I saw a study yesterday that, of the over 4,000 film reviews aggregated on Rotten Tomatoes in the Spring of 2018 that 71 percent of all the reviews were written by men, which illustrates that even in 2018, the industry is still dominated by dudes.
I also saw this on Twitter:
62% of Americans are white.— Lilah Sturges @ SDCC (@lilah_sturges) July 16, 2018
Of those, 49% are male.
Of those, 90% are straight.
If you do the math, you find that straight white men make up 27% of the US population. So if realism matters to you, you should insist that only 27% of characters in US media be straight white men.
I thought that was interesting, because here at Pajiba, 29 percent of our film reviews in 2018 have been written by straight white men (all but 7 of which were mine), so we’re almost reflective of the American population in that respect, anyway.
However, I have a few local friends — progressive, really great guys, but all white dudes — who read the site a lot, but occasionally get annoyed when we just don’t fucking review the film. Why do we always have to highlight it when a film lacks people of color; why pay special attention when a movie is directed by a woman; why even single out a great performance in an otherwise terrible movie because the actor is Black?
As someone who reads all the reviews here, I really began to notice this after it was brought to my attention. We actually do this a lot, and we also frequently take issue when a movie doesn’t feature women or people of color. Maybe that makes some of our readers — like my local friends — bristle occasionally. Why don’t you just fucking review the film!
Well, because it fucking matters.
The study went on to document how male and female reviewers differed in their treatment of films centered around women and also of women directors. “These gender imbalances matter because they impact the visibility of films with female protagonists and/or women directors, as well as the nature of reviews,” Lauzen noted.
Female reviewers were more likely to mention the name of a woman who’d directed a film and to use exclusively positive comments when talking about her work. Fifty-two percent of the reviews written by women, as compared to 38 percent of those written by men, included complimentary comments about the woman director. In contrast, when talking about a male director, male reviewers were more likely to offer up complimentary words than their female counterparts by 32 percent to 23 percent.
“Something as simple as the mention of a director’s name in a review and labeling that individual as a ‘master’ of the filmmaking craft can shape the narrative surrounding the director,” Lauzen said.
And that’s why we don’t just review the film. Granted, we only occupy a small fraction of the reviews of the 4,0000 in the Spring of 2018 on Rotten Tomatoes (we’ve written 129 this year, and many aren’t even on Rotten Tomatoes because I forget to add a lot of them), but every little bit counts, and we have seen that reflected in the way that movies are cast, and in who works behind the camera. There’s a long way to go before straight white male characters only comprise 27 percent of all working casts, but by collectively highlighting great work by actors and directors who are not straight white men, and by calling out films for not including enough women or people of color, the film reviewing community can help force incremental change.