Study Finds Film Criticism Dominated by Men

7:27 AM PST 05/24/2013 by Tatiana Siegel
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New York Observer critic Rex Reed stoked outrage for his harsh review of Melissa McCarthy in "Identity Thief."

The San Diego State University report also says that reviewers tend to gravitate toward films written and directed by people of their own sex.

A San Diego State University study released today finds that men continue to dominate as film critics and reviewers tend to gravitate toward films written and directed by people of their own sex.

The study, titled Gender @ the Movies: On-Line Film Critics and Criticism and written by Martha Lauzen, tracked more than 2,000 reviews by 145 writers designated as “top critics” on the film review aggregator RottenTomatoes.com over a two-month period in the spring of 2013. The study examined the percentages of male and female critics, the numbers of reviews they wrote during that period and the length and nature of their reviews.  

Among the findings, men account for 78 percent of top critics, writing 82 percent of reviews, as the dominance that men have enjoyed in print has transferred to the internet. In fact, film critics appear to have become less, not more, gender diverse over the past six years, Lauzen finds.

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In addition, a larger proportion of the total reviews written by female critics are about films directed by and/or written by at least one woman. The same holds true for men. Men's dominance as critics coupled with their predisposition for films made by men produces a multiplier effect in that these films receive greater exposure than films made by women.

However, the study debunks the notion that male critics -- as a group -- write more negative reviews of films made by women than by men. Though the New York Observer's Rex Reed famously criticized Melissa McCarthy’s weight in his review of Identity Thief, stoking accusations of gender bias, the study found no evidence of such bias when looking at male critics as a whole. The study found that when male critics review films made by women, they actually write slightly longer reviews and assign them average ratings that are in the same ballpark as the ratings assigned to films made by men. Though it's worth noting that according to the parameters of the study, Identity Thief would qualify as a "male" movie given that director Seth Gordon and writers Craig Mazin and Jerry Eeten are all men.

Email: Tatiana.Siegel@THR.com, Twitter: @TatianaSiegel27

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