Film Critics: A Boys' Club

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The New York Times, Los AngelesTimes and the Associated Press all have female movie reviewers, but don't let that fool you: Film criticism in the nation's newspapers remains "largely a male enterprise," according to a new study.

The study was written by Martha M. Lauzen, director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. It is available on the Web site of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists.

Lauzen looked at film criticism in the top 100 U.S. newspapers by circulation in the fall of 2007. She found that 70 percent of the individuals reviewing theatrical films are male.

Among those whose job title is specifically that of “film critic,” the imbalance is even larger, with 77 percent being men.

Men were more likely to review movies of every genre, with one exception: romantic comedies or dramas. Informal interviews with critics suggest this is due to a combination of some female reviewers being assigned such fare and others specifically requesting it.

Lauzen found no gender gap in terms of how harshly films are evaluated. Reviews written by both male and female critics contained an average of four negative sentences and five positive ones. (The other sentences conveyed either mixed feelings or neutral observations.)

The study also found that 26 percent of the top 100 newspapers do not have anyone on staff to review films, which presumably means they rely on wire-service copy. That number seems likely to increase as newspapers continue to downsize their staffs.

So perhaps in a few more years, when we report seven out of 10 newspaper film critics are men, we will literally mean seven out of the remaining 10.

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