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The Woman Who Created a Rotten Tomatoes with All-Female Critics

Miranda Bailey founded CherryPicks—a site featuring all-women critics who review film, theater, video games, and music—as an antidote to Rotten Tomatoes' overwhelmingly male critics.

by Linda Yang
Apr 3 2018, 5:40pm

Photos courtesy of Miranda Bailey

Last September, I Do...Until I Don’t, a movie starring Lake Bell, Amber Heard, and Ed Helms, hit theaters. "It’s a very cute film," said Miranda Bailey, who distributed and produced the film about three couples’ interactions with a love-jaded filmmaker who insists that marriage should be nothing more than a seven-year contract with option to renew. "It’s no Moonlight and it’s not trying to be Moonlight, but it’s a very fun film and we thought that women would like it."

Currently, the ensemble comedy written and directed by Lake Bell holds a 30 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is categorized by a green splat symbolizing its "rotten" status. For those who haven’t heard of the film, don’t fret: Bailey doesn’t expect you to know about it, either—and she thinks that has a lot to do with the current male-dominated movie review system of Rotten Tomatoes

"For a long time, I’ve noticed that audiences don’t go out to see certain films marketed towards women, or even just films that women would like in general, because they were panned by critics on Rotten Tomatoes," she said.

Bailey believes that Rotten Tomatoes’ male critics—73% of the review site’s "top critics" in 2016 were men—have a double standard for women filmmakers. "When I read some of the reviews, I was shocked at how cruel and oddly derogatory they were about Lake Bell, with male reviewers being upset that she made this movie instead of what they wanted or expected her to do. That really reinforced my belief that there’s a real double standard for female filmmakers and the movies that they create."

After the release of I Do… Until I Don’t, Bailey was hit with a eureka moment: If Rotten Tomatoes reviews are written by mostly male reviewers, why not create a platform dedicated to the voices of female critics? So, Bailey and co-founder Rebecca Odes, announced the launch of CherryPicks, a Rotten-Tomatoes style site featuring all-women critics who review film, theater, video games, and music. While the full site is slated to launch later this year, a newsletter featuring ratings, interviews, and news updates from the site’s critics is available now.

Broadly spoke to Bailey about the new CherryPicks review system and her plans to make CherryPicks into a interactive community that encourages and mentors younger women hoping to one day become arts critics themselves.

BROADLY: How would CherryPicks replace the binary "fresh" or "rotten" Rotten Tomatoes rating system?
MIRANDA BAILEY:

The primary goal of the CherryPicks ratings system is to give more depth to the review system and to allow people to read the criticism instead of just seeing a symbol. We have completely new symbols which are the pits, for don’t bother, and a bowl full of cherries, which means don’t miss this. And we also have the in-between with one cherry and two cherry. It’s really important to keep this in-between, so if someone sees two cherries or one cherry, they’re going to want to read the review to learn why this movie isn’t getting a full bowl, but it’s also not the pits. Then, audiences can make an informed decision on whether or not to go see the movie.

Can you give an example of a film that was panned by Rotten Tomatoes that might have had a different fate reviewed by CherryPicks?
There was a movie that came out last year called The Zookeeper's Wife, which a lot of women loved but a lot of people didn’t get to see the movie because it was panned by the upper echelons of the top critics [on Rotten Tomatoes]. When I’ve talked with women who saw the movie, they say that they liked it. And most of the men that I talked to didn’t see it because they heard it was bad. I felt like that was a real disturbance. I think if CherryPicks was around when The Zookeeper’s Wife

came out, it might have been rated differently by female critics and audiences might have gone to theaters to figure out for themselves whether they like it or not.

What types of critics will be highlighted on CherryPicks?
There are a lot of experienced female movie critics who are currently not being highlighted on Rotten Tomatoes. Say you’re a female critic with over 10 years of experience but you haven’t written for The New York Times. Right now it’s really hard for this critic, even though she’s super experienced otherwise, to make it onto a platform like Rotten Tomatoes. CherryPicks is looking for critics like that who already are doing important work, and putting them on our platform.

It’s not just going to be established career critics, though. I want to encourage more women to go into art and media criticism because our voices deserve to be heard. To do this, I think it’s important to encourage young girls to get into journalism. This is a major goal of CherryPicks and we’re currently working on a section titled Cherry Blossoms that’s just for young women—even the ones still in school, who are writing for their school papers—to give them an opportunity that their voices can be heard. In addition to having aggregated reviews, we’re going to have original content. So readers can learn from established critics about how they got into the career of writing criticism and how they can do that, too.

Like Rotten Tomatoes, CherryPicks is reviewing film and television. But you’ve also included music, video game, and theater reviews. What was the decision-making behind choosing these categories?
There are so many things that people just assume women don’t like. But I know so many women who are obsessed with heavy metal. There are so many cool punk women. I also know that a lot of women are obsessed with video games. However, everything that’s out there focusing on these subjects is geared towards men. So I thought, we don’t have to be limited to just film and television—we can have an all-female review site that focuses on theater, on music, and on video games, all things that women are into and interested in reading about.

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How have critics responded to the announcement of CherryPicks?
A lot of the responses have been positive with a lot of people thinking it’s a good thing. There’s [also] been some concern with women reaching out and saying, “I hope it’s not just white women [reviewing].” All I can say to that is that it’s definitely not going to be just white women. A goal of CherryPicks is to diversify the industry. We are seeking out underrepresented voices to put on our platform, and with that we’re looking for not just white women, but all women. I like to think of us as females supporting other females.

Of course, we’ve had some criticism from men. I’m actually quite shocked about some of the things that I’ve read from some great male critics who are saying it’s sexist. I’m thinking here, how is this sexist? Think of magazines like Marie Claire or GQ, they’re marketed towards different people. This is an online media magazine and social community where women can get together and see what other women think about art. While there are a lot of men out there that are concerned that [CherryPicks] is against the white man or man, it’s definitely not at all, and I encourage men to join the newsletter and get to know these female critics, and also read the criticism.