Annual Survey Of Film Critics Finds Persistent Gender Disparities, Profound Impacts

On Tuesday, Dr. Martha Lauzen released her annual survey of gender in film criticism. Titled Thumbs Down: Film Critics and Gender, and Why It Matters, it is the most comprehensive and longest-running study of women’s representation in film criticism.

This year’s survey found persistent inequalities that had profound impacts on how film is reviewed and provide a warning for what lies ahead as the industry reopens.

Before the shuttering of U.S. theaters last spring, male film reviewers outnumbered female critics by nearly 2 to 1. Men comprised 65 percent and women 35 percent of film reviewers in the U.S.

Unsurprisingly, the data shows that female-driven films and films directed by women make up a smaller proportion of the reviews written by men — 45 percent — than those written by women — 54 percent.

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The study also found that film reviewers of color remain critically underrepresented. Just 23 percent of female critics are women of color. Only 18 percent of male critics are men of color.

According to Lauzen, “The overrepresentation of men as film reviewers coupled with the fact that a higher proportion of their reviews focus on male-driven stories and films directed by men advantage those films by giving them greater visibility in the critical marketplace.

“As the film industry reanimates in the coming weeks,” she said, “this structural inequity will help to ensure that pre-pandemic inequities will remain in place in the pandemic and post-pandemic environments.”

For the past two decades, Dr. Martha Lauzen has conducted groundbreaking research on the representation and employment of women on screen and behind the scenes in film and television. Her surveys, including the annual Celluloid Ceiling study, have provided a foundation for dialogue and activism on this issue. A nationally and internationally recognized expert on women in media, Dr. Lauzen is the founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

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