Annenberg report finds lack of diversity among film critics

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The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Research Lab released the findings of a study on Monday that examined whether or not the pool of today’s film critics reflect the movies they review.

The “Critic’s Choice?” study evaluated reviews of the 100 top grossing films of 2017, tallying the gender, race and ethnicity of critics.

Upon assessing the reviews, which were extracted from Rotten Tomatoes, researchers found that the majority of the reviewers are white and male. The report found that an overwhelming 77.8 percent of those critiques originated from males. In addition, 63.9 percent of the reviews were written by white males. While female critics crafted a meager 22.2 percent of the studied reviews, only 4.1 percent came from underrepresented females.

According to the founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Research Lab Stacy Smith, leaving out the voices of minority female critics renders movie evaluations unrepresentative and flawed.

“This report reveals the absence of women of color working as reviewers — especially on movies built around female and underrepresented leads,” Smith said in a press release. “Creating inclusive hiring practices at every stage of the filmmaking and review process is essential to meeting business imperatives and ensuring that we see diverse perspectives reflected in society.”

It was discovered that the majority of the film reviews from white male critics were also deemed the most valuable. Of the 3,359 reviews done by “Top Critics,” male critics dominated at 76 percent while their female counterparts wrote the remaining 24 percent — less than a quarter of the top viewed opinions.

The study’s lead author Marc Choueiti also observed that white male reviewers’ voices were more pronounced than females and minorities. Top film reviewers outweighed underrepresented females by an estimated 27-to-1 ratio.

“Re-examining the definition of a top critic or simply casting a wider net can be the opportunity to open up and diversity the voices heard in the critic space,” Choueiti said.

To mitigate the crisis, the researchers of the study proposed a set of target inclusion goals for film reviews. The 30/30/20/20 is one of the suggested methods that the researchers endorsed.

According to the research report, 30/30/20/20 is a ratio that the pool of movie critics should align with to gain a more comprehensive and well-represented evaluation on new movie releases.

“Current population statistics in the U.S. show a gender and race breakdown as being roughly 30 percent white males, 30 percent white females, 20 percent underrepresented males and 20 percent underrepresented females,” Choueiti said. “In the report we call upon aggregator sites professional organizations, educational institutions, and entertainment industry leaders to take practical steps toward inclusion of underrepresented groups in this field.”

Choueiti hopes that many players in front and behind the big screens are taking initiatives and speaking up to encourage awareness and female and underrepresented population participation in evaluating today’s increasing diverse films.

“Notably, [actress] Brie Larson called for more underrepresented reviewers to be included as press for popular films and revealed at the Sundance Film Festival and TIFF are dedicating press credentials to underrepresented critics,” Choueiti said.

Moving forward, Choueiti hopes to delve deeper into the nuances and implications of having a more diverse pool of critics for the movie industry and society at large.

“We hope to answer additional questions in future research on this topic, such as the relationship between reviewer’s gender and race/ethnicity, and evaluation,” Choueiti said.