Pretty miffed! Barry Norman blasts back at claims his film reviews are sexist and he is stuck in the past

  • Readers have taken the veteran film reviewer to task over his column in the Radio Times
  • They pointed to his recent review of the 1990 film Julia Roberts film Pretty Woman

By Alasdair Glennie


Being critical is Barry Norman’s job. But now the veteran film reviewer is facing some critics of his own.

Readers have taken him to task over his weekly film review column in the Radio Times, saying it is sexist, misogynistic and stuck in the past.

They pointed to his recent review of 1990 movie Pretty Woman in which he described Julia Roberts’s character as an ‘archetypal tart with a heart’ and ‘every man’s dream hooker’.

And why not? Barry Norman, pictured here presenting one of his famous film review programmes, insisted he was merely describing how the movie depicted women

And why not? Barry Norman, pictured here presenting one of his famous film review programmes, insisted he was merely describing how the movie depicted women

But Norman, 79, insisted he was merely describing how the movie depicted women rather than expressing his own views.

‘God Almighty, what is the matter with these people?’ he said. In the Pretty Woman review he wrote:  ‘Nowadays this arouses the tut-tut of disapproval for its sexism and rose-tinted view of prostitution (as personified by every man’s dream hooker, Julia Roberts).


‘Richard Gere (every girl’s dream billionaire) is the businessman who picks her up in Hollywood and hires her for a week, partly for sex but mostly as arm candy to be worn at dinners and polo matches...

‘Roberts, of course, has been driven to the streets by harsh circumstances and is really the archetypal tart with a heart while Gere is not nearly so ruthless as he first appears.

Charm: Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman

Charm: Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman

‘Suspend disapproval and enjoy because it’s made and played with a great deal of charm.’

In another review Norman appeared to suggest women liked James Bond because of the spy’s ruthless approach to love.

He wrote: ‘For a young man, what was not to like? We all wanted to be James Bond. And somehow, despite – or who knows, possibly because of – his cavalier and occasionally cruel treatment of their sex, women seemed to like him, too.’

In another review he described Marilyn Monroe’s 1953 classic movie How To Marry a Millionaire, saying: ‘It’s all very sexist (Women’s Lib hadn’t been invented then) but it’s amusing enough.’

In another, he referred to Julie Walters’s character in the 1983 movie Educating Rita as a ‘tarty working-class student’.

Reader Jackie Grant, from Oxford, complained that Norman had made ‘four sexist remarks in just a few lines’, adding: ‘I’m tired of reading the misogynist (sic) comments Barry Norman injects into so many film reviews.’

Outspoken headmistress Dr Helen Wright, from St Mary’s Calne in Wiltshire, said Norman should take more care not to repeat negative stereotypes of women.

Miss Wright, whose targets have included X Factor judge Tulisa Contostavlos for a foul-mouthed rant on Twitter, said the world had moved on and Norman should too.

‘While he is writing about films from a more sexist era, he should be careful not to suggest they are reminiscent of a glorious golden age,’ she said.

‘By repeating sexist phrases, you help reinforce sexist views.

Wit and wisdom of a TV critic

‘Mr Norman is a witty and acerbic writer. Someone with that power of language needs to be careful not to reinforce outmoded ways of thinking. The world has moved on from the days when it is OK to describe a woman as a “tart with a heart”, and he needs to move on too.’

However, Mr Norman was scathing in his defence.

‘God Almighty, what is the matter with these people?,’ he said.

‘I was merely describing in shorthand how these films depict women, not advancing my own views. If people don’t have the intelligence to see that, it is not my fault. I’m not old fashioned.

‘These are phrases that have been used for years, and are still used now. I think political correctness can be very important, but it does go overboard sometimes. It is possible to be too prickly, possibly a little humourless about things.’


The comments below have been moderated in advance.

I remember fondly Barry Norman's BBC series. He is classy and sophisticated unlike that vacuous Jon Ross!

Click to rate     Rating   1

I love Mr Norman.Miss him so much on BBC. For God's sake, bring him back!

Click to rate     Rating   1

At least I believe he actually watched the movies he reviewed and was giving us his own opinion - unlike Jonathan Ross, who was so unnatural it was very clear that he mostly read reviews written by others. I would far rather hear a genuine review than simpering praise for dreadful acting in dire films simply because the Beeb has an interview with one of the stars coming up next week! I must have seen Jonathan Ross interview tons of actors who he "absolutely loves" and thinks all their work (and particularly this latest release) is "fantastic"... Bring Back Barry! Long live Film 84!!

Click to rate     Rating   6

Compared with Johnathon Ross and the woman, who's name I can thankfully never remember, Barry Norman is a genius. He knows and understands films, actors and directors and his reviews are honest and devoid of ego. What more could anyone ask?

Click to rate     Rating   4

Do you know what's sexist? A woman with no talent, no skills, no resources can get herself a fortune just by being pretty - these days she doesn't even have to stay married - find a millionaire/billionaire, divorce, live the rest of your life like you've won the lottery. "Pretty Woman" is a popular chick flick - women watch it over and over again for the "romance". The "romance" is actually a woman selling herself for 3,000 dollars and then ending up with mr. billionaire. How sweet. The success of the shades of grey nonsense highlights how many women are just as shallow as men - despite all the "equality" in the world so many women still want the taller, smarter, far, far richer guy ... while whining that there's no good men (by good they mean - meets their incredibly unrealistic list of demands and expectations)

Click to rate     Rating   10

"Outspoken headmistress Dr Helen Wright, from St Mary¿s Calne in Wiltshire, said Norman should take more care not to repeat negative stereotypes of women." What is he supposed to call them?" Street Workers, or maybe Sex Workers? Sorry, I forgot. The PC Brigade in Dundee already call them that.

Click to rate     Rating   6

So thats why he keeps reviewing Calender girls!!!

Click to rate     Rating   4

He's not sexist, he's just a bit old fashioned. I respect his views much more than those of Jonathan Ross.

Click to rate     Rating   13

I love Barry Norman and agree whole heartedly with his views on Pretty Woman. I used to watch Film (whatever) all the time when he was on it. Jonathan Ross while ok in his actual reviews never really gave any credence to his views so I started to just catch it every now and then - as for the tripe that it has become now!!! That woman has NO intelligent comments to make about films and if I ever accidentally tune in I have to turn over immediately because she just irritates me so much! Bring back Barry!!!!

Click to rate     Rating   11

Well, it's not his fault men are just better than women.

Click to rate     Rating   7

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