The Female Gaze: On Film Criticism

The Female Gaze

by Charlotte Moore


Everyone’s a critic these days, but why are only 32% of them female?

As someone who watches a lot of films, I read a lot of reviews. As soon as the credits begin to roll, I instinctively paw around the sofa for my phone before spending the next half hour absorbed in any commentary I can find. And I’m not alone. According to research firm Nielsen, 80% of moviegoers will consult critical reviews to help them decide on which film, to see and many film fans will spend up to half an hour afterwards seeing what the professionals thought.

So, why should you care that the best known and most popular critics are male, with men making up nearly three-quarters of the critical industry? For me, the most relevant place to start this conversation is Oceans 8.

Critically slated, the stars of Ocean's 8, were keen to speak up on the role of film critics. Mindy Kaling (who starred alongside the female led ensemble cast) expressed her frustrations calling the gender balance of film reviewing “unfair”, with lead actress Cate Blanchett saying: “The
conversation has to change.”

The problem is, the conversation is wrong. Far too many people assume that increasing the role of female critics would lead to lazy female filmmaking, and ‘tokenism’ across the industry. But this assumption is not only ignorant, it’s also downright indecorous. Female critics aren’t here to give female-led films an easier ride. Like their male counterparts, they won’t stand for poor dialogue, lazy choices and non-existent character arcs. Female critics can instead offer a different interpretation of the same story, and that’s not to say that male critics don’t offer a
valuable insight, it’s simply a need for an inclusive perspective. Those of us in the UK, will predominantly see ratings, reviews and feedback from one group of people, whilst a majority of the population is ignored, and is that actually valuable?

So, why should you care, when women are taking huge strides behind the lens, and infront? Like almost all of the gender imbalance across film and TV, it’s almost impossible to call out, simply because many production companies, directors and networks are just as guilty of systematic sexism. For them, starting this debate is akin to lighting a fire in their own back garden and will, without a doubt, require production companies to take more responsibility than they may want to in their role of supporting women.

I’ll end this how I started, with Oceans 8. Clearly, the influence of critics is more valuable than we know. But, what hope is there for diverse filmmaking, when those behind the screen don’t have the perspective to support it.