erik lundegaard

Monday June 06, 2022

What Is Thomas Dixon Jr. 'Known For'?

Here we go again. 

So what is Thomas Dixon Jr. known for?

If you ask that of most people, they’d go “Who?” But if you ask that of someone who knows a little something of film history, not to mention racial history, they might say, “Isn’t that the guy who wrote the book that became ‘The Birth of a Nation’?" 

Yes. In 1905, Thomas E. Dixon Jr., a lawyer-minister, published a celebratory novel of the Ku Klux Klan called “The Clansman,” which D.W. Griffith adapted into the 1915 epic “The Birth of a Nation,” one of the most innovative and controversial films of all time. It was screened at the White House and Pres. Woodrow Wilson called it history written with lightning. It expanded the boundaries of what filmmakers could do. It also helped resurrect the Klan in the 20th century, leading to untold death and misery. When Dixon died in 1946, the headline of his obit in The New York Times read: THOMAS DIXON DIES; WROTE ‘CLANSMAN.’ It is what Thomas Dixon was, and is, known for.

Except, of course, on IMDb.

Because apparently a day hasn’t gone by when we all haven’t argued about the legacy of “The Mark of the Beast.”

So how do the other movies rate ahead of “Birth of a Nation”? According to IMDb, the algorithm that compiles its “Known For” titles weights various factors in a filmmaker’s career, including:

  1. The importance of the job (director > production assistant)
  2. The frequency of the credit (if you’re mostly a writer, writing credits matter more)
  3. The type of title (movies > TV shows)
  4. The popularity of a title (based on page views/awards/user ratings, etc.)
  5. The importance of the credit (starring > supporting)

I assume it's those first and fifth factors that are screwing up Dixon's result, since he directed “Mark of the Beast” and “Fall of a Nation.” He also produced “Beast.” It’s his one production credit. So he wrote, produced and directed “Mark of the Beast.” So, by the algorithm’s logic, it must be important. Meanwhile, “Birth,” directed by D.W. Griffith, was only adapted from Dixon’s novel. He didn’t even get the screenplay credit for it. So, per 5) above, it takes a ding.

You know which of the five isn’t weighted enough? That fourth one. I think IMDb is ignoring its own data. Here are the numbers for those top “known for” credits for Dixon that indicate user and cultural engagement:

  Title    Quotes Trivia Photos  Connections* Critic Reviews User Reviews
1. The Mark of the Beast 0 0 0 0 0 0
2. Gods of the Machine 0 0 0 0 0 0
3. The Fall of a Nation 0 4 11 2 1 2
4. The Birth of a Nation 26 80 87 256 79 379

* I.e., references in other movies and TV shows

I mean: Holy fuck. 

And here’s what makes it all worse. The three movies ahead of “Birth”? They don’t exist. There are no extant copies of “Beast” and “Fall.” As for “Gods of the Machine”—you notice there’s no date on it? That’s because it was never made. It’s classified as “in development,” from someone named Matthew Collins, who made one short film called “War!” in 2014, and who supposedly based his characters for “Gods” on some of Dixon’s characters. That’s why Dixon gets a credit. Because some guy who made one short film in 2014 said his new movie includes Dixon’s characters. So when are we going to see this epic? Who knows? It was last updated five years ago: April 3, 2017. I doubt it will ever be made 

Yet somehow, according to our preeminent film site, Thomas Dixon is known for this non-existent movie more than he’s known for one of the most famous movies of all time.

What a fucking joke, IMDb.

Posted at 08:08 AM on Monday June 06, 2022 in category Movies  
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard

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