September 8, 2008

Deeper Probing on the Lack of Women Reviewers

I took a deeper look at Dr. Martha Lauzen of the Center for Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State recent study, Thumbs Down: The Representation of Women Film Critics in The Top 100 U.S. Daily Newspapers. Here are some questions I posed to Dr. Lauzen

Women & Hollywood: You tried to analyze whether women reviewers were more likely than men to review film directed by women and films about women but the pool of those films was so low that you could not get reliable statistics. What does that say about the film business?

Dr. Martha Lauzen: The low numbers of women directors and protagonists confirm that the film business remains largely a male pursuit. Films are made primarily by men featuring mostly men intended for a largely male audience.
W&H: Women whether by interest or assignment are more likely to review romantic comedies and romantic dramas. This seems to me evidence that the chick flick mentality extends into the mindset of the reviewers and editors as well as the audience. What does this mean to you?
ML: The reviewers and editors are part of our culture and so it's not surprising that some of them would express gendered preferences.
W&H: Women edit half the sections that employ so few women as writers. Why do you think the numbers are so low when women have decision making in these areas?
ML: The number of women working as editors was a happy surprise. However, these women are part of larger corporate cultures. I suspect they are aware of expectations regarding assignments to reporters. Those organizational expectations may differ from their own preferences.
W&H: Your conclusion states: "In short, men dominate the reviewing process of films primarily made by men featuring mostly males intended for a largely male audience. The under-employment of women film reviewers, actors, and filmmakers perpetuates the nearly seamless dialogue among men in U.S. cinema." As a person who thinks about this what do you think we can do to get some more women's voices?
ML: Of course you recognize that this is a huge question. Women are very well-represented in journalism programs around the country. Unfortunately, the pool of film and television criticism jobs at traditional media organizations is shrinking. I think the voices that remain become even more important. When Ebert and Roeper were recently replaced with two younger guys, I wonder if any women were even considered as replacements.
W&H: The blogosphere is taking over some of the void left with the consolidation of newspapers especially in the areas of entertainment. From my experience most of the film bloggers and reviewers are also male and that even in its infancy most of the bloggers of status in the business are men supporting the male films. Did you look at bloggers at all in your study and how can we get some more women's voices writing about film and other areas of entertainment?
ML: We did not consider bloggers in the study. Perhaps a place to start would be to conduct a public information campaign targeting journalism and film schools around the country, outlining the problem and asking them to encourage their female students to speak up on this issue.
Check out the full study here: Thumbs Down: The Representation of Women Film Critics in The Top 100 U.S. Daily Newspapers and my earlier piece: Missing Female Reviewers