When it comes to paychecks, Hollywood actresses are generally underpaid, in comparison to their male co-stars. Sadly enough, even though female-centric movies gross a lot at the global box office, Hollywood is mainly about men.
Moreover, when women potentially land somewhat significant roles in films, somehow, they’re there mostly as ‘eye candy’.
Furthermore, the gender pay gap, that exists these days across all pay scales and industries in the States, was finally amplified in the media in Hollywood, as renowned actresses such as Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Viola Davis let their voice be heard on the disparity. Here’s everything you need to know about the ways the entertainment industry compensates its female stars.
On The Big Screen
Jennifer Lawrence, currently the highest-paid actress globally, made $52 million during 12 months in 2015, a notable amount of money, but nevertheless faded, compared to Robert Downey Jr.’s $80 million, the highest-paid actor worldwide.
Even though the critically acclaimed Jennifer Lawrence has proven herself as a box office success, following “The Hunger Games” and movies such as “Silver Linings Playbook”, Wikileaks reported Lawrence and her “American Hustle” co-star, Amy Adams, were paid just a 7% cut of the movie’s profits, 2 percentage points less than the movie’s male protagonists, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner. While the actress may have had a slightly smaller role than her male co-stars, back-end compensation is generally awarded based on star power and popularity, that Lawrence possesses proportionately with Bale and Renner.
In October, in an essay in Lenny, Lena Dunham and “Girls” producer Jenni Konner’s newsletter, Jennifer Lawrence addressed the pay gap problem. She wrote: “When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks, I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself…I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early.”
Speaking out on making less than her male counterparts, Lawrence, who was just one of 16 women on the Global Celebrity 100 list of world’s highest-earning celebrities, admitted that her million-dollar pay gap is significantly different than the problems faced by most women. “It’s hard for me to speak about my experience as a working woman because I can safely say my problems aren’t exactly relatable,” she explained.
Regarding the same issue, Gwyneth Paltrow said that it wasn’t fair, telling Reuters that Hollywood actresses have been acerbically criticized for speaking out. “You were considered ungrateful, you were considered entitled, so I think it’s amazing that women now are saying ‘we’re going to talk about this,” she explained. Paltrow is #12 on Forbes’ list of highest-paid actresses.
The opportunities for top remuneration for Hollywood female stars are significantly less frequent than for men. Lawrence’s “Hunger Games” is one of the few films with a female main character. Additionally, many male movie stars, such as Tom Cruise and Robert Downey Jr., demand colossal backend deals, compared to the rarer instances when women obtain the sort of blockbuster roles, that would warrant this type of deals.
Lawrence noted how women who negotiate for higher paychecks worry about seeming “spoiled” or “difficult.” Lawrence herself admitted she wanted to “be liked”, and that’s why she originally did not argue about her profit cut, but the situation diverged: “until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realized every man I was working with definitely didn’t worry about being “difficult” or “spoiled.” She says she was perceived as “offensive”, once she directly expressed her opinion.
Therefore, primarily, what has to (or could) be done to amplify all women’s voices is actually discussing the pay gap, just like Lawrence did. It’s definitely a starting point. Wealthy actresses should follow Lawrence’s example and speak out, so that they’d inspire everyday women to seek financial fortitude.
“When it comes to the subject of feminism, I’ve remained ever-so-slightly quiet,” wrote Lawrence. “Not anymore.”
Scarlett Johansson, who banked $35.5 million in 2014, was the beneficiary of a fair and square deal in Hollywood. By portraying Black Widow, she raked in the same amount of money as Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans for “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
On the other hand, Diane Keaton didn’t receive back-end pay for her main role in “Something’s Gotta Give”, unlike Jack Nicholson.
Meryl Streep, with her three Academy Award wins altogether, says she gets paid less than her male counterparts. Streep, Paltrow and Amanda Seyfried inclusively, have echoed the sentiment of Patricia Arquette. Arquette spoke about the issue at the 2014 Oscars gala, when she tackled the issue in her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress: “It’s our time to have wage equality for once and for all.”
Reese Witherspoon brought the issue of women being greatly underrepresented on the big screen to the world’s attention at the American Cinematheque Awards in October: “Women make up 50% of the population, and we should be playing 50% of the roles on the screen.”
Behind The Camera
Of the same movies, women made up only 11.2% of writers, 18.9% of producers and 1.9% of directors. Quite aggravating. Where female writers, directors and producers held essential positions off-screen, the movies represented women more often, and in less sexualized roles.
This originates in the false and erroneous notion that movies starring women don’t sell. Disney has been proactive in making female-centric animated films, including “Frozen” and “Inside Out”, alongside the live-action “Maleficent”, “Avengers” and “Tomorrowland”, and, additionally, “Cinderella”, with Cate Blanchett, and the upcoming “Beauty and the Beast”, starring Emma Watson.
According to Variety, the chairman of Walt Disney Studios, Alan Horn, said that: “Audiences have proven that there’s an appetite and a market for dynamic female leads and female-driven stories, and as an industry, we have a responsibility to create those roles for women and compensate them accordingly.”
On The Small Screen
In the world of television, the pay gap is less harsh. Cast members are able to negotiate so that all lead stars get paid the same amount of money. Sofia Vergara and Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, for instance, had comparable earnings to their male counterparts. They’d both made $28.5 million as of lately.
Nevertheless, the underrepresentation still exists, which explains the discrepancy in pay between television actors and actresses. In 2015, the cut-off for female leads on the small screen was $5 million. According to the above-mentioned Annenberg School study, female TV stars are underrepresented among drama and cable comedy leads, as well as reality TV leads.
After taking home two Emmy Awards, Kathy Griffin still had to make a request to NBC executives to receive a salary equivalent to those of her male co-stars, when she was starring on “My Life on the D-List.” She’d told Variety that it wasn’t getting better.
Deeper Disparities For Women Of Color
The matter’s worse for women of color. How to Get Away With Murder’s Viola Davis, who was awarded with an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a drama series, tackled the lack of opportunities for women of color in Hollywood in her acceptance speech. “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity,” she said. “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”
The earnings discrepancy is evident, once African American and Native American women make 64 cents and 59 cents, respectively, for every dollar made by white men, and Hispanic women earn just 56 cents to a white man’s dollar.
We can only hope that, as America will be welcoming more TV shows with primarily African-American and/or Hispanic characters, such as Fox’s “Empire”, or the CW’s “Jane the Virgin”, the wages of these actresses will eventually catch up. Moreover, hopefully, the pay gaps will grow small, and, in the not-so-distant future, non-existent.
Furthermore, the imbalance symbolizes the representation of people of color in film as well. The Annenberg study also pinpointed that 4.9% of speaking or named characters in the 100 top-grossing films of 2014 were Hispanic or Latino, while this is a blatant discrepancy, once the same people make up 17% of the population. For Asians and
blacks, the number was somewhat higher, at 12.5% and 5.3%, respectively.
On the other hand, when it comes to pay discrepancy, female artists from the music industry are best compensated for what they do. Katy Perry was the highest-paid artist in 2014, having earned $135 million, winning over Garth
Brooks, the top-paid male solo artist, who made $90 million.
According to Forbes, Katy Perry said women fear being considered vain and arrogant. She continued by saying that she wasn’t there to brag, but that “I’m here to inspire other females.”
The concern touches America altogether, not just Hollywood. While in Hollywood, there are those fortunate enough to gain paychecks with a lot of zeros toward the end, in the rest of the States, it overall affects almost all women trying to support themselves and their families.
Nonetheless, Hollywood has the power to set an example, via powerful visibility and an ability to stimulate public debate. Actresses, directors and writers should continue to discuss the opportunity and wage gap that they face. In this instance, studios would eventually consider moving beyond unequal pay for equal work.