All Boys’ Club: The Gender Divide in “Blade Runner 2049” Reviews

by: Jarrod Roberts

It’s safe to say a lot has changed in the last 35 years since the original Blade Runner showed us the far flung future of 2019. Now, with a sequel to reintroduce us the the cyber punk that started an entire aesthetic genre, Blade Runner 2049’s reviews would have you believe that it’s the next big thing. It’s being praised as a spectacle to behold and a great callback to days of silver screen’s past. But a sick pattern is emerging in the data of the reviews coming in from aggregate review sites like Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic, and IMDB, and it’s all in the numbers.

Blade Runner 2049 has a harsh gender gap in review scores. At the time of writing this article, select critics have been given access to Blade Runner 2049 ahead of its release on October 6th. Depending on the site, the film is scoring high ratings. IMDB averages the score to 8.7/10, Metacritic at an 8.2/10, and Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 90%. All these sites collect reviews from across the net from different critics and publications to give movie goers a sort of average, not accounting for personal taste. These numbers take on a different connotation when you dig into the actual numbers, however.

IMDB, what is probably the easiest to critique, given that any IMDB user can vote on the score. This could even skew the original perceptions of a movie. As of now, 3,365 users have voted on the score of Blade Runner 2049, the vast majority probably before even seeing the movie, but a divide is still present.

IMDB Bladerunner scores.png

Note the average 2.2 score deficit between the genders as well as the difference in total number of votes. The story repeats itself on the other aggregates, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, that average the scores of professional critics. On Metacritic, of the 46 professional reviews, 6 are women. The highest score being given up Leah Greenblatt being a 91 (compared to the 11 male reviews alone that gave the film a perfect score.) The majority of the other women reviewers rated the film less than a 70. Alissa Wilkinson, Sara Stewart, and Stephanie Zacharek gave three of the four lowest scores (60, 60, and 50 respectively.) Sara Stewart when was far as to title her review “You’ll love the new ‘Blade Runner’ —  unless you’re a woman.”

While I myself cannot judge the merits of Blade Runner 2049, no matter how excited for the follow-up of such a visually astounding piece of film history, I can see some of the problems in its programing that could cause such a divide. The original itself containing a scene of sexual assault that, while is played to some smooth saxophone, does not properly convey that both parties are consenting and even shows the title character being a little too aggressive.

This goes beyond Blade Runner 2049 and speaks to a lacking in professional woman critics. This disproportional scoring between the genders would be that much more apparent and taxing on the average score that the usual browser would see if the women had more numbers. Blade Runner 2049 can market and aim itself at a specific audience without necessarily debating the problematic portrayals it can contain, effectively fooling demographics that aren’t represented by the film critic community.

Film critique, despite the numbers and scores, is not objective, but deeply subjective. Different perspective value and devalue specific aspects of a film. The more perspectives we include in discussions about critiquing film, the more ways we can come to enjoy films in general. Deviation from the established “archetype” of a film reviewer (white cis men between the age 20 and 45) only gives more value to film discussions.


What do you think of movie reviews? The more the merrier or do you want the ease of one-stop reviews? Start a dialogue in the comments!


Women Reviewers mentioned in this piece:
Leah Greenblatt: @Leahbats

Alissa Wilkinson: @alissamarie

Sara Stewart: @sarafstewart

Stephanie Zacharek: @szacharek

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