Evaluating Homer’s “short-temper”

Preface: Okay, I worry that you might be getting a little tired of all my Simpsons analyses so I think this will be one of my last analyses of the Simpsons corpus (at least for a little while). My next projects will more likely focus on my other hobbies (e.g., Harry Potter) and/or building more of my machine learning chops.

Now, that we got that out of the way…

For this analysis, I’m particularly interested in tracking whether Homer has gotten “angrier” over time. A characteristic of Homer’s (that’s especially evident in the earlier seasons) is his short-temper (e.g., think of his catchphrase, Why you little!” or the episode, I am Furious (Yellow), in Season 13). Here’s a short clip that I also think gives a nice example of this:

Given that this is characteristic of Homer, this might be a quality that has been “Flanderized” over the course of the seasons. To investigate whether this is indeed the case, I performed another sentiment analysis focusing on the dialogue of just the Simpsons family members (excluding Maggie). The logic of including Marge, Bart, and Lisa in the analysis is similar to my previous post —  they can serve as controls (both to see if an increase in “anger” sentiment is unique to Homer and also whether the relative “anger” that Homer expresses is higher or lower compared to the other members).

For this analysis, I used a different sentiment dictionary, namely the NRC dictionary from Saif Mohammad and Peter Turney. Here, words are categorized in a binary fashion (yes/no) as to whether they fall into 10 categories: positive, negative, anger, anticipation, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise, and trust. As mentioned previously, here I’m particularly interested in anger. However, I want to also include a contrasting, positive emotion as well. In the case that we do see an increase in Homer’s anger sentiment, this will provide us with information as to whether this increase is unique to anger or is there just a general increase in more “sentiment” (or “emotion”). Here, I’ve chosen joy to be my contrasting, positive sentiment because fewer words are in both anger and joy categories, than anger and other positive categories. For more detail and/or access to the scripts, please visit the github repo.

Here is the figure showing the Simpson family members’ “joy” and “anger” sentiments across the seasons. Note, what’s plotted  is the average number of “angry” and “joy” words spoken by each character, controlling for how much the character has spoken in the individual episodes (i.e., number of utterances). I have chosen to create this type of proportion score (rather than just summing up the number of “angry” / “joy” words to create a raw frequency count) because in a particular season/episode, the number of utterances that a character speaks can vary. If we just looked at sheer frequency, a lower score in angry sentiment might just be from the character speaking just less in that particular season and less so about him/her being less angry. Similarly, if we find that one character’s “angry” sentiment is higher than another’s, this again might be because the first character just had more lines/had more opportunity to express anger.

simpsons-anger-joy-sentiment-1

As we can see, there isn’t a big change to Homer’s “angry” sentiment over the course of the seasons. There is a slight increase in the number of angry words that he uses but he uses more joyful words as well. Moreover, in comparison to his other family members, he doesn’t seem particularly angry. Overall, the four family members tend to express more joy sentiment than angry sentiment. I initially found this pattern to be a little surprising (especially with regards to Homer). However, upon further reflection, I think there are a couple things that might illuminate this finding. First, I think the emotion of being “angry” can sometimes be more salient than being “joyful.” Thus, the saliency of anger might make the episodes in which Homer is angry more memorable to us. Also, I think another characteristic of Homer is that he is sometimes a bit oblivious to his surroundings and can be over-optimistic (think of his catchphrase, “Woo hoo!”). Given that, maybe it’s not actually that surprising that he would use many joyous words as well. Thus, as Flanderization goes, “anger” (as reflected in his speech) does not appear to be a quality that has been exaggerated (relative to joyful, positive sentiment) across the seasons.