The hordes of Hollywood who will tell you from the verandas of their third homes that they are being unfairly paid are conversely orgasmically convulsing at news that Ellen Pompeo has become the highest paid actor on television at $20 million a year plus mega-backend cash. She’s a woman. The rest is moot.
Routinely unmentioned in the question of extremely privileged white women to bring about an economic system where all people are paid equally regardless of value, circumstance, or negotiating skills, is the intensely guilt ridden origin story. Imagine small town, progressive drama students with dreams of changing the world. Now imagine they own four Range Rovers and live behind massively gated walls in Brentwood mansions, when not in their homes in Hawaii or on brand sponsored holiday in Fiji. They’re no longer changing the world, they’re now merely commenting on the world from their Ethan Allen sitting rooms. Their hearts are noble, but their cups runneth over with self-involved wine. From this immense esteem vacuum comes the desire to be seen as virtuous in all of your social media postings.
Ellen Pompeo herself broke the news of becoming far better paid than any of her male co-stars on Grey’s Anatomy with a tortured explanation of the shame of it all:
“I’m 48 now, so I’ve finally gotten to the place where I’m OK asking for what I deserve, which is something that comes only with age.”
Run that thought by the teen sex worker forced to work the docks sometime. She haggles or she starves, or worse. The difference between five million and twenty million a year is certainly a wide valley, but either as take home pay for your day job will leave you with little you can’t afford in life. The difference between ten bucks an hour and twelve can decided if your kids gets shoes without holes this year for school. Certainly a cheap example, but one that never crosses the minds of the super privileged as they move on with their pay gap hashtags.
Pompeo credits Grey’s Anatomy show chief, Shonda Rhimes, with helping her understand it’s okay to ask for what you deserve at work. Truly a weird situation. Imagine asking the store owner where you work to help them help you ask for a raise. Such is the twisted emotional torture of women demanding to be granted equal access to the gold booty of Hollywood, while similarly being too timid to ask for a shekel. That doesn’t paint a picture of strong women, it paints the portrait of a shy girl.
Blame the patriarchy all you want for raising and school girls to be submissive, provided you don’t bother to note that most parenting and schools are conducted by other women. What did I do to make Ellen Pompeo so afraid to ask for a raise, might say the average man? To answer that question honestly is to be a Time’s Up denier.
“At one point, I asked for $5,000 more than him [Patrick Dempsey] just on principle, because the show is Grey’s Anatomy and I’m Meredith Grey. They wouldn’t give it to me. And I could have walked away, so why didn’t I? It’s my show; I’m the number one. I’m sure I felt what a lot of these other actresses feel: Why should I walk away from a great part because of a guy? You feel conflicted but then you figure, ‘I’m not going to let a guy drive me out of my own house.'”
The transference of blame to male stars making bank is a key component of the myth of conspiratorially underpaid women in Hollywood. Dempsey is the adversary because he negotiated himself a good deal. He (more likely his agent) boldly seized the principles of capitalism. Mark Wahlberg did the same with All the Money in the World, for which he’s now facing college-educated white female backlash for making far more than Michelle Williams on the same project. Do we see a $80,000 price tag on a Mercedes and a $15,000 price tag on a Kia and cry foul? Or anti-Korean racism in favor of the Fatherland autos? Or do we inherently understand that in a laissez-faire market, no two single items for sale are the same and it’s up to the seller and buyer to optimally come to a decision on price in any transaction? That’s a trick question, Boris. Don’t answer it.
There’s no doubt that women at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder are beset by numerous obstacles, including sexist pay rates and other forms of exploitation. This has little to nothing to do with Hollywood pay rates or the need to genuflect before the false god of some Fight Club cabal meeting in the back of steakhouses trying to swindle cash from attractive short women who act on screen . Never mentioned in the take home pay calculus, beside the massively material point of value to bottomline, are the incredibly lucrative opportunities for famous women outside of their dramatic work. Jennifer Lawrence may make less than Bradley Cooper in some Oscar worthy film. She makes far more than he in annual income with multi-million dollar endorsement deals for beauty, style, and fashion products worldwide. Serena Williams earns some six-figure less than men for her tournament wins. That’s due to commercial value disparity in the matches. She also takes home another twenty to thirty million a year in advertising deals and sponsorships. Ad and marketing dollars are skewed dramatically toward female famous persons over their male counterparts. Hashtag coming? Doubt it.
The notion that having more women in power will lessen the principle pay gap for already wealthy women in Hollywood is something of a red herring. Is the anticipation that business women will not seek the same profit motive as business men? That seems rather sexist. Also completely unsupported by historical fact. Women who’ve earned their way up the corporate ladder or in private entrepreneurship did so with ruthless skills. These aren’t emoting crocodile tearing ladies handing out freebies to sad sack same gender negotiators. Peggy, here’s a million more because you’re such a pussy and you can’t help it. Something never said by a woman who makes her way to the top. The true kowtowers in this world are the easily frightened males, bending over backward to signal their gender supportive virtue. It’s only a matter of time before Mark Zuckerberg provides women with 18 years maternity leave and free cheesecake bites for life. That following the chemical castration of all male employees to end harassment in the workplace.
Women’s magazines like Glamour, giddily and blindly applauding Pompeo’s big paycheck bump, might serve their demographic better to explain the truthful direct and nuanced measures by which a woman may compete in a rough and tumble world. Listing victimization as all of the top ten causes for Michelle Williams being paid merely $700,000 for eight weeks of work in All the Money in the World isn’t exactly empowering. In fact, it’s that other word. What’s the complete opposite of empowering again?