Male Critics Are Harsher Than Women on Female-Led Films, Study Says

Posted July 17, 2018 3:37 p.m. EDT

There are more than double the number of male film critics than female critics, and that, according to a new study, has a demonstrable impact on how films starring and directed by women are reviewed.

According to research released Tuesday by Martha Lauzen of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, female critics tend to give higher ratings to films with women in leading roles than male critics do: Female writers gave an average rating of 74 percent to films starring women, whereas male writers gave those films an average rating of 62 percent. (The study converted stars and other rating systems to percentages.) Those figures leveled off more when men were in leading roles; female critics gave those films an average rating of 73 percent, and men on average rated them 70 percent.

Female critics are also more likely than their male counterparts to review films directed by and starring women — though that might be due to their own preferences — and also mention the names of female directors, and make exclusively positive remarks about their skills and vision.

“For decades, many male directors have benefited from reviews in which they have been described in larger-than-life, almost mythic ways,” Lauzen said in a statement. “Few women, with the possible exception of Kathryn Bigelow, have enjoyed this same kind of critical treatment.”

The researchers used data from the aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, and examined some 4,111 reviews written by 341 critics working at print, online and broadcast outlets this spring. Men made up 68 percent of those reviewers and women 32 percent. More than four out of five of those critics, male and female, were white.