A study released today by San Diego State professor Martha Lauzen, as reported by The Wrap, has some pretty distressing statistics about gender equality in the world of film criticism. The study tracked more than 2000 reviews written by authors designated as “Top Critics” on the aggregation service Rotten Tomatoes over the course of several months and found, incredibly, that a whopping 82% were written by men. A similar study conducted in 2007, which tracked reviews written for the top 100 American dailies, found that men accounted for 70% of the material—which suggests not only have the numbers gotten worse, but that, more alarmingly, things are actually worse for female critics online than they were exclusively in print media. Whatever the reasons (or excuses), this is clearly a sorry state of affairs.
There are many great female film critics writing outstanding film criticism every week, and maybe the best thing we can do in response to a study like this is read more. We need more women writing about movies, certainly, but we also need to be more aware of the women who are writing about movies already. Men have a tendency to shout over other people; we don’t need to hear more of that.
With all of this in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to highlight a few of the most essential female critics working today, from some of the most respected names in criticism to less established voices on the rise. If you’re not reading these women already, get on it.
- Farran Nehme - New York Post, Self-Styled Siren
Nehme has long been well-regarded for her incredibly insightful film blog “The Self-Styled Siren”, where she muses on obscure works of classical Hollywood cinema and unearths rare bits of film-legend arcana. Over the last year or so she’s been steadily contributing feature reviews to the New York Post, which is an excellent fit.
- Kiva Reardon - Cleo Journal, Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot
Kiva Reardon made a name for herself as a regular contributor to respected outlets like Cinema Scope and Reverse Shot, offering in-depth criticism that goes much deeper than an ordinary review. But her biggest achievement is also her most recent: last month she founded Cleo, a new journal offering feminist perspectives on film.
- Zeba Blay - Slant Magazine, Black Voices
Blay’s recent festival coverage for Slant Magazine’s House Next Door has been superb, but some of the most notable writing she’s offered to date hasn’t been strictly reviewing movies, but looking at them more deeply for issues of race and representation (including a provocative piece for Huffington Post about Lena Dunham and “Girls”). Her deep engagement with issues too few critics pay mind to is refreshing and important.
- Miriam Bale - The L Magazine, NY Daily News, MUBI, Filmmaker Magazine
Miriam Bale is one of my very favorite film critics for the simplest of reasons: her writing makes me think. Writing with intelligence, curiosity, and wit, the only bad thing about Bale is that she doesn’t write enough. We need more critics like this.
- Stephanie Zacharek - Film.com, The Village Voice
Our former critic, the wonderful Stephanie Zacharek has been rapidly gathering readers and esteem lately, culminating in her recent and much-deserved takeover as chief critic for the Village Voice.
- Karina Longworth - LA Weekly, Grantland Vanity Fair
Karina Longworth might be the most widely read name on this list, and so needs no introduction. But her writing remains as vital as ever, not only in her role as a film critic but also as the author of a newly published book on Al Pacino.
- Dana Stevens - Slate
Dana Stevens is one of the most respected film critics working, and for good reason: her direct, candid style is engaging and inflected with personality, her voice as open as it is authoritative.