While progress is on the way, the most influential voices in film criticism remain white and male, with Oscar voters being 84% white and 68% male.
Since the hashtag #Oscarssowhite gained popularity five years ago, scrutiny towards the diversity of the entertainment industry increased.
Despite this, since 2018 the percentage of female voters only rose by 1% from 31%, while minorities remained at 16%, according to Statista.
While on-screen representation received most of the attention, last year’s lack of female and minority nominees brought on questions on the gate holders of this community: the critics.
The inclusion of diverse members made the headlines in 2020, despite the overall picture not changing radically in the last three years.
Lilia Pavin-Franks, Content Manager at We Love Cinema, said: “To fully evaluate art – whether that be film or other – I think you need to ensure that discursive spaces are as diverse as possible.
“Often art comes from personal emotion and lived experience, so I think gatekeeping the work from those that it might better speak to significantly reduces the spectrum of analysis.
“Criticism has the power to change the course of the art itself, so better representation in criticism could likely lead to better representation in the industry as a whole.”
But no picture of the film criticism industry would be complete without a look at the internet.
Pavin-Franks said: “In the last few years, so many alternative publications have cropped up online because of the need to actively create a space for more diverse voices, and I don’t think that would happen if there wasn’t a dire need for it.”
Popular Internet platform Rotten Tomatoes announced that, of the 170 new individually appointed ‘Top Critics’, 60% are women and 25% are people of colour.
Rotten Tomatoes, which sees 26 million unique visitors monthly, according to Quantcast, aggregates reviews from different publishing platforms, condensing them into a percentage indicating the number of positive reviews a film or TV show received.
Lucy Buglass, Rotten Tomatoes approved critic, set up her blog, Lucy Goes To Hollywood, three years ago, and has since branched out and written for other publications.
She said: “I think that Rotten Tomatoes are really stepping up their game, and they’re really trying to get more people on board.
“But certainly, the bigger critics from the bigger publications will get more of a platform on there. I think it is a shame, but it’s getting better. I’m honored to be a part of it.
“More people are coming together now to embrace film, and it is a lot more accessible. You would have to buy a magazine back in the day, but now you can just read it wherever you want.
“There are so many talented people out there. And people are so passionate, and they look at it through a different lens, whether they want to focus on independent films or LGBTQ films, they have a niche, and it’s just nice to read things that you normally wouldn’t.
“It’s really important that it’s not just one demographic, we need to have many, because film is supposed to be a collective art. It’s supposed to be enjoyed by everyone; it’s not supposed to be exclusive.”
The ‘Certified Fresh’ stamp of approval is frequently used in marketing campaigns to promote a movie’s quality.
After a 2018 study by USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that 77.8% of all critics on Rotten Tomatoes were male, the site sought to promote diversity.
In addition to appointing more diverse critics, Rotten Tomatoes established grant programs to assist critics from underrepresented groups to attend film festivals such as Sundance and New York Film Festival.
They also hosted workshops, panels and networking events for critics to gain access to editors, studio publicity and marketing executives and festival organizers.
Jenny Jediny, Rotten Tomatoes head of critics relations, said: “At Rotten Tomatoes, we continue our commitment to building a more inclusive critics pool that reflects and serves the global entertainment audience, and today we took another important step by modernizing our Top Critics program.
“Our team understands the value of the Top Critic designation and its ability to expand professional opportunities for critics.”
Paul Yanover, president of Fandango, Rotten Tomatoes’ parent company, said: “Revamping Rotten Tomatoes’ Top Critics program is another key move in our ongoing effort to increase inclusion and elevate the voices of underrepresented critics, ensuring that we serve our global audience with the best, most authentic information.”