The San Diego State University study of Women in Television and Film that came this week discovered that female critics are outnumbered 2 to 1 by their male counterparts . A look into 4111 recent film reviews on popular film criticism site Rotten Tomato’s discovered that 68% of those reviews were written by men, 4 out of 5 of which were white .
Some might say that this isn’t really a problem, except that when it comes to films that are directed by women, or that are populated by a female lead(s), men are far more likely to review it negatively or use language that is inherently less positive than when reviewing a film directed by or staring a man. The interesting thing to note in this is the reverse statistics about women reviewers. Where as men gave male lead films an average of 70% out of 100, women gave the films an average of 73%. That’s over 10% more than the 62% average men gave to women lead films.
I wrote a post detailing the effects of unconscious bias a while ago, but now we have an official study and statistical data which is proving that it exists and is causing detriment to our ability to achieve gender equality. Whilst some male reviewers are misogynistic in their criticism, (don’t believe me? Read this article of Wonder Woman reviews) the fact is that most of them probably don’t even realise that they are doing it, hence the unconscious part of unconscious bias. This is the danger.
Things have been a certain way for so long that we don’t even realise that we are causing harm. The stigma’s around women being weak or unable to lead and make interesting films is something that has been ingrained in many people from various different sources for many, many years. But now that we have this data and more women are getting more comfortable to speak out we can start to look at ways to rectify this bias so that it no longer creates an unspoken divide between both men and women.
In response to Rotten Tomatoes rotten review system, Miranda Bailey started a new site, CherryPicks, for film reviews in a similar style but where all reviews come from female critics. “For a long time, I’ve noticed that audiences don’t go out to see certain films marketed towards women, or even just films that women would like in general, because they were panned by critics on Rotten Tomatoes,” Bailey said . Box office is the life blood of the film industry and if biased critics are stopping people from going to the movies and seeing films made by women than this is a problem and needs to change.
I personally avoid film reviews until after I have seen a film, which may defeat the purpose, but I don’t want to have my viewing experience tainted by someone else’s opinion before I get to make my own. If you take anything away from this post today take away the ability to consider who has written the review, what the film is and who directed it. And if you wanted to see it anyway, just go see it!