Hollywood’s Not-So-Glamorous Pay Gap
by Cara Alscher
Movies are a stunning way to tell stories that would otherwise stay captive in the minds of creative filmmakers. More than just aperture, sound effects, and CGI, films are a massive influence on the art and communication between the world’s unique communities. As with any industry, the film industry is highly financial. Business in film is more than just setting budgets and deciding when to release the next hot Transformers movie—wages of actors and actresses are declared and negotiated. Women are horribly underpaid compared to their male co-stars.
The gender pay gap in Hollywood cuts deeper than what was previously publicized. The Sony email hack of 2013 revealed that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams, stars of the critical success American Hustle, received a 7% cut of the film’s profits, compared to the 9% given to their male co-stars. Back-end compensation is typically determined by star power and fame--franchise-leading and two-time Academy Award winner Lawrence arguably has the save gravitas as American Hustle’s male leads, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper. After the email hack, Lawrence penned an open letter addressing the Hollywood pay gap.
“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.” – Jennifer Lawrence
Critics lashed out at the pay gap after Lawrence’s letter was published—how could someone with millions of dollars at hand complain about losing money they do not need? The answer to their question is subjective, as greed, ego, and the classic “woman on her period” concept could worm their way into reason. Asking why the top-earning actress of 2015 is hungry for more millions raises another question: how can the film industry (and society) claim to value the work of men and women equally, with the former getting paid millions more for the same work.
Hollywood has finally caught onto the fact that female-lead movies are not doomed for the bottom of the box office barrel; the common misconception of male-lead movies grossing more money than female-lead movies has been smashed by the success of hits such as Pitch Perfect 2 raking in $287.1 million on a $29 million budget, and the demolition of male-lead movies like John Carter, which brought in $284.1 million on a $263.7 million budget. More female-lead movies are being produced and green-lit, but where is the pay equality? Blaming the pay gap on physical strength, or biological differences between genders is senseless, as acting is a mental exercise that is not swayed by how “swole” a person is or whatever body parts a performer possesses. Despite the fact that actresses have the same set of tools as their male counterparts, they are still undervalued.