Film Forward

Rotten Tomatoes Just Added 200 More Critics To Its List. Here's Why That's Important.

"It will always be a better product if it has more voices."

The ways we watch TV and movies have evolved, and it's time for the talent in front of and behind the camera to do the same. Film Forward speaks on the initiatives to diversify the film industry and the stories it tells. New articles premiere every second Thursday of — and throughout — the month.

When you think of movie critics, you likely think of Rotten Tomatoes. The review aggregation site has become a popular resource for checking the critics' consensus on the latest big release. Unfortunately, the reviews included on the site haven't always reflected the most diverse voices. However, that's now changing.

Recommended

Earlier this week, Rotten Tomatoes announced that it is changing its criteria for the types of critics featured on the site, and has already added 200 new Tomatometer-approved critics — including a number of women and people of color — to reflect that. According to the New York Times, such changes will allow for critics from smaller outlets, with a greater focus on freelance voices. Podcast hosts will also be allowed to apply for the very first time.

"It will always be a better product if it has more voices," Fandango President Paul Yanover told the Times. (Fandango owns Rotten Tomatoes.) "We are still looking for the highest quality criticism." 

As the New York Times points out, a recent report on Rotten Tomatoes' critics pool by USC Annenberg found that 77.8 percent of reviews posted on the site for the 100 highest-grossing movies of 2017 were written by men, and 82 percent were written by White critics. This makes a difference in the types of reviews audiences see. The University of San Diego, for example, has found that women, on average, write more positively of films with female protagonists (and female directors) than male critics do.

These numbers can also have an impact on the film industry as a whole. As Jennifer Merin, president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, told A Plus last year, "Audiences listen to critics, and the industry listens to audiences. A more diverse field of film critics addresses the interests of and curates films for a broader range of moviegoers, who will, in turn, drive the market for a more diverse range of films." 

Earlier this year, actress Brie Larson called out the lack of diversity in film criticism while announcing that the Sundance Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival would be allocating at least 20 percent of "top-level press passes" to "underrepresented critics."

"We need to be conscious of our bias and do our part to make sure that everyone is in the room. It really sucks that reviews matter, but reviews matter," Larson said. "I want to know what my work means to the world, not a narrow view."

In a blog post announcing the changes, Rotten Tomatoes Editor-in-Chief Joel Meares admitted that the state of film criticism was different when the site launched 20 years ago, and it was time to update the practices to reflect the current times.

"In revamping our Critics Criteria, we sought to bring the criteria into better alignment with the way media works today," Meares wrote, "to promote the inclusion of more voices that reflect the varied groups of people who consume entertainment, and to maintain the high standards we've always set for inclusion in the group of Tomatometer-approved critics."

Recently, initiatives such as Mediaversity and CherryPicks have sought to share more diverse perspectives on film and television, and more critically examine how Hollywood portrays (or doesn't portray) underrepresented groups. Both sites tweeted positively about the Rotten Tomatoes news on Twitter this week, calling it "much-needed change" and "progress."

Rotten Tomatoes also announced a $100,000 fund to send critics to film festivals. Changes like these won't singlehandedly solve the problem, but they can help amplify voices which are too often ignored.

(H/T: Hello Giggles)

Cover image: chrisdorney / Shutterstock.com

GET SOME POSITIVITY IN YOUR INBOX

Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.