A new study from Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative has revealed more evidence that the conversation around film is not an inclusive one.
Conducted in partnership with TIME'S UP Entertainment, the study — titled "Critic’s Choice II" because it's Dr. Smith's second in a series to explore inclusion among film critics — showed that significantly more men than women are reviewing films.
Using reviews of the 300 top-grossing films from 2015 to 2017 posted on review aggregating site Rotten Tomatoes, the study uncovered that 78.7% of the reviews in the study's sample were written by men, compared with only 21.3% of women.
The study also took underrepresented racial/ethnic background status into account, which is where the numbers get even more alarming. According to the study, white men critics wrote 65.6% of the reviews. White women penned 17.6%, while underrepresented men wrote 13.1% of reviews. Underrepresented women critics only wrote 3.7% of reviews.
It's significant to look at who is reviewing movies because, often, perspective can skew criticism. According to the study, white men critics and underrepresented women critics scored movies with white male leads nearly equally — but male critics scored films with underrepresented female leads nearly 10% lower than underrepresented female critics did. Poor review performance can affect who turns out to see a film — and if we want more representation on screen, giving films with leads who are not white men a fair shot is vital.
It's the reason why Refinery29 launched Writing Critics' Wrongs, an analysis of films — such as Marie Antoinette and Jennifer's Body — that have had a cultural impact on women, this time with a woman reviewer behind the keyboard. Refinery29 is not alone in trying to shift the conversation: Upcoming site CherryPicks, which will launch this fall, will, according to its official website, provide reviews from "exclusively women critics in film, TV, music and more. "
Everyone deserves to be heard in the conversation around film — it's these conversations that have the ability to shape what art becomes significant in our culture. Now that we know something is rotten in film criticism, it's time to do something about it.