Despite moves to push the film industry into increasing diversity, a new study from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, part of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, has concluded that film reviewers and critics are predominantly white and male.
In a report entitled Critic’s Choice?, academics analysed the gender and ethnicity of writers whose reviews were included on the Rotten Tomatoes aggregation site for the 100 top-grossing films at the US box office in 2017. They reported that of the 19,559 reviews that were found, 77.8% were written by men and 22.2% by women. A similar ratio was found to exist in the “Top Critics” subsection – ie, writers whose work appears in major publications – where the balance was 76% to 24% in favour of men.
The picture is even worse when it comes to ethnicity. The report suggests that 82% of reviewers are white, with 18% from “under-represented racial/ethnic backgrounds”. And broken down further, the report says that, while white males contributed 67.3% of reviews, women of colour wrote only 2.5% – a ratio of nearly 27 to 1. (White women contributed 21.5%, and non-white men 8.7%.)
Marc Choueiti, the study’s lead author, said: “Even among top critics, the words of white and male critics fill a greater share of the conversation than females and people of colour. Re-examining the definition of a top critic or simply casting a wider net can be the opportunity to open up and diversify the voices heard in the critic space.”
Dr Stacy L Smith, founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, and co-author of the study added: “This report reveals the absence of women of colour working as reviewers ... We have seen the ramifications of an industry in which the content sold to audiences is created and reviewed by individuals who are primarily white men. Creating inclusive hiring practices at every stage of the film-making and review process is essential to meeting business imperatives and ensuring that we see diverse perspectives reflected in society.”
The report called for the adoption of what they termed “30/30/20/20”, a set of percentages to correspond with the gender and ethnic makeup of the US population. The target would be for white male critics to drop from 63% to 30%, with similar adjustments benefiting the other gender/ethnic groupings
This reminds me of how I don't exactly trust Richard Brody on film criticism in terms of his judgment. I'm more likely to take something Dana Stevens writes seriously at Slate, not that she's writing as much. I used to read Claire Dederer's film criticism consistently twenty years ago when she was still around here in Puget Sound.
But ... if newspaper-based criticism is as on the ropes as journalists often say it is ... is the 30/30/20/20 goal ... feasible? That it's desirable I'm not really interested in contesting because I already read Charles Mudede and Dana Stevens more enthusiastically than I read stuff by Brody or Lane. Or A. O. Scott or David Edelstein. I mean, sure, I read those guys from time to time but not very consistently or as a matter of habit.
But I do wonder ... if we're entering in what some critics feel is a dark age of criticism in which exeprts are no longer trusted I wonder if that's really what's going on.
For instance ... nah ... I'll save that for some other post.