Study: Women Movie Critics Fewer Than 20% on Rotten Tomatoes

A study on gender and movie critics finds that female critics account for less than 20 percent of top film reviews on Rotten Tomatoes this spring

The age of the Internet has not been kind to female movie critics.

According to a new study titled "Gender @ the Movies" obtained by TheWrap ahead of its Friday release, film criticism has become even more male-dominated in the age of online news than it was six years ago.

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The study tracked review activity by top Rotten Tomatoes critics this spring and found that top male critics wrote 82% of film reviews featured on the aggregator site during a two-month period, with top female critics accounting for less than 20%. By comparison, men wrote 70% of reviews for the top 100 U.S. daily newspapers in 2007.

“Film critics appear to have become less, not more gender diverse over the last six years,” Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, wrote in a report accompanying the findings.

And that, she added, means that films with male directors and writers get greater exposure to their work.

The ratio improved but only barely when considering the actual number of men and women writing reviews today. The center, based at San Diego State U., found that 78% of the top critics this spring were male and 22% female.

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The center decided to examine the relationship between gender, film critics and movie reviews after veteran critic Rex Reed attacked Melissa McCarthy's appearance in "Identity Thief," and an upstate New York newspaper editor ordered a critic to avoid reviewing films with strong female characters.

There were 145 writers designated as top critics on Rotten Tomatoes during the study period. The site designates writers as top critics based on the size of their outlet and length of time practicing their craft; Reed, who writes for the New York Observer, qualifies as a top critic on Rotten Tomatoes, as does chief Wrap critic Alonso Duralde.

The ratio was even worse at entertainment magazines and websites such as Entertainment Weekly, which tilted 91% to men and 80% men at general interest magazines and sites. The picture was slightly brighter for women reviewing films at newspaper sites (28% female) and radio (30% female).

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The center also analyzed the more than 2,000 reviews to determine whether film critics tend to gravitate toward movies written or directed by their sex and if their reviews are biased in favor of those sharing their gender.

It found that there is some truth to the perception that female critics gravitate toward movies written or directed by women and vice versa.

But it did not find evidence of gender bias toward filmmakers in the reviews themselves.

According to the report, “neither male nor female critics award substantially higher ratings to films directed and/or written by those of their same sex.”

The bottom line?  “Popular film criticism remains a predominantly male activity,” Lauzen writes.

The study was to be released on Friday.