The imbalance of critics isn’t the only problem with this ratio, as the San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film reports in its study led by Martha Lauzan. Thumbs Down: Female Critics and Gender, and Why It Matters breaks down how male reviewers interact with women-led projects, and no surprises here, they are shortchanging women directors.
“These gender imbalances matter because they impact the visibility of films with female protagonists and/or women directors, as well as the nature of reviews,” Lauzen explains, per The Hollywood Reporter.
This study focuses on U.S. writers working for print, broadcast, and online outlets via reviews aggregated on Rotten Tomatoes. Researches looked at 4,111 reviews written in spring 2018. According to the study, men make up 68 percent of critics, and write 71 percent of reviews compared to women’s 29 percent. They also comprise the majority of critics in every genre: 78 percent in horror, 70 percent in drama, and 59 percent in comedies.
Even though men review more films than women, they are less likely to review films made by women. When they do, they are less likely to give positive feedback to women filmmakers and women-led projects compared to men-led ones. Fifty-two percent of reviews written by women include positive comments about a woman director. In contrast, men stan other men, and give complimentary words to male directors 32 percent of the time, compared to 23 percent for women.
“Something as simple as the mention of a director’s name in a review and labeling that individual as a ‘master’ of the filmmaking craft can shape the narrative surrounding the director,” Lauzen said.
The group of women reviewers is also slightly more diverse than men. They were 83 percent white and 14 percent of color, while men were 82 percent white and 9 percent people of color.
How does this affect audiences? Well, films with lots of positive feedback and critical praise can fare better at box offices. When films made by and starring any marginalized group succeed, investors and producers are more likely to take on similar films on the future. In turn, audiences enjoy more representation in theaters.