SAN DIEGO — The imbalance of male film critics negatively impacts the exposure and evaluation of female-led films and films with women directors, according to a newly released San Diego State University study.
Martha Lauzen with SDSU’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film found that male critics outnumber their female counterparts by roughly two-to-one across print, broadcast and online media.
When reviewing woman-directed films, male reviewers are less likely than females to mention the name of the woman directing the film, according to Lauzen, and less likely to use exclusively positive comments regarding her skills, work and vision.
The study found 38 percent of male-written reviews included exclusively complimentary comments about female directors such as “master” or “impresario,” compared to 52 percent of reviews written by women.
In contrast, male writers were more likely than women to use exclusively complimentary words and phrases when talking about male directors. Thirty-two percent of reviews written by men and 23 percent of reviews written by women used only positive descriptors when talking about male directors.
Such factors have implications for those in the movie business, Lauzen said.
“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,” she said. “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 help shape the narrative surrounding that director.”
Lauzen found that men accounted for 70 percent of those writing movie reviews for trade publications and general interest magazines and websites, 69 percent for news websites as well as 68 percent for newspapers and entertainment publications.
Men also dominate the review industry across genres, according to the study. They make up 78 percent of those reviewing action and horror films, 75 percent for animated features, 74 percent for documentaries, 73 percent for comedy-dramas, 70 percent for dramas, 69 percent for sciences fiction films and 59 percent for comedies.
Lauzen’s study, “Thumbs Down: Film Critics and Gender, and Why it Matters,” was first conducted in 2007. Over the years, more than 16,000 pieces by more than 900 reviewers have been considered.