“If you make a movie that is a love letter to women of color, there is an insanely low chance that a woman of color would get to see that movie ... I don’t need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work about ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’”
The truth is, there is a slim chance that women critics of color will get to review any movie.
They only wrote about 4 percent of the roughly 20,000 reviews of the top 100 movies of 2017 cited in the Annenberg study, which looked at reviews aggregated by the site Rotten Tomatoes.
However, Larson’s statement implies that women of color would have reviewed “A Wrinkle in Time” differently.
It’s an argument that’s also plagued the Rotten Tomato scores of “Ocean’s 8.”
In an interview, Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchette suggested that men may see women-centric films like theirs “through a prism of misunderstanding.” They assume that because of their shared gender, female critics are more likely to write a favorable review female-centric films.
That assumption takes away the agency of a critic.
Expecting that women and people of color will automatically have something different to say than their white male counterparts limits their ability to do their job to the best of their critical abilities. Sharing an identity doesn’t mean sharing the same beliefs, and if we’re forced to toe some identity line – all equally in agreement – then we can’t write or think critically about what we’re looking at.
The beautiful thing about identity is that it’s never monolithic.
If we kept following that line of thinking, those of us who identify with two or more underrepresented identities would have to pick and choose between our “teams” instead of writing critically for or against something.
I think about the story of a female critic who said a colleague told her that she should be happy a woman won an award even though she was championing another film. The other film spoke more to her experiences and tastes, but according to this male critic, she should have been cheering on the female winner regardless.
Identity isn’t cut and dry, but instead wonderfully messy and fascinating to explore. For instance, I don’t remember laughing during Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara buddy comedy, “Hot Pursuit.” Vergara’s stereotype-ridden character grated on my every last nerve, and I left the movie fuming. When talking to another female critic, she loved the film and the women’s friendship. Both experiences are valid criticisms of the movie.
For as much as I loathed the movie, the controversial Isabelle Huppert film “Elle” made the perfect case study in how women can have differing opinions of the movie. I vehemently disliked the experience of watching Paul Verhoeven’s movie, and I left after the movie feeling physically ill. Other women had the same reaction as I did, yet others adored Huppert’s difficult character and the story’s complex nature.
I needed to know why and how they would like such an offensive work. One colleague took the time to explain how the movie made her feel and how much she admired Huppert’s daring performance. We had a long discussion about it. I learned from her opinion as much as she learned from my experience watching the film. Criticism is at its best helps you see art in a new light. My opinion of the film hasn’t changed, but I can now see what others saw in it.
The need for more inclusion does not mean we should be forced to like all movies simply because they are helmed by or are starring women.
I like to think we have more to offer than that.