By Tyler Conrad ’17
According to Forbes, Jennifer Lawrence made $46 million last year, making her Hollywood’s highest paid actress at only 26 years old.
Even with such a hefty salary, compare Lawrence with her male counterparts and she ranks as the 6th highest-earning male or female actor, behind men including the No. 1 highest paid Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Tom Cruise.
Let’s make something clear: These are copious amounts of money and definitely not something anybody needs to be complaining about. Getting paychecks this big for acting in movies is something all of these men and women should be rejoicing with.
This point aside, the pay discrepancy and wage gap in Hollywood does not only echo that of society, it’s even worse.
According to CNN, women middle school teachers earn a median $956 a week, as opposed to $1,096 earned by men. Women female lawyers make 83 cents on the male dollar, and in retail sales women make 70 cents on the dollar.
For the 2014 film “American Hustle” Jennifer Lawrence, an Academy Award winner with four nominations, received a 7 percent compensation, as did her five time Academy Award nominated costar Amy Adams. They both were paid $1.25 million upfront.
The film’s male leads, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, and Jeremy Renner, all incredibly distinguished and famed actors, each received 9 percent compensation, a discrepancy revealed during the 2014 Sony email hack. Bale and Cooper were also given $2.5 million upfront.
As a response to the hack, Jennifer Lawrence wrote an article published in the newsletter Lenny Letter, in which she describes her frustration not with her lack of pay, but with the lack of respect she received as a negotiator.
“All I hear and see all day are men speaking their opinions, and I give mine in the same exact manner, and you would have thought I had said something offensive,” Lawrence wrote regarding an instant where she tried to argue before coming to an agreement.
Lawrence and Adams have both starred in a super hero franchise, gained four or more Academy Award nominations, and made a name for themselves headlining several critically acclaimed movies. They did not serve as supporting characters, or extras, or the one dimensional “girlfriend” who shows to create a convenient romantic sub plot for the protagonist.
No, they were the 2/5 of a well-rounded, talented ensemble. They portrayed their characters to perfection, and even gained an Academy Award nomination each for these portrayals.
There is no legitimate explanation for the gap, and yet it continuously appears.
Meryl Streep, the most Oscar-nominated actor in history, professed herself to being paid less than male costars in films she has headlined.
“The top 10 buyers in the United States for films – for every territory – there is not one woman,” Streep was quoted saying in Harper’s Bazaar. “Men and women have different tastes sometimes but if the people that are choosing what goes out into the multiplexes are all of one persuasion, the choice will be limited and then that will be a self-fulfilling prophecy, you see?”
Speaking of the male-dominated world behind the camera, before actresses are even given a paycheck, they have a whole different challenge: finding a role.
A 2015 study published in Forbes found that 71.3 percent of speaking characters in film are male.
Of the minuscule 28.7 percent of characters that actually are played by women, how many of these characters can be labeled as eye candy, or a mindless female presence to throw in to complicate a male protagonist’s story? What about the mother? The wife. the girlfriend?
In an industry where men are still the ones usually calling the shots, the clear perspective they have towards women’s roles is visible for anyone who bothers to keep their eyes open.
Once the problem is solved, the solution follows soon after. Women have been, and largely still are, written as attractive props for a character, hanging on the arms of a better written male heroes. Now that women are successfully making names for themselves,earning roles for themselves, and carrying movies on their own without any male influence, the conversation of salary has come in to play.
As women begin to earn leading Hollywood roles, it’s time to to pay them as such.