become a Patreon patron

maryann johanson | watching movies at home

why did that study about female film critics on the Internet ignore most of the Internet?

A fuller summary of Martha M. Lauzen’s study is now posted at the Alliance of Women Film Journalists. (FYI, I’m a member of the AWFJ, and Lauzen is on its Board of Advisors.) It does not address my concerns about why the study was limited to examining the Top Critics on Rotten Tomatoes, which seems even more mysterious in light of what the study does say:

The following summary discusses three perceptions about gender and film critics/criticism, followed by the reality.

Perception #1: In recent years, the decline of newspapers and the rise of the Internet have democratized popular film criticism. More women now review films than ever before.

Reality: Film critics appear to have become less, not more gender diverse over the last six years. In Spring 2013, top male critics wrote 82% and top female critics 18% of the film reviews featured on the film review aggregator site. (In Fall 2007, men penned 70% and women 30% of reviews written for the top 100 U.S. daily newspapers.)

This is simply bizarre. The study specifically excluded itself from looking away from declining newspapers and toward the parts of the Internet where women might possibly have a better chance of making their voices heard as critics: that is, outside the corporate realm. So how can it possibly pretend to have refuted the perception that the Internet has democratized film criticism? It hasn’t even considered this! It looked mostly at corporate sites, many of which are in decline, laying off staff, consolidating, cutting budgets. Corporations get even more conservative under such pressure, which makes them less likely to “risk” hiring a supposedly “nontraditional” critic (that is, anyone not white or male).

Now, I don’t know that the percentage of female film critics outside of Rotten Tomatoes Top Critics would be any better than it is within that group. But it’s certainly worth exploring… particularly when the aim of the study was to determine if the Internet had leveled the field for women. And if there is a big difference between the two groups, then perhaps there’d be some exploring to do around the idea that Rotten Tomatoes is biased against women critics: that could relate to the question of whether the Internet has democratized criticism or not.

Frankly, I don’t know where that perception about film criticism getting democratized came from at all. It still seems overwhelmingly like a boys’ club to me. Why there are so few women critics — on Rotten Tomatoes or not — is a mystery worth looking at. This study seems to miss the boat completely on offering even the beginnings of an understanding about this.


Rotten Tomatoes

Just what I needed on a rainy Friday. From TheWrap:

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

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.

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.

This is extra depressing because the study apparently failed to notice me because I’m not a Top Critic on Rotten Tomatoes (though I am on the Tomatometer, of course). I’ve been lobbying RT for years to make me a Top Critic to no avail.

RT is generally biased toward corporate publications… which are biased toward male critics.

I understand why the study focused on RT. I’ll look forward to reading the actual study to see if it looked at RT’s biases as well.

Pin It on Pinterest