One in four movies reviewed by women had female directors, compared to one in 10 reviewed by men, a recent report says.
The continued gender imbalance in movie criticism is certified rotten.
Men make up 68% of all film reviewers, according to a recent “Thumbs Down” study conducted by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, while women comprise just 32% — a dismal ratio of about two to one. And that inequality, the report suggests, affects how female-led films get portrayed in reviews.
For starters, women critics are more likely to even review female-directed films: One in four movies reviewed by women had female directors, compared to one in 10 reviewed by men. (“It is unclear whether these differences are due to the preferences of writers or assignments made by editors,” the report noted.)
And men are tougher critics than women on female-fueled films. While female writers doled out an average 74% rating to movies with female protagonists, male critics averaged a rating of 62%. When it came to male-protagonist films, on the other hand, women gave an average 73% rating and men awarded an average of 70%.
Female critics are also more likely than their male counterparts to mention women directors’ names in their reviews (89% vs. 81%) and talk about their “skills, work and/or vision” in “exclusively positive ways” (52% vs. 38%), according to the analysis of 4,111 reviews by 341 writers featured on Rotten Tomatoes from print, online and broadcast outlets this past spring. Positive descriptors for male and female directors included words like “impresario” and “master.”
“For decades, many male directors have benefited from reviews in which they have been described in larger-than-life, almost mythic ways,” study author Martha Lauzen said in a statement obtained by the New York Times. “Few women, with the possible exception of Kathryn Bigelow, have enjoyed this same kind of critical treatment.”
The conversation around women in Hollywood — and the critics who evaluate their work — has gained steam in recent months, driven in part by the Time’s Up gender-equality movement. Oscar winner Brie Larson, in one memorable instance, declared during a speech at June’s Crystal + Lucy Women in Film Awards that she didn’t “need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work for him about ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’”
“It wasn’t made for him,” she said. “I want to know what that film meant to women of color, to biracial women, to teen women of color, to teens that are biracial.”
This year’s San Diego State study, first conducted in 2007, came just a month after a USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative analysis of 19,559 reviews aggregated on Rotten Tomatoes revealed that men wrote nearly 78% of the reviews for 2017’s top 100 films.
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