Rotten Tomatoes hopes to gain diversity with new critics

Over the past couple years, more attention has been given to the lack of diversity in the film industry. The lack of diverse film leads have skewed films from reality and have created a void of representation for general audience members.

The New York Times published an article on Tuesday, Aug. 28, about Rotten Tomatoes, which has added about 200 movie critics on Tuesday, Aug. 28, in hopes of being more inclusive. Rotten Tomatoes is one of the first film review websites that has taken this step in becoming more diverse.

Looking back at the multiple film review articles I wrote over the last two semesters, I had jokingly talked to my friends about becoming a movie critic. There is a lack of popular female film critics, especially in media and film review sites like Rotten Tomatoes, and it would have been a nice hobby.

This lack of female film critics, and minority critics as well, is one of the biggest issues surrounding the film industry. When the film industry lacks the voices of these groups, the industry creates a skewed view of reality based on the majority’s perspective. Many reviewers who contribute to movie critic sites are usually white and male. A study of 19,559 film reviews done by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative in June 2018 found that 77.8 percent were by male critics and 22.2 percent were by female critics. The same study found that only 18 percent of the reviews were written by underrepresented ethnic and racial film critics. I noticed this when I had wrote an article on “Red Sparrow,” as many of the reviews I had trudged through were written by male critics.

Honestly, I have never really taken movie critics and their reviews quite as seriously as they want readers to. I firmly believe in creating your own opinion about films, because oftentimes, reviews will make the movies  out to be awful, and you think the movie is great. Reading awful reviews can turn people away from a movie they may have loved. I think on some level, however, I have never truly taken reviews seriously because the critics are not as diverse as they should be.

Part of me wants to say it has never been about who has reviewed the movie I am about to go see, but as I examine my favorite movies and the popular reviews of them, I think it is hard to take these reviews seriously.

As the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative study found, movie critics are commonly white and male, making it rare to see female, African-American or any minority film critic in the industry. Eighty two percent of the reviews assembled on Rotten Tomatoes in 2017 for the highest grossing movies were written by white critics, and 78 percent were written by men, according to the University of Southern California’s study.

“I do not need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work for him about ‘A Wrinkle in Time’, it wasn’t made for him. I want to know what that film meant to women of color, to biracial women, to teen women of color, to teens that are biracial,” Brie Larson said, at the Women in Film’s Crystal+Lucy Awards on June 13, 2018.

At the awards ceremony, Larson puts it perfectly into why we need diversity in film critiquing. If you do not have various voices in the film industry, especially in film critique, films are not going to be seen or reviewed by the people who should be. Repeatedly, we hear from the same critics about various films and genres, and these critics have their biases that can influence their reviews.    

I cannot speak for everyone, but I am tired of reading the same reviews written by the same people, especially when a movie is actually good. Granted, there are movies out there that deserve these soul-crushing reviews. More often than not, most film critics have tastes that do not reflect the general audiences of films.

I am tired of the awful reviews on films with female leads. First, we are barely getting enough of these films, though these movies are also plagued by the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the lead roles. Outside of the romance and comedy genres, female-led movies in action or fantasy are uncommon. We need to create more films across various genres for female characters and we need to stop the unfair criticisms by critics that are overwhelmingly male.

Second, these movies are never given a chance. Most of the time, even before the movie hits theaters for public audiences, the film is already being called disappointing or terrible. A 2018 San Diego University study found that male critics were harsher than women on films with female leads, according to the New York Times article.

I want to say I am surprised, but I am not. Rather, this study has concluded what many female movie reviewers or fans already know about the environment surrounding film review. 

This issue of diversity in film review stems from the overwhelming lack of diversity in Hollywood. The lack of gender, racial and ethnic minority roles in films and production has been receiving more attention lately, and for good reason.

One of the biggest movies of 2017, “Black Panther,” for example, boasted an outstanding black cast and production team. The audience’s excitement for the film, specifically within black communities, showed how Hollywood has been lacking in diversity for film leads, movie roles and production teams.

Rotten Tomatoes has taken one of the first steps, at least in their part of the film industry, to creating a more diverse base of movie critics. And while some film critic sites and production companies have taken steps to be more diverse, we still have years ahead of us before movies truly represent society.