While more attention is beginning to be paid to on-screen representation in film and television, the diversity among critics reviewing them is still largely an unseen issue.
For the first time, USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative turned to reviews, analyzing the gender and race/ethnicity of the writers behind every Rotten Tomatoes review of the 100 Highest-Grossing Movies of 2017. Its new report, ” Critic’s Choice?” finds that out of 19,559 reviews, 77.8% were written by men and 82% by white reviewers. White men wrote 63.9% of the reviews, compared to 4.1% for women of color. More reviews were also written by white women (18.1%) than men of color (13.8%).
“The very people who are sensitive to the underrepresentation and misrepresentation of women on screen and behind the camera are often left out of the conversation and criticism,” said AII Founder and Director Stacy L Smith, in a statement. “Movie advertising, marketing and distribution teams have the opportunity to change that quickly by increasing access and opportunities for women of color as film critics.”
A slightly larger share of white women (21.5%) was represented among the “top reviewers” designated by Rotten Tomatoes, but this select group of 3,359 reviews saw even fewer written by underrepresented men (8 .7%) and women (2.5%).
“Even among top reviewers, the words of white and male reviewers fill a larger share of the conversation than women and people of color,” Marc Choueiti, the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “Re-examining the definition of a high-level critic or simply casting a wider net can be an opportunity to open up and diversify the voices heard in the critical space.”
Choueiti, Smith and study author Katherine Pieper also analyzed critics’ representation for each film. None of the 100 films have been reviewed by an equal number of men and women – not even the 36 identified as female pictures, where critics of all but eight failed to clear the third-party reference written by women. (Looking only at top reviewers, the numbers improved. More than half of reviewers who reviewed A Bad Moms Christmas, Absolutely everything, Girls trip and My Little Pony: The Movie were women.) When it comes to films featuring protagonists of color, the lack of corresponding reviews is even more glaring: for most of the 24 films in this category, 80% or more of the reviews were written by women. white reviews.
Forty-five of last year’s 100 highest-grossing movies weren’t reviewed by women of color at all, and more than half of women-led movies lacked a single review by a premier critic. plane who was also an underrepresented woman. That may be because of the more than 1,600 individual authors in the study sample, only 8.9% were women of color. About half (53.2%) were white men, followed by white women (23%) and men of color (14.8%). White male reviewers have been the most prolific, writing an average of 14.3 reviews per year, followed by 11.1 by men of color, 9.4 by white women, and finally 5.6 by women of color.
“This report reveals the absence of women of color working as reviewers — especially on films built around women and underrepresented protagonists,” Smith said in a statement. “We have seen the ramifications of an industry in which content sold to the public is created and reviewed by individuals who are predominantly white males. Creating inclusive hiring practices at every stage of the filmmaking and editing process is key to meeting business imperatives and ensuring we see diverse perspectives reflected in society.
The study authors add that in order for the review pool to reflect the American population, media outlets and the studios that grant them access should strive to achieve the “30-30-20-20” – the split for white males, white females, males of color and female of color, respectively. AII intends to explain why demographic criticism matters in a series of reports, of which this is the first. The second study will examine differences in review content based on the gender and/or race/ethnicity of the reviewer, and the third will examine how box office performance is affected.