A new study from University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that nearly 80% of film critics are men.
Based on information from Rotten Tomatoes, the study analyzed critics from the top 100 films of 2017. Out of 19,559 reviews, 77.8% were authored by men versus 22.2% by women. And when race is factored in, the results aren’t any better for women or people of color: 63.9% white men; 18.1 white women; 13.8% underrepresented men; 4.1% underrepresented women.
Aside from the problem of disparity in the workplace, the study underscores the issue of films led by minorities and/or women being critiqued by white men. It’s not to suggest that, say, a movie like Girls Trip should be exclusively reviewed by black women. However, it does raise the question of unconscious biases.
The consequences of this skewed representation must be considered–what are the ramifications of having cultural storytelling produced and evaluated largely by individuals from the same demographic group? How does this perpetuate a worldview that may not be shared by the more diverse ticket-buying audience at the box office? While these questions cannot be answered in this study, they highlight the necessity of further work to understand how critical reviews differ based on the reviewers’ demographic background.
The study calls on sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic to include more diverse critics in their aggregation, and/or making it clearer to readers who’s behind the review.
“Taking this step would reveal to site visitors whether the overall rating reflects a balanced viewpoint or skews toward White and/or male voices,” the study states. “This would allow consumers to understand how reviewer perceptions might influence how films are scored–especially films with female or underrepresented lead characters–and decide whether to view the movie as a result.”
Read the full study here.