White men dominate Hollywood productions both on and off screen. The same goes for critics reviewing movies.
A recent analysis by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California examined the gender and race of the authors behind each Rotten Tomatoes review of the 100 Highest-Grossing Movies of 2017. Of the 19,559 reviews, the report found that 77, 8% were written by men and 82% by white reviewers.
Overall, nearly two-thirds (63.9%) of all movie reviews for the Top 100 Movies of that year were written by white male critics. White women wrote 18.1% of reviews, while men of color wrote 13.8% and women of color just 4.1%.
The researchers found a similar disparity when they focused on reviews that Rotten Tomatoes had named “top reviewers”. Of the 3,359 reviews from top reviewers, 76% were written by men and 24% by women. People of color wrote 11.2% of reviews, compared to 88.8% written by white reviewers. Among top reviewers, the ratio of white male reviewers to women of color was nearly 27 to 1.
“The consequences of this biased representation must be considered – what are the ramifications of having a cultural narrative produced and assessed largely by individuals of the same demographic?” ask the researchers in their report. “How does this perpetuate a worldview that may not be shared by the more diverse audience of box office ticket buyers?”
Even for female-focused films, there was no gender parity among critics. The study found that of the 36 female-led stories in the sample of 100 films, none had a proportional representation of women in all reviews. The same was true for films with people of color in mind; for the 24 films in this category, 80% of the reviews were written by white critics.
The lack of diversity among film critics highlights a larger problem for journalists. In the United States, for example, newsrooms struggle to reflect diversity of the communities they serve.