Female film critics writing for print, online and broadcast media in 2019 are still outnumbered by male writers by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, according to the latest annual study from Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.
As observed in the report “Thumbs Down 2019: Film Critics and Gender, and Why It Matters,” women accounted for only 34% of all the reviewers out of the 380 individuals whose work is included on Rotten Tomatoes, and only 32% of the 4,750 reviews counted in the survey during the spring of 2019.
The number of female critics rose 2% compared to 2018’s study, and women wrote 3% more of all the reviews published compared to last year’s study.
“Male film critics outnumber female critics by almost 2 to 1, and continue to dominate the conversation about film across every type of media outlet and about every film genre,” Lauzen said. “In this gender myopic movie world, not only do men comprise the majority of our filmmakers, they are also more likely to have the last word on the quality of our films.”
This year’s study also looked at the imbalance among male and female critics across types of media outlets and across reviews for each genre of film. The study found that men dominate the conversation in every type of media outlet and genre.
By media outlet, men account for 78% of individuals writing for general interest magazines and websites, 73% writing for trade publications, 72% writing for newspapers and wire services, 65% writing for movie/entertainment magazines and websites, and 58% writing for radio and television. Further, men write 73% of reviews about documentaries, 72% about action features, 69% about science fiction features, 68% about dramas, 67% about horror features, 67% about animated features, 62% about comedy/dramas, and 60% about comedies.
“These gender imbalances matter because they impact the visibility films with female protagonists and women directors receive, as well as the nature of reviews,” Lauzen said. “This research expands our understanding of how reviews written by female critics differ from those written by men.”
The report says that on average, female critics award higher ratings to films with female protagonists than men, and women are more likely to name and positively mention the filmography of a female director than men are. Of the reviews written by women for female-directed films, 31% mentioned the name of the director, compared to 16% of reviews written by men. And if a man directed the film, male critics mentioned the director’s previous films more often (28%) compared to reviews of movies directed by women (16%).
“The positive discussion of a filmmaker’s previous work helps establish the experience of that director,” Lauzen said. “A glowing mention of a director’s filmography positions that filmmaker as a known quantity with a respected track record, and provides a positive context for the current film under review.”
Among the female “Top Critics” listed on Rotten Tomatoes, a smaller percentage (28%) were women, compared to the overall number of female critics (34%), and the number of female “Top Critics” declined six percentage points compared to last year’s study.
“Thumbs Down: Film Critics and Gender, and Why It Matters” is a study that has been conducted since 2007 and has considered more than 21,000 reviews written by more than 1,300 individual critics.
Lauzen is the founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, and she also conducts the annual Celluloid Ceiling study.
For a full look at the most current reports, visit the center’s website here.