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Karie's Blog
Karie (site owner) Written by Karie (site owner)
Mar. 15, 2008 | 6:35 PM





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Shortage of Female Film Critics

Has anyone seen this article in the San Diego Union-Tribune?

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Sexist remark shines a light on shortage of female film critics

March 14, 2008

The negative review of “The Other Boleyn Girl” that appeared in the Feb. 29 Currents Weekend began this way: “What is the point of a bodice-ripper starring an actress who - how can we put this politely? - doesn’t have much to offer in the decolletage department?”

That same day, a female colleague on the U-T features editing team who’d seen “The Other Boleyn Girl” and liked it told me she could tell from that very first sentence that the review had been written by a man. She was right. It was written not by a Union-Tribune staff member, but by a critic whose review was plucked from the Associated Press wire. I did the plucking. I’m sorry I did. It was a stupid, sexist way to open a critique of “The Other Boleyn Girl.”

Then I started wondering why there are so few female film critics, especially on major newspaper staffs (including this one). Searching for insight, I discovered the Women Film Critics Circle, which dubs itself the “First National Association of Women Critics.” I contacted several of its members and tapped their brains.

“There are a lot of male editors and men in management positions,” said Felicia Feaster, one of two critics (the other is a man) at the alternative weekly Creative Loafing in Atlanta. “I don’t think it’s seen as essential to have a female voice on that particular beat.

“It’s ironic to me because one of the most famous film critics ever was Pauline Kael (of The New Yorker), who was so influential. What’s her legacy? There’s no one who has that kind of role now.”

Feaster said there are more female voices in the alternative press, but even there, film is a male-dominated beat. “It’s unfortunate because women sometimes bring a completely different point of view to films.”

Fellow WFCC member Mary Garcia in New York City writes reviews for the trade pub Film Journal International and for The Progressive. Garcia suggested that “The male voice of authority is still with us. When I was in film school, one of the reasons women weren’t trusted behind the camera was because we couldn’t carry one. So the men used to say, ‘You can try, but why don’t you do continuity?’ We grew up with that.”

Still, Garcia cautions that having “more women’s voices doesn’t necessarily guarantee less bias.”

In fact, Nancy Keefe Rhodes in Syracuse, N.Y., who covers film and visual arts for MovieCrossRhodes.blogspot.com, said that some WFCC members “are on the radio, some are online, some are in weekly papers. I don’t think there are quite as few of us (female critics) as you might think.”

Do men and women look at a film differently?

“Inevitably, I do look at many films as a woman,” Rhodes said. “Certainly, men have a male perspective, too. I want to be able to review films that everybody makes for all kinds of audiences.”

As online journalism overtakes print, more people - men and women - will be reviewing more and more films. Sadly, though, the line between legitimate criticism and mindless blogging is sure to blur. Film “reviews” may become the first cell phone call or text message one friend makes to another as he or she walks out of the screening. While it can, the printed word must give moviegoers credibility - and it takes the printed words of both genders to do that.

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I found this article to be rather interesting.  I can’t tell you how many film reviews I have read over the years where a woman’s body was inappropriately discussed in the review.  I can see the point of doing that if the role is say extremely physical or something, but I have seen many examples of it being discussed wildly out of context.  I read several reviews of the 2002 film Enigma that specifically made comments about the weight of star Kate Winslet.  I remember thinking, “What the HELL does this have to do with the film or with her performance?”  I also felt the same way when I read reviews for the Jodie Foster film The Brave One.  The reviews kept bringing up her sexuality time and again to the point where it almost seemed inseperable from her work.  I found that to be frustrating.  It is almost as if people were carrying that personal “baggage” with them and allowing it to color how they saw the film.  The last time I checked, I haven’t read any reviews that treat MALE stars that way.  Feel free to argue or prove me wrong. The comment about Natalie Portman in The Other Boleyn Girl was really bone-headed and inappropriate.  Whoever wrote it deserved to be called out.

I don’t necessarily think that women perceive movies differently from men, but I do enjoy reading a female reviewer’s perspective.  At least we do have Manohla Dargis (NY Times), Carina Chocano, Susan King (LA Times) and Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly just to name a few.  At the end of the day, I think that personality and taste is more of a factor in film

Out of curiosity, I did a google search for “female film critics” and turned up this article as well:

After Pauline: Where are the women film critics?

 

 


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