Brie Larson believes that representation in who’s writing criticism about movies is just as important as the representation we’re seeing onscreen.
“[Audiences] are not allowed enough chances to read public discourse on these films by the people that the films were made for,“ Larson said on Wednesday night during a speech at the Crystal + Lucy Awards. “I do not need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work for him about A Wrinkle in Time. It wasn’t made for him. I want to know what it meant to women of color, to biracial women, to teen women of color, to teens that are biracial.”
Larson’s statement enters into a bigger ongoing discussion about American film criticism, and how those who contribute to critical discussions don’t accurately reflect the audiences who are actually going to see these movies and read these reviews.
“The talent is there; the access and opportunity are not,” Larson stated, explaining the lack of inclusion at press screenings and junkets and media outlets’ lack of inclusion of women and critics of color in their ranks.
Larson’s speech comes in the wake of a report from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative that studied the top 100 box office movies from 2017 and the reviews for said movies on Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregation site. This study found that white critics wrote 82 percent of the 19,559 reviews studied. Further, it found that white male critics wrote substantially more reviews (63.9 percent) than their peers who are white women (18.1 percent), underrepresented men (13.8 percent), and underrepresented women (4.1 percent).
While there are some valid criticisms to be made about the study’s methodology (finding a consistent data set for the most read and circulated reviews is difficult, as is accurately determining the gender and ethnicity of the person behind every byline), it does broadly align with anecdotal evidence and the overall impression that the majority of people writing movie reviews and leading the discussion about movies are predominantly white and predominantly men.
This isn’t to say that their opinions are less than by default — in Larson’s speech, she made a point to note, “I do not hate white dudes” — but rather that there’s a need to examine further why women and people of color are an underrepresented part of this cultural conversation, and consider how criticism needs to change in order to include them.
It’ll be fascinating to see whether Larson’s plea has direct changes, and who will be reviewing Larson‘s upcoming projects, including her starring role in Captain Marvel in eight months. It’s the first female solo superhero movie in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the character has a vocal following and recognition among women and girls. Whether those who end up reviewing the film reflect that following remains to be seen.