San Diego State University recently conducted a study which examined the demographics of film critics and found that male critics vastly outnumbered female critics. The study, titled “Thumbs Down 2016: Top Film Critics and Gender”, found that women make up just 27% of “top critics” while men make up 73% of that same total. Additionally, women wrote 24% of the reviews during the study, with men making up the remaining 76%. Amazing, right?
The researchers looked specifically at Rotten Tomatoes, one of the largest movie review websites. He tapped into a group of what Rotten Tomatoes considers “top critics,” who are considered influential based on the publication they write for and their prolificacy. Moreover, even looking at the gender breakdown independent of the actual title (film critic vs. independent critic), the numbers were similar: women made up 24% of the total number of film critics, and men 76%. When it comes to freelancers, the change was minimal: women made up 25% of freelancers, compared to 75% for men.
The study went even further, examining the genres of the films examined. For the Spring 2016 season, 84% of all science fiction reviews were written by men. We’re closest to parity in romantic movie reviews, where men wrote 57% of all reviews, compared to 43% for women.
This study echoes Meryl Streep’s anecdotal study of the sex composition of Rotten Tomatoes. The numbers she found in October were equally staggering: Streep found that 168 women were allowed to rate on the tomato counter, compared to 760 men who do the same. In terms of percentages, these figures are slightly lower than the results of the study; 18% versus 82%.
It’s no secret that the success of a film largely depends on the opinions of critics. a large number of negative reviews can torpedo a film’s chances of a sequel or the creative team’s chances of working on another film. You’re as good as your last movie, as they say. This discrepancy in numbers could reflect a discrepancy in exam scores.
Once again: when we talk about representation in any industry, we mean representation everywhere in this industry. Gender parity is something worth striving for, if only to have critics who can accurately experience a film, just as half the population will see it. Reviews, by their very nature, are subjective. Wouldn’t it then be the responsibility of Rotten Tomatoes to ensure that their workforce achieves parity? An equal responsibility lies with the platform and the publications that give jobs to these reviewers. Hire women, help raise their voices so that some semblance of equivalence can be achieved. We can do that, can’t we?
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