What La La Land is doing to combat gender discrimination
The 2017 crime-thriller All the Money in the World has been in the public eye since before its theatrical release, but for the wrong reasons. The controversies started when one of the film’s stars, Kevin Spacey, faced sexual misconduct allegations which forced the director to recast Spacey’s role and reshoot scenes just weeks prior to its release. Months later, news broke about a large pay discrepancy between returning actors, Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams. Where Wahlberg earned $1.5 million dollars for the reshoots, the studio only paid Williams an $80 per diem, amounting to less than $1000 total.
For some, the reason is simply because it’s Mark Wahlberg. The Transformers franchise star made $68 million last year, earning him the title of the highest paid actor of 2017. His name recognition carries a hefty price tag, especially for a non-blockbuster drama like All the Money in the World.
The truth is more complicated, but still questionable to some. Wahlberg’s agency, WME, negotiated for a contract that did not include reshoots. While Williams’ contract, also negotiated by WME, accounted for reshoots. Additionally, Wahlberg had a co-star approval clause in his contract and held up production and leveraged for more money for the reshoots. The negotiating created a gap between the co-stars where Williams made less than 1% of what Wahlberg did.
While the truth is more about the shrewd negotiating ability of Mark Wahlberg and his team than it is about gender inequalities, this story got people talking. Academy Award-winning actress Patricia Arquette took to Twitter soon after the story broke, tweeting, “Agencies have to stop being complicit in the underpayment of their clients.”
Arquette has a history of criticizing gender pay inequalities in Hollywood (and in general). During her 2015 Academy Awards speech, she criticized these pay practices across the country. “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights, it’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” Although it raised a few eyebrows for its abruptness, it managed to do what was intended: bring the topic to the public eye.
In 2016, Arquette produced a documentary on the subject called Equal Means Equal. The film focuses on first-hand accounts, as well as legal cases based around payment disparity issues. Director Kamala Lopez makes a compelling case in favour of ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment by presenting examples of discrimination from the workplace to domestic violence and sexual assaults. Following the movie, Arquette started a petition to politicians and decision makers to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Right now, it stands at nearly 130,000 signatures.
Although some time has passed since Arquette’s controversial speech, the sentiment remains. At January’s Golden Globe Awards, actress Natalie Portman stressed the need for more inclusivity in Hollywood when announcing the award for best director. Rather than delivering the typical “Here are the nominees” lines, she said “Here are the all-male nominees”.
The Michelle Williams/Mark Wahlberg controversy found a form of resolution when Wahlberg donated the $1.5 million he made to the Time’s Up charity. Like Patricia Arquette’s Equal Means Equal movement, Time’s Up is focused on helping women. As a response to the sex scandals in Hollywood, Time’s Up is a legal fund for helping victims of harassment and sexual abuse.
While these movements are great for women and women’s rights, the gender pay gap between sexes in Hollywood continues. Forbes list of highest paid actors and actresses of 2017 was a dramatic case in point for this issue. Wahlberg topped the list at $68 million, while the first female name that appears is Emma Stone at No. 15, with only $26 million – less than half of Wahlberg’s earnings.
The combined money earned by the top 10 actresses is less than the combined earnings of the top three actors (Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel). The difference in pay would be astounding if it wasn’t so common year after year. But with the discussions surrounding the issue, and movements in favour of women, the closing of this pay gap seems to be inevitable.
Alex Correa | Staff Writer