Think of every famous, well-respected film critic that you can remember. Who comes to mind? People respected in the field for decades like Mark Kermode and Roger Ebert? YouTube video creators like Chris Stuckmann and I Hate Everything? I have a lot of respect for each of these people and their individual styles of film criticism, but that does not change the lack of diversity on display here in terms of ethnicity and gender. White men are not the only ones who watch films, so why should they be viewed as the only ones capable of analysing them?
In a recent speech at the Crystal + Lucy Awards, Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson stated that she doesn’t need ‘a 40-year-old white dude to tell [her] what didn’t work for him’ in films like A Wrinkle In Time, that are made by and largely for women of colour. This has sparked a conversation about diversity in film criticism as well as in film production itself, with representation in both being equally important.
Personally, when I review films I attempt to provide my own perspective as a woman and a young person, and try to acknowledge political elements like race and sexuality without speaking as an authority. This highlights why a variation in critics is important; a white woman can’t speak about movies like Black Panther and The Help with the same experience and understanding to back up her opinions as a black woman.
This discrepancy in representation could be contributing to a lack of representation of minorities in films in the first place. If critics emerged from a broader range of backgrounds, there may be more incentive to make films that appeal to those same backgrounds. The gender distribution at the 2017 Oscars was overwhelmingly male in nearly every category, and whilst other factors will have inevitably influenced this, desiring the approval of largely white male critics could have had an impact on the making of each film.
To finish, let me recommend some female critics and critics of colour you could be checking out alongside your current favourites. Lindsay Ellis produces video essays that use academic film theory concepts and go into huge detail, but in an easy to understand way. Andre the ‘Black Nerd’ reviews Marvel movies and other films under the ‘nerdy’ banner with a signature brand of humour. Karen Han writes for publications like Vulture and Slashfilm, and Kristy Strouse is a colleague of mine at Film Inquiry who writes in-depth, succinct reviews (not that I’m biased…).
Until we acknowledge critics like the ones above and many many more, there will be little progress in representation in the film industry as a whole.
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