I am a movie reviewer. I am Hollister on the podcast ScreenThoughts.net, and I write reviews as well. We have a large following and a four-star rating on the Apple Podcasts platform, as well as presence on most podcast APPs. I believe that film and television have a very strong influence on the emotional development of girls and how they view themselves, as well as on women as they age, and this is what drives me. Besides, who doesn’t like to sit in the dark, observing the struggle of others and eating candy when no one is watching? I also do it because there aren’t enough women reviewers, and this has affected the industry, in my opinion, tremendously. Let’s face it: The odds are not in our favor when you look at the fact that male reviewers outnumber female reviewers two to one, and they dominate the conversation on the major platforms.
There are lots of changes taking place in Hollywood and in television programming. Geena Davis has been a strong advocate, with her Institute on Gender Media studying programming for women and girls in entertainment, “If she can see it, she can be it.” When O’Toole (my Screen Thoughts partner) and I attended Davis’ first film festival in Bentonville Arkansas (sponsored by Walmart, which seemed incongruous to me, but go figure), five years ago, Davis was revolutionary in the way she pointed out data that confirm the issues around the misrepresentation of women in film. Watch her explanation for why women don’t appear in crowd scenes in any significant way, and when you are done laughing about her theory, weep for the overall meaning it has in how we see ourselves.
And then there are the Golden Globes and Academy Awards, and this year’s snub of Greta Gerwig, writer and director of “Little Women.” With the continued male dominance in the voting pool combined with my belief that those voting never watched her standout film (did they mistakenly assume its content was not relevant to them?), it’s easy for me to understand why it was overlooked during this awards season and not given a nod for Best Director, as many felt it should.
If we do not have a seat at the table, we cannot be represented.
But things are changing. And why are they changing? Because money talks, and now, female actors are buying work they want to act in. They are producing, directing, and creating content that speaks to how we think, what we want, and our concerns and hopes, telling the stories with which we want to wallpaper the rooms of our lives.
But there is more that should be done. Reviewers are so important to the film industry.
Let’s start with Rotten Tomatoes. We see their film scores in so many places people visit when deciding which films to see. It appears that only 20% of Rotten Tomatoes reviewers are women, and an even smaller percentage consists of people of color. Meryl Streep called out Rotten Tomatoes and their power to genderfy (Is that a word, or did I make it up? Either way, I like it!) the slant on which movies are good. Until very recently, poor Meryl had to carry the entire weight of women’s power in Hollywood on her strong shoulders because she was the only one who could call her own shots. Anyway, when a friend says to me on the phone after I suggest a film, “I just looked it up on Rotten Tomatoes, and it only has a 66% rating,” I point out to her (it’s usually a female friend) that this is exactly why we might want to go, because Rotten Tomatoes gave “Avengers: Endgame” a score of 94%, and I think we can all agree there is nothing in there for me or any woman in my Rolodex.
We have funded Screen Thoughts personally since its inception. We’ve paid for everything we’ve done. Even though we have a long history and strong stats, we’ve often had to buy passes to festivals and have been rejected from adding our reviews to websites that have only male reviewers. We haven't had any luck getting sponsorship. But we didn't push it. We’re now going to go after some funding. We may even ask the amazing Reese Witherspoon to support a film-reviewer website and podcast that reflects what we all see in the mirror and provides a point of view that is often lost when it comes to film.
Wish us luck, and please do support all women in film and in all its related fields. This will help to make the necessary changes that Michelle Williams called out at the Golden Globes when she said that men have had all the power and that is why the world looks so much like them. It’s time to take on more than just political representation; it’s time to be better represented on all things surrounding the screen that reflect what the coming generations of girls will view as their options.