During an acceptance speech last Wednesday night at the Women in Film’s Crystal + Lucy Awards, Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson (ROOM) used her moment to highlight the decided lack of prominent female and minority voices in the world of film criticism.
“I don’t need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work about A WRINKLE IN TIME. It wasn’t made for him! I want to know what it meant to women of color, biracial women, to teen women of color.”
Larson clarified her statement by saying it wasn’t an attack on “white dudes,” but rather a reaction to a study released two days earlier by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. Based upon reviews available through Rotten Tomatoes’ website, the study found that nearly 80% of film critics who reviewed 2017’s 100 highest-grossing movies were white men.
“It really sucks that reviews matter, but reviews matter.” Larson lamented.
Representation also matters, of course — and, unfortunately, we see the negative effects across the board when members of a particular group feel marginalized, underserved, and underappreciated. While I do not want to compare matters of real world consequence to the issue of just who is giving an arbitrary star rating to the fifth movie in a ‘Hey, let’s recreate dangerous dinosaurs’ franchise, the fact remains that certain viewpoints are rarely part of the conversation.
Full Disclosure: It’s not exactly pulling the curtain back to mention that FILMS ON TAP is an all-male podcast; where three of the four co-hosts are white. Outside of a rare guest voice, when you listen to our show, you are guaranteed to hear the thoughts and views of four guys who, usually, have similar variations of the same basic ideas:
We love raunchy comedies. And violent horror movies. And action stars who say silly one-liners after brutally murdering bad guys in unusual and funny ways. And movies not named I FEEL PRETTY.
And that’s just it. As a group, we are probably not going to have the same reaction to a movie like BOOK CLUB that a member of the target audience would have — and, to be honest, most of us would never watch it in the first place. In a world where most film critics are white males (and would probably fall along those lines), how could a movie like BOOK CLUB (or DAMSEL, or PROUD MARY, or…) expect to receive a fair shake?
When a created system fails to ensure equal representation, how can it possibly reach its full potential?
The other side of the coin, however, is… well, me.
As the co-host who is noticeably different from the rest, I understand what it’s like to rarely see movies that represent me (let alone read, watch, or hear reviews that share my particular perspective). If my lack of relatability deems me unable to fairly comment on movies geared towards women, wouldn’t it be just as valid to say that my race precludes me from giving an accurate take on movies that cater to non-black audiences?
Okay, maybe that’s not exactly the same thing… but, maybe, it is.
This should go without saying, but equal representation is still sorely needed throughout most aspects of life — and I would love to see an increased awareness for films that don’t fall under the STAR WARS or SPIELBERG or MARVEL umbrellas. Film criticism has become stagnant, trite, and lazy due to the same repeated conversations coming from the same corners of the universe… but we don’t need a complete overhaul.
We just need to open the damn door even further.