New Study Finds Overwhelming Majority of Film Critics are Male and White

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Stacy L. Smith and the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative have again found that film reviewers are overwhelmingly white and male.

They released last week the second study in a three-part series that evaluated reviews posted by review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes for the top 300 highest grossing films from 2015 through 2017.

The new study found that 67.1 of the critics were male, 32.9 percent were female, and that of critics with an “ascertainable” race or ethnicity, 23.2 percent were from minority groups while 76.8 percent were white, according to the Associated Press.

The USC researchers suggested that the race or gender of a critic can have an effect on their reviews. They found that women of color were more likely to rate a movie with a minority female lead “Fresh” than white male critics, though researches expressed caution on those results due to small sample size.

According to the study, entertainment trade publications boasted the lowest percentage of female “top” critics (10 percent of reviews) on Rotten Tomatoes. General news outlets fared the best with 34.6 percent of reviews written by female “top” critics, according to the AP.

The center’s earlier studied analyzed more than 19,000 reviews of the 100 top-grossing films of 2017. It found that nearly 80 percent of critics were male, according to reviews compiled by Rotten Tomatoes.

In response to the researchers’ earlier study, the Toronto International Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival sought to diversify their press corps by inviting and paying the way for underrepresented critics and journalists. The currently underway Toronto Film Festival has brought nearly 200 critics (approximately 20 percent of the festival press) to Toronto, according to the AP.

After the first part of the three-part series was released over the summer, Rotten Tomatoes also modified its criteria to be more inclusive and foster diversity among those writing film and television reviews that are included in its influential Tomatometer scores.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the revamped criteria focuses on a critic’s individual qualifications and body of work vs. a particular publication or broadcast outlet. Additionally, the rules have expanded beyond print and broadcast to include newer media platforms, including podcasts and digital video series with substantial social media presence and strong audience engagement.

Previously, among other criteria, Tomatometer approval was primarily based on a person’s publication or employer. In terms of print rules, a publication had to be a top 10 daily newspaper or weekly, a top 10 magazine or a top 10 entertainment-based publication.

Rotten Tomatoes recently announced that it had identified more than 200 new Tomatometer-approved critics. The Hollywood Reporter noted that the 200 new critics, include Luciana Mangas, whose reviews appear on the blog Writes of the Roundtable; Bernard Boo, a critic who writes for Film Threat, PopMatters, Den of Geekand We Got This Covered; and Clarisse Loughrey, who writes for Little White Lies, That Darn Movie Show and Kermode & Mayo’s Film Review.

I’m pleased to report that I also among the new Tomatometer-approved critics for the site. Check out my reviews for The Oklahoman newspaper on Rotten Tomatoes at www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/brandy-mcdonnell/movies.

Per the new criteria, critics must demonstrate a consistent output for at least two years. And they cannot just be self-published, unless Rotten Tomatoes determines that their site and work “reflect key values” of the company.

If working for a video service, that service must have a minimum of 30,000 subscribers. However, critics reaching underrepresented groups will be considered on a case-by-case basis. In terms of broadcast, a critic must make regular appearances on television or radio, and there are guidelines regarding the reach or ratings that a podcast, print publication or broadcast outlet must have.

As part of its mandate to foster inclusion, Rotten Tomatoes has established a $100,000 grant program that will help critics attend film festivals, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“Advancing inclusion in criticism continues to be a priority for Rotten Tomatoes and we plan to expand our work with media outlets that hire critics, film festivals and other groups, so as an industry we can better serve consumers,” said Paul Yanover, president of Fandango, which bought the online aggregator two years ago.

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