SOS to Hollywood: Calling More Female Critics

Media Report to Women, Summer 2018 | Go to article overview

SOS to Hollywood: Calling More Female Critics


We all know that there's lots of fixing to be done in Hollywood - correcting bad behavior behind arid in front of the camera and back in the studio offices. We need to re-emphasize that the absence of women in senior roles is hurting the cinema arts, the audiences who patronize movies, and the employment opportunities for women in film.

The focus on Hollywood bigwigs obscures a key component of film success: reviews by critics. Here the poor performance is on hiring by media outlets who disproportionately employ male reviewers.

Thumbs Down 2018: Film Critics and Gender, and Why It Matters, released in July by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, documents how women's underemployment as film reviewers impacts the exposure female-driven films and/or films directed by women receive.

Across every type of media outlet, male film critics outnumber female critics by approximately 2 to 1. This gender imbalance impacts the exposure and evaluation female-led films and/or films with women directors receive, according to the Center's study. First conducted in 2007, Thumbs Down is the most comprehensive and longest-running study of women's representation and impact as film critics available. Over the years, the study has considered more than 16,000 reviews written by more than 900 reviewers. This latest edition focuses on writers working for print, broadcast, and online outlets whose reviews also appear on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

Regarding representation, the study found that men comprised 68% and women 32% of reviewers in spring 2018. By media outlet, men accounted for 70% of those writing for trade publications, 70% writing for general-interest magazines and websites, 69% writing for a news website or wire service, 68% writing for newspapers, and 68% writing for movie or entertainment publications. By film genre, men made up 78% of those reviewing action and horror features, 75% reviewing animated features, 74% reviewing documentaries, 73% reviewing comedy/dramas, 70% reviewing dramas, 69% reviewing science fiction films, and 59% reviewing comedies.

According to Center Director Martha Lauzen, "These gender imbalances matter because they impact the visibility of films with female protagonists and/or women directors, as well as the nature of reviews."

For example, the study found that when writing reviews about films with women directors, female reviewers were more likely than men to mention the name of the woman directing the film, and to use exclusively positive comments when talking about her skills, work, and/or vision. …

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