University of Southern California Associate Professor of Communication Stacy L. Smith has written a report entitled “Critic’s Choice?” with USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative which discussed the problem that film critics are “largely white and male.” The solution appears to be the selection of critics based on their race and gender — as opposed to simply their talent and writing — to achieve “inclusion among film reviewers.” We previously discussed a Canadian gender quota for directors.
Smith and her co-authors conclude that “on screen and behind the camera in film, Hollywood is predominantly ‘pale and male.'” They insist that “[t]he consequences of this skewed representation must be considered.” They recommend that “several entities can take concrete steps to implement solutions to increase the number of female and underrepresented critics.” They further call for journalism schools to increase the number of women and students of color to broaden the pool of critics and to “educat[e] future critics around issues of diversity and representation . . . as these individuals can use their platform to draw attention to ongoing disparities on screen and behind the camera.”
This sounds like a thinly veiled quota system based on race and gender if newspapers are to meet the specified “inclusion” goals. As with the quota system for directors, it ignores the artistic and journalistic elements in both directing and writing. As part of the arts, such roles should be dictated not by immutable physical characteristics but by talent and vision. For critics, there is a market of readers who tend to follow critics who are viewed as insightful and fun to read. The effort to inject race and gender criteria does precisely what so many worked so long to combat in the arts and other fields.
What do you think?