Last year, Meryl Streep made headlines when she spoke out against gender imbalance in film criticism, telling reporters she personally counted the critics on Rotten Tomatoes and found a huge disparity between the number of male and female writers. Now, a new study from San Diego State University backs Streep up, revealing that a whopping 73 percent of Rotten Tomatoes’ top critics are men.
The university’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film conducted a study earlier this year analyzing 5,776 reviews written by 247 of Rotten Tomatoes’ top critics. (The site designates some writers as “top critics” if they write for a major publication or are generally considered to be influential.) The results of that study, which were released Thursday, found that men drastically outnumber women in film criticism.
The study, titled “Thumbs Down 2016: Top Film Critics and Gender,” also broke down the gender balance based on the type of publication, finding that newspapers had the greatest percentage of female film critics (29 percent) while trade publications like The Hollywood Reporter, The Wrap, and Variety had the smallest percentage (20 percent).
Interestingly, the study also found that female critics reviewed more films with female protagonists than their male counterparts did, and there were serious discrepancies between genres, too. The biggest disparity came with reviews of science-fiction films, with men writing 84 percent of all science-fiction movie reviews and women 16 percent. For romantic comedies and dramas, on the other hand, men only wrote 57 percent of reviews and women 43 percent.
It’s unclear exactly why female critics are more likely to write about films with female protagonists — the study notes this could be attributed to writer preference or editor assignments — but it’s an interesting point in the ongoing debate about female representation in Hollywood.
“The discussion of film in this country remains a heavily male pursuit, reflecting an industry with the same bias,” the center’s executive director, Dr. Martha Lauzen, said in a statement. “Women’s underrepresentation among the top critics is not only an employment issue for women who write about film, it also impacts the amount of exposure films with female protagonists receive.”