Stars of Ocean’s 8, the heist movie featuring all-female leads, have accused male critics of failing to appreciate their film.
Speaking to Yahoo Movies, Mindy Kaling called the dominance of white male reviewers “unfair”. “If I had to base my career on what white men wanted I would be very unsuccessful, so there is obviously an audience out there who want to watch things like [Ocean’s 8], what I work on, what Sarah [Paulson] works on.”
Co-star Cate Blanchett concurred, saying the media had failed to make the mindshift the movie industry had when it came to gender equality. “The conversation has to change,” she said, “and the media has a huge responsibility.”
A study by USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative was released earlier this week, examining the gender and ethnic profile of US critics who wrote about last year’s 100 most successful films found 80% were men and 82% white.
Such makeup was well-known, said Blanchett, but only belatedly being raised. “When you start pointing that stuff out you realise there’s a certain gaze that looks at women.”
Kaling referred to Meryl Streep’s attack on reviews aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, which she felt prioritised the views of men. Promoting the film Suffragette in 2015, Streep said she felt the ratio adversely affected ticket sales for female-skewed films.
“I submit to you that men and women are not the same, they like different things,” she said. “Sometimes they like the same thing, but sometimes their tastes diverge. If the Tomatometer is slighted so completely to one set of tastes that drives box office in the United States, absolutely.”
On the subject of Ocean’s 8, Kaling said: “And the thing about so much of what this movie is, I think white men, critics would enjoy it, would enjoy my work, but often I think there is a critic who will damn it in a way because they don’t understand it, because they come at it at a different point of view, and they’re so powerful, Rotten Tomatoes.”
The spin-off from Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven film and its two sequels has so far avoided the backlash that met Paul Feig’s gender-flipped Ghostbusters film two years ago. It topped the US box office last weekend, fuelled by an audience that was 69% female, and beat the receipts of Ocean’s Eleven and its two sequels (although the numbers were not adjusted for inflation).
On Wednesday, the actor Brie Larson, who won an Oscar for her role in kidnap drama Room, announced an initiative by the Sundance and Toronto film festivals to allocate 20% of their journalist passes to critics from under represented groups.
She flagged the box office flop of A Wrinkle in Time, Ava DuVernay’s fantasy drama based on novel by Madeleine L’Engle, as a victim of the lack of critical comprehension.
“I don’t need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work about A Wrinkle in Time,” said Larson at the Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards in Beverly Hills. “It wasn’t made for him! I want to know what it meant to women of colour, biracial women, to teen women of colour.”
“Am I saying I hate white dudes?” continued Larson. “No, I am not. What I am saying is if you make a movie that is a love letter to women of colour, there is an insanely low chance a woman of colour will have a chance to see your movie, and review your movie.”
Larson added: “It really sucks that reviews matter – but reviews matter. Good reviews out of festivals give small, independent films a fighting chance to be bought and seen. Good reviews help films gross money, good reviews slingshot films into awards contenders. A good review can change your life. It changed mine.”
However, a number of journalists have taken issue with the sentiment that someone’s gender and ethnic background dictates your response to art. Variety’s Guy Lodge, who also writes for the Hlcarpenter.com and Observer, pointed out that a number of female critics – including Time’s Stephanie Zacharek and Vulture’s Emily Yoshida and – have concurred with the general lukewarm response to Ocean’s 8.
Meanwhile, Buzzfeed’s Alison Willmore protested that such logic missed the real objective – for more diversity in all professions – and set a dangerous precedent.