The latest complaint of “too many white males” comes out of the University of Southern California. As noted by Campus Reform, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California recently published a study titled “Critic’s Choice?” which acknowledges the bitter reality that film critics are “largely white and male” and seeks remedies for this “problem.”
The “study” (and that term should be used guardedly in this case) is based on “reviews of the 100 top grossing films of 2017 posted on the site Rotten Tomatoes to assess gender and race/ethnicity of critics.” Reviewers, the report observes, are “overwhelmingly white and male.”
For those unacquainted with it, Rotten Tomatoes is a review-aggregation website for film and television begun by three undergraduate at Berkeley with a common interest in cinema. All three also happen to be Asian-American, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Very early in their report, the researchers include a table that breaks down the universe of film critics by four categories: male, female, not under-represented, and under-represented. There is no explanation for what not under-represented means, but here are the shocking findings: 77.8% of all critics are male, 22.2% are female, 82% belong to the “not under-represented” class, and 18% belong to the “under-represented” class.
Among the “fixes” the report recommends is that the film reviewing community strive for a “‘target’ demographic makeup … of 30 percent white males, 30 percent white females, 20 percent ‘under-represented males,’ and 20 percent “under-represented females.”
Several questions emerge. First, who are these recommendations intended for? If you google the terms association of film critics or society of film critics, you are greeted with links to several such groups. But all are honorary collections of journalists affiliated with newspapers, magazines, and entertainment websites. The group itself does no actual hiring of critics.
Second, the study fails to take the variable of career choice into account. Maybe there are fewer female and minority film critics because women and minorities elect not to go into this line of work.
Maybe it’s time for members of academia to focus less on inventing grievances to rail about and more on educating the young minds with which they have been entrusted.