A study finds fewer women writing about film for top newspapers. But the big news isn't the gender of critics -- it's the poor health of the profession.
Martha M. Lauzen, director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, has just released a study revealing that most of the film criticism appearing in the nation’s top newspapers is written by men. In the fall of 2007, Lauzen’s study notes, men wrote 70 percent of all film reviews in those papers; women wrote 30 percent. Moreover, 47 percent of those publications had no reviews written by female critics (either full-time writers or freelancers).
I’m not surprised by Lauzen’s findings, and I doubt that anyone is, at least among those who pay even the remotest amount of attention to film criticism. Every January, when I get together with my colleagues in the National Society of Film Critics, there are certainly more men than women around the table. (There are 55 men and 10 women in the NSFC.)
But I’ve stopped asking myself why there are so few women film critics. Forget the gender breakdown: The bigger crisis is that film criticism, as a viable profession, is dying. The big news isn’t that daily newspapers aren’t hiring women as critics; it’s that many of them have ceased caring whether they have a full-time movie critic at all. Over the past five years, daily newspapers have been letting longtime, experienced (and thus expensive) critics go and either failing to replace them or filling their jobs with freelancers or less experienced newcomers. I don’t believe film criticism overall is dying — it thrives, in many different forms and at many different levels of quality, on the Web. But the chances of being able to make a living at it are growing increasingly slim.
As far as the male-female breakdown goes, I offer these two small nuggets of anecdotal evidence: In the years since I’ve been working for Salon, I’ve been courted by two major daily newspapers looking to hire me as a full-time film critic. The first paper actually offered me a job, but I declined because the salary was so laughably low. The editor who interviewed me for that job had made no secret that the paper wanted to hire a female critic, but clearly, what the joint really wanted was a cheap date. At the second paper, talks broke down when the organization was hit with some daunting financial problems. The paper ultimately chose a film critic — for what it’s worth, a man — from within its own ranks.
My own experience suggests that right around the time major newspapers (other than the New York Times, which has a better track record than most in this area) began expressing a willingness to hire women critics, they also began to realize that maybe they didn’t have enough money — or enough faith in the idea of criticism, period — to support having full-time critics of either gender. It’s true that the world of working film critics, such as it is, is filled with middle-aged white guys, and supposedly, we’re not supposed to feel bad when a middle-aged white guy loses a job. But in the past five years, I’ve had to watch too many colleagues — male and female — fall by the wayside, and it has been painful. The numbers in Lauzen’s study don’t trouble me as much as the pervasiveness of the idea that critics — the last line of defense between moviegoers and studio-generated hype — no longer matter. And that problem has little to do with gender bias.
More Related Stories
- My text blew up in my face
- Boy Scouts end ban on openly gay boys
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Billionaire hedge funder: Babies, breast-feeding "kill" focus, keep women from succeeding
- "Bookless library" set to open in Texas
- Man arrested for sending Craigslist sex party to neighbor's house
- Greek yogurt, toxic waste hazard?
- Glenn Beck: CNN interview with atheist tornado survivor was a setup!
- Incoming BBC news director on journalism gender gap: "We can do better"
- Illegal construction, shoddy materials at fault in Bangladesh factory disaster
- Pope Francis: Atheists are all right!
- Lawsuit alleges anti-gay hiring practices at ExxonMobil
- Boy Scouts poised to vote, still greatly divided on gay youth
- Is recreational pot use safe?
- How I ended up in a pyramid scheme
- My bipolar partner beat me
- Teenagers care more about online privacy than you think
- Radio host tweets rape joke, blames journalists for reporting on it
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
- Kicked out of the mall -- for an anti-cancer hat
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11