Men still vastly outnumber women among the nation’s dwindling ranks of film critics – and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic close cinemas (and furloughed journalists) across the country, according to a new edition of a recurrent study.
Male film critics outnumbered their female counterparts almost twice “Thumbs Down 2020: Film Reviews and Genre, and Why It Matters,” billed as the longest-running and most comprehensive study of the representation and impact of women as film critics.
If the statistics on gender weren’t bad enough, the numbers on race and ethnicity are worse: the study found that female and male reviewers of color remain significantly underrepresented.
Some 70% of female reviewers are white, 23% are women of color and 7% have an unknown racial/ethnic identity, while 73% of male reviewers are white, 18% are men of color and 9% have an identity racial/ethnic unknown. ethnic identity.
The study found only a slight increase in the number of film reviews written by women, compared to 2019. The report suggests that the continuing imbalance is linked to the lack of visibility of films with female protagonists and/or made by women.
“The over-representation of men as film critics, coupled with the fact that a higher proportion of their reviews focus on stories and films directed by men, benefits these films by giving them greater visibility in the market. critical,” says one study. Martha Lauzen, author and founder and director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.
But Lauzen says the numbers on color reviews are moving in the right direction. For example, in 2019, women of color made up 17% of top reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, the website that aggregates movie reviews. In 2020, this percentage has increased to 33%.
“For men of color, the gains are much smaller,” she said. “In 2019, men of color made up just 7% of top reviewers. In 2020, only 10% of top reviewers are men of color. This is a rare example of the gains for women outpacing those for men.”
Lauzen predicts that as the film industry “revives” in the coming weeks, “structural inequalities will help ensure that pre-pandemic inequalities remain in place in pandemic and post-pandemic environments.”
In other words, it’s unlikely to improve significantly for female critics in the near future.
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Lauzen has studied gender and diversity in the film industry since 2007; its latest report was released on Wednesday and provides the most recent data available on US film reviews.
► In early 2020, men made up 65% and women 35% of print, broadcast and online movie reviews, according to the study. Men wrote 66% and women 34% of reviews, an increase of just 2 percentage points for women from 32% in 2019. The 2018 study also found that women made up just 32% of reviewers.
► Male reviewers outnumber female reviewers in each job title category. Men accounted for 83% and women 17% of the “movie critics”. Men represent 70% and women 30% of the “permanent editors”.
► Films directed by women and films directed by women represent a lower proportion of male reviews than of female reviews: 54% of reviews written by women and 45% of those written by men concern films featuring at least one female protagonist.
► More than twice as many films reviewed by female critics as male critics are directed by women: 33% of films reviewed by women against 14% of those reviewed by men. “While it’s unclear whether these differences are due to critics’ preferences or editorial assignments, they do influence the amount of attention films featuring female leads and films with female directors receive,” revealed the study.
► Men continue to dominate as critics in every genre of film and in almost every type of media. Men write 69% of reviews on action features, 68% on animated features, 68% on comedies, 66% on sci-fi features, 65% on documentaries, 63% on dramas and 61% on horror features.
► The percentage of women only exceeds that of men on radio and television (58% women vs. 42% men), notes the report.
Since its first report in 2007, Lauzen and his team have reviewed more than 25,000 reviews written by more than 1,600 critics. This year’s edition examined over 4,000 reviews written by over 380 reviewers working for print, broadcast and online media in January, February and March this year.
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A positive number: female critics are gaining ground on Rotten Tomatoes, according to the study. In 2020, women made up 40% and men 60% of top reviewers.
“For women, this represents an increase of 12 percentage points from 28% in 2019,
and 6 percentage points from 34% in 2018,” the report said.
Are these discoveries important for Hollywood? Maybe not as much now, in the midst of a pandemic and with tens of thousands of jobs lost and studios closed.
But in 2018, Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson used her Women in Film award acceptance speech to call out the lack of diversity among film critics, drawing applause when she said she didn’t need “a white dude to tell me what went wrong for him about ‘(A) Wrinkle in Time.’ Wasn’t for him! I want to know what that meant to women of color, mixed-race women, teenage girls of color.
Larson clarified, “Am I saying I hate white guys? No, I’m not. What I’m saying is if you make a movie that’s a love letter to the women of color, there’s an incredibly small chance that a woman of color will have the chance to see your film and re-watch your film.”
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