Basically All Movie Critics Are White Men

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures.
Concerning news: Most movie reviews are written by white men. Per Variety, a new study published by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that white critics wrote 82% of the reviews of 2017's 100 top-grossing movies. (Researchers looked over 19,559 reviews.) Writers from marginalized groups penned only 18% of reviews of top movies — when, per the report, these groups make up 39% of the population.
On top of that, most of the reviews were written by men. Men wrote 78% of the reviews studied by Annenberg; women wrote 20%.
Dr. Stacey Smith, the co-author of the report and the founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative told Variety, "The very individuals who are attuned to the under and misrepresentation of females on screen and behind the camera are often left out of the conversation and critiques. The publicity, marketing, and distribution teams in moviemaking have an opportunity to change this quickly by increasing the access and opportunities given to women of color as film reviewers.”
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The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is also responsible for the mythologized "inclusion rider," the clause that Frances McDormand shouted out in her Oscars acceptance speech last January.
These types of disparities come to a head for movies like Ocean's 8, a movie made for and by women. The movie has received middling to good reviews, and currently has a score of 68% on Rotten Tomatoes. Of the 18 "rotten" reviews from top critics, 13 had a male author. (The study's results also brings to mind the time Lady Bird's Tomatoes score fell by one point when critic Cole Smithey made it his mission to dismantle its reputation.)
This issue has been on the table since at least 2016, when Meryl Streep implored the press to even the gender divide. "I submit to you that men and women are not the same,” Streep said during a press conference promoting Suffragette. “They like different things. Sometimes they like the same things, but their tastes diverge. If the Tomatometer is slided so completely to one set of tastes, that drives box office in the U.S., absolutely."
And criticism counts! The whirr of excitement generated at festivals can propel a movie to a wide release. And a wide release can grant a movie the chance to go to the Oscars.
Luckily, there is at least one place working to secure a less biased critical public discourse. The site CherryPicks consolidates reviews written only by women. It's not the same as having a diverse array of top critics, but it's one way to level the playing field.
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