STUDY: How Women of Color Are Erased From Film Criticism

By Sameer Rao Sep 07, 2018

Back in June, the University of Southern California’s (USC) Annenberg Inclusion Initiative took aim at entertainment media’s White male hegemony with "Critic’s Choice?" a study that illuminated the derth of critics of color in film journalism and how it impacts the industry. It pushed review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes to change its certification criteria to incorporate more journalists of color and donate $25,000 to bring them to the Toronto International Film Festival

Today (September 7), the USC group revisits this issue in "Critic’s Choice 2," a follow-up report created in collaboration with the Time’s Up initiative’s entertainment arm. 


rntThe new report evaluates a total of 59,751 movie reviews, aggregated through Rotten Tomatoes, on the 100 highest-grossing movies for 2015, 2016 and 2017. Like its predecessor, it illustrates the grim impact that entertainment outlets, arts desks and the film criticism establishment’s exclusion of journalists of color (especially women of color) has on both Hollywood and media. Consider these three noteworthy examples:

White men outnumber women of color in Rotten Tomatoes’ critical pool by a ratio of 17.7 to 1. 

Women of color wrote just 3.7 percent of all reviews of the aforementioned 300 films. Men of color wrote 13.1 percent, while White men wrote 65.6 percent. 

The industry’s biggest studios aren’t doing enough to make sure critics of color review their films.

Film studios’ public relations departments frequently correspond with critics to coordinate screeners and screenings for reviews. The data suggests that these studios could work significantly harder to reach reviewers of color. For instance, women of color reviewed only 3.7 percent of the relevant films released by Universal Pictures, the studio that distributed “Girls Trip." White men reviewed 65 percent of that studio’s movies. 

Women of color are more likely than White men to write positive reviews of movies starring women of color.

Of the top-grossing movies with lead actresses of color, 81.1 percent of women of color gave these movies a "fresh" rating. White male critics, however, gave just 59.2 percent of these films a stamp of approval. 

Nithya Raman, the executive director of Time’s Up Entertainment, says that the study shows the disproportionate power White men have over a movie’s fortune. 

“As pointed out through this study, when film critics are overwhelmingly White and male, films may not be given the same opportunities to succeed," she says in an emailed statement. "We will continue to advocate to ensure that the entertainment industry proactively provides access to a much more diverse pool of critics.”

Time’s Up Entertainment pursues this goal through Critical, a new opt-in database that aims to create a stronger and more diverse pipeline for film distributors and talent managers to connect with journalists from underrepresented groups.

Learn more about the demographic imbalance of film criticism by reading the full report at