According to the latest annual study by Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.
As observed in the “Thumbs Down 2019: Film Critics and Gender, and Why It Matters” report, women made up just 34% of all critics out of the 380 people whose work is included on Rotten Tomatoes, and only 32% of 4,750 opinions counted in the survey in the spring of 2019.
The number of female reviews increased by 2% compared to the 2018 study, and women wrote 3% more of all reviews published compared to last year’s study.
“Male film critics outnumber female critics by nearly 2x and continue to dominate the conversation about film in all types of media and across all film genres,” Lauzen said. “In this myopic world of cinema, not only do men make up the majority of our filmmakers, but they are also more likely to have the final say on the quality of our films.”
This year’s study also looked at the imbalance between male and female reviews across media types and reviews for each film genre. The study found that men dominate the conversation across all media types and genres.
By media, men make up 78% of people who write for general interest magazines and websites, 73% who write for trade publications, 72% who write for newspapers and news agencies, 65% who write for magazines and movie/entertainment websites and 58% who write for radio and television. Additionally, men write 73% of reviews on documentaries, 72% on action features, 69% on sci-fi features, 68% on dramas, 67% on horror features , 67% on animated features, 62% on comedies/dramas and 60% on horror films. % on comedies.
“These gender imbalances are important because they impact the visibility of films with female leads and female directors, as well as the nature of reviews,” Lauzen said. “This research expands our understanding of how reviews written by female critics differ from those written by men.”
The report states that, on average, female critics give higher ratings to films with female leads than men, and women are more likely to name and positively mention a female director’s filmography than men. Among reviews written by women for films directed by women, 31% mention the name of the director, compared to 16% of reviews written by men. And if a man is directing the film, male critics more often mention the director’s previous films (28%) than critics of films directed by women (16%).
“Positive discussion of a filmmaker’s previous work helps establish that director’s experience,” Lauzen said. “A director’s filmography commendation positions that filmmaker as a known quantity with a respected track record, and provides positive context for the film under review.”
Of the female “Top Critics” listed on Rotten Tomatoes, a smaller percentage (28%) were female, compared to the total number of female critics (34%), and the number of female “Top Critics” decreased by six percentage points from last year’s survey.
“Thumbs Down: Film Critics and Gender, and Why It Matters” is a study conducted since 2007 that considered more than 21,000 reviews written by more than 1,300 individual critics.
Lauzen is the founder and executive director of San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, and she also directs the annual Celluloid Ceiling Study.
For a comprehensive overview of the most recent reports, visit the center’s website here.