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July 2008, Week 4


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 28 Jul 2008 09:40:16 -0500
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>What I have been thinking about is how few women are film critics, something 
>I've always wondered (and it was tough to break into film scholarship as a 
>woman too, in my experience), but recently there have been some films that 
>got pretty universal critical acclaim but that I found appalling because of 
>their not-so-subtle sexism. I have pretty much determined that those films 
>were liked because they are being reviewed by men who don't see anything 
>wrong with sexism (and I'm not saying all men are like that, just most male 
>film critics that I've read)--in fact, they don't even notice it.

Well, is the percentage of women film critics lower than women journalists in general?  My suspicion is that it's not but somewhere somebody must be tracking this.

As for noticing or not sexist films:  Reviews are basically consumer guides--even at places like The Village Voice or The Nation--that can sometimes aspire to the condition of criticism (which I would consider an imaginative engagement with the film/book/etc).  You're not likely to get anything politically or artistically jarring for their readers or at least not consistently.  Sure there are notable exceptions such as the liberal Roger Ebert at the conservative Sun-Times and arts writers in general are given quite a bit of leeway but in a broad sense they have to keep readers and editors happy.  

And who knows what educated women reviewers might decide.  I saw "Love Actually" with a highly educated woman who is a feminist and won't see any Schwarzenegger film for political reasons but she liked the film far more than I did.  A quick check of Rotten Tomatoes shows several women critics who gave Waitress a positive review, including people at the BBC and Associated Press.  I'm not saying their number makes their opinion right because all of us can come up with well-received films that we think are politically repugnant as well as the other side of politically repugnant films that we would consider great art such as some from Griffith or Ford, Lynch or Godard.  

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