the dissolving of the reality-references of the series, where distinctions between true/false, good/evil, masculine/feminine are substituted by a reflexion over the aesthetic seduction effects of the signs. ‘Klovn’ shows these elements in the postmodern with a satirical, ironic distance.”

Auch! I have misunderstood it then. I thought the Klovn-phenomenon was a sincere self-satire on a post-postmodern wannabee.

(conflict of interest: I received a free movie ticket)

(Ups 14 December 2011: The alert reader would have discovered that I mislabeled “Palle” from Kristeligt Dagblad as a female. He is indeed a male person, and since he gives 5 a rerun of the analysis changes the results. It now shows that it is around 70% likely that a male gives a higher grade than a female! I am sorry, Palle)

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