Film Criticism Continues to Be Dominated by Men, Study Shows

Film Criticism Continues to Be Dominated by Men, Study Shows

The number of women who review feature films has decreased in recent years as movie criticism remains a man’s game, according to a new study.

The report, titled “Thumbs Down: Film Critics and Gender, and Why It Matters,” shows that in early 2022, males continue to outnumber their female counterparts by more than 2 to 1 in the U.S. Across print, radio, television and online outlets, men account for 69% of critics, women account for 31% and nonbinary individuals account for 0.3%. After the percentage of women increased “slightly but steadily” from 2016 to 2020, the statistic dropped by 4% in the last two years.

Since 2007, Dr. Martha Lauzen, executive director of San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, has delved into women’s representation and impact as film reviewers. The annual study analyzes more than 4,000 film reviews by 334 individuals working for print, broadcast and online outlets from January through March 2022.

This year’s takeaway is no different than last: In every job category, type of media outlet, and film genre, men’s voices remain more prominent than their women counterparts.

A closer look at 2022’s data reveals men wrote 74% and women 26% of all reviews, an 8% decline from 2020. When it comes to the type of media outlet these individuals work for, 76% of staffers at publications, sites and stations were male, 23% were female and 0.7% were nonbinary. In terms of freelancers, 59% were male and 41% were female. For people who run their own sites, 71% were male and 29% were female.

Through the annual study, Lauzen wants to illuminate the potential gender imbalance in film criticism. For example, the report deduced that, on average, women reviewers gave higher ratings to films featuring female protagonists compared to male reviewers. All the while, men gave higher ratings to films with male protagonists compared to women reviewers.

“This finding suggests that because male critics outnumber female critics, and men are more likely to review films with male directors, these films achieve greater visibility in the marketplace,” Lauzen says.

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