Study finds only one-third of film critics are women

SAN DIEGO — A report released Friday by San Diego State University says that two-thirds of U.S. movie critics in 2019 are men, which may affect how certain movies are analyzed in print, broadcast and online reviews.

The study found that 66% of film reviewers are men, the other 34% being women, a 2% increase over female reviewers’ 2018 market share.

Of those reviewers, women were nearly 20% more likely to write about films with a woman protagonist. A total of 54% of reviews written by women are about women-led films compared with 38% of reviews produced by men.

The findings come in the SDSU Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film’s third annual “Thumb’s Down” study of film reviewers across the country. The study is one of several the center releases each year discussing the role of women in the modern film industry.

Martha Lauzen, the center’s executive director, analyzed for the study more than 4,750 film reviews from more than 380 reviewers published between February and April 2019, a stretch of time that included tent pole movies such as “Dumbo” and “Avengers: Endgame.”

“These gender imbalances matter because they impact the visibility films with female protagonists and women directors receive, as well as the nature of reviews,” Lauzen said.

According to the study, women generally gave higher review scores to women-led films than men, with the inverse being true for films with a male protagonist. Women were also more likely, 31% to men’s 16%, to mention the name of a female director within the review. By contrast, 81% of male reviewers and 66% of women named male directors in their reviews.

A vast majority of both male and female reviewers chose not to mention a director’s filmography in their reviews, the study found. However, male critics who did include a director’s filmography were more likely to do so for male directors.

The study found that 16% of male film critics mentioned filmography information for female directors while 28% did so for male directors. Among female critics, 17% included a female director’s filmography in their reviews and 19% did so for male directors.

“The positive discussion of a filmmaker’s previous work helps establish the experience of that director,” Lauzen said. “A glowing mention of a director’s filmography positions that filmmaker as a known quantity with a respected track record, and provides a positive context for the current film under review.”

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film first issued the Thumbs Down study in 2017. Since that time, the center has analyzed more than 21,000 reviews from more than 1,300 critics, according to SDSU.

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