Film criticism has long skewed male. But bringing in new voices wouldn't only make the industry more representative—it'd improve the quality of reviews, tooby Becca Harrison / June 21, 2018 / Leave a comment
This week, Hollywood stars and reviewers alike have waded into debates about the gender of film critics.
In a promotional interview for Ocean’s 8, its stars—Mindy Kaling, Cate Blanchett, and Sandra Bullock—suggested that they’d like more women to review their film.
Bullock talked about the need to “balance out the pool of critics” so that it “reflects the world we’re in,” while Kaling said that “often I think there is a critic who will damn it [Ocean’s 8] in a way because they don’t understand it, because they come at it at a different point of view.”
Responding to the cast’s view that men might be more dismissive of their film than women, Buzzfeed critic Alison Willmore tweeted that this was “the same argument an angry teen boy uses when telling me why I shouldn’t get to weigh in on Suicide Squad.”
“It’s also an argument whose end point is that there should never be bad reviews, because that just means the critic wasn’t the right audience.”
But Willmore’s argument misses the point. The issue of individual films aside, there is a pressing need for publishers and editors to diversify criticism—and to trust that women and people of colour can write critically about films, even when they are “the right audience.”
Of course, it’s important that studios don’t expect woman reviewers to always write glowing reviews for woman-led films or pigeon-hole them as critics.
But as critic Chelsea Phillips-Carr said: “People are afraid that women and people of colour would never write bad reviews and thus end the critical part of criticism, but let me reassure you that I am a woman of colour and have never written a positive review.”
Studies also show that male and female critics do not award different scores to films featuring women protagonists. However, men do respond differently to films featuring only male protagonists.
Given that historically Hollywood has been dominated by male filmmakers and critics—who tend to write dismissively about women’s films while prioritising the work of men—having gender bias equate to positive reviews is just another day at the office for the boys.
Most critics are men
Last week the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, a research group responsible for compiling data about gender and race representation in mainstream cinema, published its first report on film criticism.
Using data pulled…