Review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes is taking steps towards diversifying their critics roster after it was revealed that the majority of critics on the site were cis white men (what a shocker). The site, which pulls its rankings from published reviews across the country, will now be extending their reach to smaller, less conventional outlets like streaming shows, podcasts and blogs. Since announcing the shift, over 200 new Tomatometer-approved critics have been brought into the review giant’s network of critics.
In a released statement, Jenny Jediny, RT’s critics relations manager said, “The feedback we kept getting is that film criticism has changed. More people are freelancing, but our site didn’t reflect that. We were only focused on the reviews they were writing for pre-approved publications.” Not only is this a push for more inclusion, but it is also a reflection of the current state of publishing. As newsrooms get smaller and budgets get tighter, freelancing has become the norm, with critics writing for multiple outlets instead of a single company.
But inclusion is still the reigning issue here. In a recent USC study that analyzed reviews for the top 100 films in 2017, men wrote 77.8 percent of the reviews, with women writing only 22.2 percent. And white critics accounted for a staggering 82 percent compared to 18 percent critics of color.
This massive imbalance can have devastating effects on a film’s box office performance, as diverse fare becomes subject to the same biases it faces at every step of the artistic process. Stars like Brie Larson and Meryl Streep have publicly discussed how problematic it is to deny diverse critics a seat at the table.
When we talk about issues of diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry, we’re talking about a widespread problem that extends to all facets of the business. We celebrate every time a film that champions diversity succeeds, but real change necessitates a multi-pronged approach.
It’s not enough to just have a diverse movie succeed at the box office; what we need is an increase in the number of women and POC in development, financing, production, and post-production. But all of that work is for nothing if these films are reviewed by the same homogeneous group of critics. Hopefully, the changes that Rotten Tomatoes makes will be a part of that solution.
(via Variety, image: Atsushi Nishijima / Disney)
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