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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.

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