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Twilight: Will Male Critics Ever Understand Its Femme Appeal?

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 27, 2008 at 8:17AM

According to a San Diego State University study released on July 22, if things are bad for male film critics, they are worse for women.

Twilightimg_1759700According to a San Diego State University study released on July 22, if things are bad for male film critics, they are worse for women.

Here's a sample of the findings in Thumbs Down: The Representation of Women Film Critics in the Top 100 U.S. Daily Newspapers:

*Men write the overwhelming majority of film reviews in the nation's top newspapers. In Fall 2007, men penned 70% and women 30% of all reviews.

*Of the newspapers featuring film reviews, 47% had no reviews written by women critics, writers or freelancers. In contrast, only 12% had no reviews written by men critics, writers or freelancers.

*Films with women filmmakers (directors and writers) and films with female protagonists and ensemble casts comprise a larger proportion of films reviewed by women than men. Thus, the under-representation of women film critics, writers and freelancers may cause films featuring females or with women filmmakers to receive less coverage.

The bottom line is that film criticism in this country's newspapers remains a largely male enterprise, echoing the heavy male dominance behind the scenes and on screen in the film industry.

And the coverage that movies with femme appeal do get from male critics is not the necessarily as positive or understanding as that from female critics. Mamma Mia! and Sex in the City would be recent examples. Why would a guy particularly engage with a romantic comedy like 27 Dresses? Professional film critics will argue that it is their job to know how to review such a movie. Let's put it this way. Some men are better able to adopt the female POV, and tap into their femme side, than others. Many men are not trained to do see things from the perspective of the opposite sex. All women are.

That's one reason why today's movies are so geared toward men, while women starve for material aimed at them. Women are accustomed to going along and accepting slim pickings in pictures by and about men. Even at Comic-Con, there's a sense that female fans are yearning for romance. The screaming response to Twilight's Brit heartthrob Robert Pattinson was enormous. He could be the next Leo di Caprio after Titanic, if Twilight hits as big as I suspect it will.

Men here were scratching their heads over Twilight. No clue.

Here's the LAT's video interview with Pattinson at Comic-Con. I feel sorry for the guy:

[Variety photo of Twilight's Robert Pattinson by Martha Hernandez]

Photo Gallery: 'Twilight' panel

[Originally appeared on]

This article is related to: Franchises, Reviews, Stuck In Love, Headliners, Genres, Festivals, Comic-Con, Twilight, Sci-fi, Kristen Stewart, Rob Pattinson, Critics

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.