Online Reviews, Gender Bias, and TV

FiveThiryEight‘s Walter Hickey has an interesting analysis of the data of TV reviews on IMDB.com and the gender bias of men rating shows aimed at a female audience. Hickey doesn’t delve into the rationale of why men would rate TV shows like Sex and the City so low, mostly because he’s just looking at the numbers. I’m, however, interested in something the numbers can’t reveal–whether or not the men who reviewed the shows poorly actually watched them. I know many people love The Walking Dead. Jason is one of them, and so I read episode recaps just to keep up with the conversation. But I don’t watch it because I don’t like zombie narratives. (Long explanation: I read Robert Hughes’s The Fatal Shore right when the zombie craze got big, and since Hughes’s book details a lot of cannibalism as part of the found of Australia, I equate zombies with cannibalism and that’s apparently a big phobia of mine. It’s also the reason I never recommend the otherwise interesting object novel The Collector, Collector because it features a scene with a self-cannibal–that’s what you think it is–that’s too disturbing for words.) I would never rate The Walking Dead because I haven’t seen it. I can’t speak to the quality of the show. I just wonder if these IMDB raters have watched everything they rate or if these male raters just dismiss a show aimed at women out of hand as being lesser?

Also, if a show doesn’t “speak” to you based on identity, does that in fact make it of lesser quality? It’s a question my students struggle with when they write review essays. Just because you don’t identify with a show or like it doesn’t make it bad, per se. I, for instance, don’t particularly like Rick and Morty. I find Dan Harmon’s view of the world twisted and self-centered. Yet, I can’t deny that it’s a quality show with creative ideas that I’m just not going to seek out.

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