IMDb Methodically Erases Women’s Opinions

Gender-biased rankings can sink a great TVshow.

IMDb Methodically Erases Women’s Opinions

Duke Harten

Antonio Manaligod/Dose

Gender-biased rankings can sink a great TV show.

There’s a time and a place for No Girls Allowed, and it’s called G.R.O.S.S.

‘Calvin and Hobbes’ | Bill Watterson

If you don’t belong to that club — and it’s likely you don’t, considering the only two members are a fictional kid and his stuffed tiger — then it’s not time for No Girls Allowed and therefore not your job to methodically erase women’s opinions on the internet.

I’m referring to an IMDb analysis done by the London-based writer Marcus Beard that was published in August on the film site One Room With A View. The article’s thrust was this: Men and women tend to prefer different movies (gasp). Beard also pointed out that IMDb’s “Top Movies” might be an inaccurate list simply because so few women take the time to rate movies on IMDb.

Let’s put that in actual numbers:

  • Men accounted for 81% of ratings on IMDb; women for just 19%.
  • Only 296 films were rated more by women than by men.
  • 14,043 were rated more by men than by women.
  • Only 41 were rated by an equal number of guys and gals.

Think of those stats as you like. Good, bad or indifferent, they are what they are. It doesn’t trouble me so much that IMDb is representative of the male cinematic taste (after all, nobody is barring women from getting on the site; they’re just choosing not to). What bothers me is the almost throwaway stat Beard includes about the all-female 2016 “Ghostbusters” remake:

‘Ghostbusters’

“‘Ghostbusters’ proves how polarized IMDb ratings can be — though our suspicion is that both sides mostly were rating to make a point, rather than reflecting their opinions. That’s backed up by the fact that 45% of women voting on ‘Ghostbusters’ rated it 10/10 and 35% of men voted it 1/10.”

More than a third of men really thought the movie was a 1/10? So for every three guys who watched that movie, one of them thought it couldn’t have been any worse? Really?

I’m not sure I buy that. I’m more inclined to agree with Beard’s suspicion that each side was voting ideologically.

The question is: Why?

Shady ratings

Beard’s piece linked to a FiveThirtyEight article by Walt Hickey which confirms what I suspected from the “Ghostbusters” example: Men are deliberately torpedoing movies and shows made for women.

Hickey writes:

“We can quibble about where it stands in the TV canon, but “Sex and the City” has seven Emmys and a suite of Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild awards. It ran 94 episodes through six seasons on a premium cable network. Any reasonable person should concede that “Sex and the City” was an above-average television program (at minimum).

Hickey’s argument is that the show is objectively better than average. That is, it draws larger crowds than most, it runs more episodes than most, it wins more awards than most. (It kills me to say this, but for all the hate I bear “Big Bang Theory,” I have to concede it’s objectively better than average. If I can admit that, any misogynist can give a hat tip to Carrie Bradshaw and co.) Yet despite S&TC’s success, it’s rated only as a 7.0/10 on IMDb. (An average program gets a 7.3.) Hickey found that men — who make up less than half of the “Sex and the City” audience — sunk the score with abysmal ratings.

I should add that IMDb added an “F rating” to its site in early March to highlight films directed or written by women, as well as films that feature scenes where female actors discuss topics besides men. It’s unlikely, though, that this new feature will make male IMDb users less malicious towards movies they feel are too female-oriented.

Do women do the same thing to “The League” that men do to “Sex and the City?”

Hickey does a bang-up job of analyzing popularity of TV shows by gender. He points out, for example, that men and women agree on plenty of stuff: Everybody loves “Game of Thrones,” he says, and “Breaking Bad” and “True Detective” and “Arrested Development.” It’s when we start analyzing shows that obviously cater to one gender or the other (“Batman: The Animated Series” vs. “Gilmore Girls,” for example) that we start to see an unsettling trend.

Look at shows with more than 10,000 ratings and it’s clear that there’s no inherent difference of quality in male vs. female programming. Hickey points out that the female-oriented show “Say Yes To The Dress” sucks just as much as the male-oriented show “Beyblade,” which “tried to build an emotional journey out of spinning tops.”

But of shows that do “skew” one way or the other, male ratings seemed to be more hostile than female ones.

“Of the top 100 shows that skewed male, 3.3 percent of female votes were 1 out of 10. But of the top 100 shows that skewed female, 6.7 percent of male votes were 1 out of 10. That’s a pretty huge difference.”

Get that? Women are giving Boy Shows the finger at a rate nearly three and a half percentage points lower than men are flipping off “Girl Shows.”

Non-mathematical conclusions

Yes, more men take the time to rate things online than women do. (A dubious boast.) It makes sense, then, that male-skewed shows and movies would do better in the charts.

But really, you can’t argue with the numbers. Men who do watch female-skewed programming (“Ghostbusters” or “Sex and the City”) are far more likely to dole out 1/10 ratings than ladies are when they watch programming targeted at male audiences. The reason? Perhaps it’s male ego. Perhaps it’s misogyny.

Or perhaps they just don’t like how fast Rory and Lorelai talk, or the fearsome truth that women gossip about our dick size, or the horror of having Aykroyd and Murray replaced by McCarthy and Wiig.