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Why Are There No Female Movie Critics on National Television?

I used to love watching Siskel and Ebert's movie reviews on television. They had such a great rapport, both had different tastes, and there was just something warm and cozy about the set, Gene Siskel's professorial air (and elbow-patched jackets), and Roger Ebert's roly-poly charm.

I was very sad when Siskel died in 1999, and although Ebert remained and teamed up with movie critic Richard Roeper, I stopped watching as regularly. At the Movies degenerated (in my opinion and many others') when Ebert's thyroid cancer treatment required that he suspend his appearances. His replacements? The experience-challenged Ben Lyons (son of movie and theater critic Jeffrey Lyons) and Ben Mankiewicz. What's the remedy for this seeming movie critic boys' club?


Ben Mankiewicz I didn't mind as much — at least his curmudgeonly air was backed up with some decent reviewing. But Ben Lyons's facile reviews (Gawker has some great examples here) and the fact that he got the job — let's be honest — because of his father, turned the At the Movies franchise into a joke.


So it was with a sigh of relief that I read that Lyons and Mankiewicz were sacked and will be replaced (sigh) with two other male movie critics.

As a movie buff, I make it a point to read reviews a lot, and there are no dearth of intelligent, hip, and witty female critics. It's amazing to me that, given Hollywood's infamously sexist treatment of women (the paucity of female directors, putting older actresses out to pasture while grizzled actors continue to get roles with young actresses, the near-requirement that actresses bare their breasts or play prostitutes), you'd think there would be some sensitivity around hiring some female critics on television.

At the Movies could have updated its tired franchise by providing some female voices into the mix. It's not just that female critics miss out on a chance to get more exposure (and perhaps a bigger salary), we viewers miss out on different female perspectives. Although there's not a monolithic female perspective, there needs to be some kind of female perspective!

B. Ruby Rich has proven to be a compelling, engaging, and television-friendly critic, having substituted for Ebert when he was sick. New York Times movie critic Manohla Dargis is acerbic and astute, and any number of other female critics (Stephanie Zacharek, Dana Stevens, or Carina Chocano) could have replaced the boys' club that appears to dominate television movie criticism.

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
Love-and-Sex Love-and-Sex 7 years
Wow, fireyelectra! Thanks for telling me. We in SF have a cute (but not so, uh, interesting?) local female critic who wears a purple hat. . .
fireyelectra fireyelectra 7 years
Unfortunately, Tres, the only female movie critic you're going to see on TV this fall will be a cartoon of an actual woman (the Contra Costa Times' Mary F. Pols) played by Jenna Elfman. And Accidentally on Purpose won't be about her writing or her thoughts on films at all, but about her accidental pregnancy.
Love-and-Sex Love-and-Sex 7 years
Chouette, The View is a show whose target audience is women. At the Movies is about movies that everyone sees. . .
Chouette4u Chouette4u 7 years
I think it's sort of tradition and a characteristic of the show. The premise is two guys reviewing movies. The View has been on for years and gone through many hosts, but they have all been women. The premise of that show is women talking about "hot topics".
Love-and-Sex Love-and-Sex 7 years
Phil, the point is not how gender-neutral or great the movie critic replacements are (I, too, like A.O. Scott's reviews), it's that the hiring process is decidedly not gender neutral. How could it be? There have been no women on this show, and it's not like there aren't female movie critics out there of Scott's caliber. Imagine the reverse — an At the Movies that only ever had female movie critics, with the occasional male substitute. It's almost impossible.
Phil Phil 7 years
I agree that At the Movies would do well with a woman's perspective on the movies. But there's little other reason to complain about the new hosts of At the Movies. A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips where the two best critics in rotation when Ebert took leave. They're eloquent (especially Scott), and commanded attention on screen every time they were called on to sit with Roeper. While there was a void left by the absence of Ebert, Scott and Phillips did a fine job of filling that void. And both (as did Siskel, Ebert and Roeper) did a perfect job of being gender neutral, looking beyond the limitations of their biological disposition to explicate the merits (or lack of) any given movie. I thought Phillips and Scott were the two most memorable critics in rotation, and I imagine that's why they above all others were tapped to replace Mank and Lyons (why Disney decided to ignore this when hiring the Bens would be confounding if they didn't give the dubious reason of seeking a younger audience). My only hope is that Scott's essays for the NY Times don't suffer from a new full-time taping sched.
leslievanhouten leslievanhouten 7 years
I haven't watched At the Movies in ages. She's no critic, but I love Ellen Fox on the Rotten Tomatoes show.
bellaressa bellaressa 7 years
Maybe it's who they know who got them in the door.
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