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Diversify film criticism

By Emily Rosenberg

“Licorice Pizza” sounds like a fun film to enjoy with your friends during winter break.

Spoiler – you should not waste a second in the theater to see this film. It’s not worth risking COVID-19 exposure.

The trailer is cute and endearing, talking about Barbara Streisand’s boyfriend, and two yougins falling for each other.

Right off the bat, the heroine of the film tells 15-year-old Gary she can’t go out with him. The heroine is 25. What?

The whole movie plays out like a sweet, coming-of-age romance, despite the uncomfortable, even disgusting, age difference.

The two know they shouldn’t be together. Yet, the director convinces the audience it is right, leading toward a happy make-out scene in the end.

There are also two racist scenes where a friend of Gary’s attempts to communicate with a Japanese woman by mocking her voice – as if somehow this would make her understand his English better.

I wondered how on earth a movie that made my three girlfriends and I want to vomit be receiving such positive feedback from the media.

The film got 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, stunning reviews from The Guardian and The New York Times, Golden Globe nominations, and it is a high contender for several Oscars.

Eighty-three percent of all film critics are men. And only 10% of top critics identify as men of color, according to USA Today.

Without diverse representation for film critics, more movie reviews continue to seek and praise the works of male directors and male-driven stories. More importantly, the problematic pieces of these films will be swept under the rug and failed to be acknowledged.

As a woman, watching a 25-year-old fall in love with a dopey 15-year-old is embarrassing. It’s belittling, and undermining to a beautiful woman – happened to be portrayed by my favorite girl band singer, Alana Haim.

Reviews I read for the movie, all written by men, praised director Paul Thomas Anderson for creating a sexy, desirable heroine and developing a heart-wrenching romance. None of them mentioned the poor handling of racist scenes or even mentioned these scenes.

Had the age difference been the man 25 and the woman 15, critics would have immediately shamed this romcom for portraying statutory rape. Instead, male critics look past it, perhaps because they can imagine their own maturity level at 15 and they may even envy Gary.

“Licorice Pizza” is an example where if there were more women critics and critics of color, the film would be shut down and shunned for being problematic.

The lack of women and critics of color allow white male voices to carry even more weight in a place where they shouldn’t. Year after year the academy awards disproportionately recognize women and creators of color. In 2021, 71% of the nominations went to men and 89% of the awards went to white people, according to Insider – statistics that are unlikely to change.

Film reviews determine the visibility and popularity of a movie and the likeliness of its nomination for awards. With the overflow of white male critics in print and digital media, films starring and created by women and people of color will continuously be ignored.

I experience this lack of diversity in my own life as Arts & Features editor. It’s not ironic that all of The Gatepost’s multimedia critics identify as white men.

And as a result, The Gatepost publishes reviews mainly on genres that are traditionally more masculine and on content that is marketed toward them.

Without better representation among movie reviewers, there will be less diversity of highly-viewed films, and content that is problematic and uncomfortable will continue to earn high ratings and accolades.

As Brie Larson said in her Women in Film Award acceptance speech “Why do I need a white dude to tell me what didn’t work for him about ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ It wasn’t made for him.”


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