As a general policy, online petitions are easily ignored vessels of impotent political messaging. These are the works of the least capable activists among the population spastically seizing on trending emotional outrage; the grand chance to feel like Rosa Parks for one shining moment. Change.org petition signatures were the mark of Millennial era world changers for some number of years until surpassed in virtue signaling by the unbelievably even easier to complete Twitter hashtag. Why take the time to type your full name when a pound sign and five or six letter shall anoint thee as upright? Not to mention Change.org seemed to be reselling your verification email addresses to be mined for marketing opportunities.
Online petitions sole remaining currency are as predicates for hyperbolized digital media headlines declaring groundswell support for politically correct social movements. As a for instance, the fast flying articles declaring a plethora of pleas for actor, Matt Smith, to donate his “extra pay” earned on the first two seasons of the Netflix show, The Crown. As so laid out in an elaborately idiotic Care2 petition, Smith must, by online petition fiat, donate this money to the Hollywood approved Time’s Up movement for gender equality in the workplace. As of the date of this writing, almost 24,000 anons have signed the petition out of the 25,000 requested.
To understand the pointlessness of online petitions, you need only look at the process of deciding how many signatures to request. It’s a completely random figured designed to generate an imaginary victory. Like deciding four pull-ups is the mark of a champion because you can’t do five. Whoo, where’s my medal? No, I’ve never seen a Rocky movie.
To understand the futility of the entire underlying cause, you need only look at the definition of “extra pay”. This would be the money that actor Matt Smith made from his work on The Crown in excess of what Claire Foy, the actress who plays the titular character on the show made over the same time period. Foy’s salary is known to be $40,000 per episode, as paid by production company, Left Bank, on behalf of Netflix which airs the show. Smith’s salary per episode is unknown, but noted to be higher than Foy’s. The fact that Smith, as Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband, made more than than Claire Foy, as Queen Elizabeth II, has rankled many people who have little understanding of television economics, or possibly don’t understand that these actors are not the actual Queen of England and the Duke of Edinburgh, respectively. In the latter case, presumably the real Queen holds all the financial cards to the Windsor billions.
For the adult understanding of entertainment content compensation, or capitalism in general, know that figures are agreed upon during back and forth contract negotiations. Various Guilds set minimums, but those don’t affect this level of actors who have agents bargaining with producers over salary and any bonuses. Never does salary closely correlate to acting talent, roles performed in the production, or screen time. It relates to what producers need to pay you to agree to perform in relationship to how much they believe you are related specifically to the commercial success of the project. Nobody’s making the The Crown for the glory of England or the love of seeing WASPy people in the 50’s chain smoke. This also explains why The Rock and Mark Wahlberg are the highest paid actors in motion pictures despite neither having a middle school level acting ability.
Matt Smith is a weird looking British dude who had the good fortune in his 20’s to be cast for several years as Dr. Who on the eponymous, forever running cult English broadcasting science fiction show. It’s not a small thing, as both male and female actors from the show have gone on to bigger starring roles in other television and film work. Claire Foy may be a talented actress, with a similar British TV show pedigree to Smith, minus that huge Dr. Who casting. Assuming both bring the same set of thespian skills and superficial likeness qualities to the project, Smith is simply worth more than Foy in the marketplace. This at the time of putting together The Crown. After two well publicized and received seasons of the show on Netflix, perhaps that has flipped for Foy versus Smith. She is leaving the show so we shall soon know her new market value. Neither has the looks to be a big budget lead.
At the time this “Prince makes more than Queen” story broke in the obliging media outlets desperately hungry to feed a gender pay gap narrative, Left Bank productions and Netflix immediately moved into kowtow mode. It’s the entertainment industry version of how an armadillo protects itself from predators. Curl into a ball and let them kick you around until the Twitter storm finds a new target. When in doubt, blame Trump.
At a press conference last week, The Crown’s executive producer, Suzanne Mackie, now infamously insisted that “Going forward, nobody gets paid more than the Queen”. Cute, if not entirely disingenuous. Mackie was party to the original negotiations for Foy; therefore, she’s either a sinister undercover agent for the patriarchy, or she felt comfortable with her lead cast members having different salaries, which is entirely typical of most productions, let alone any business venture in the world. At the time of the “Queen’s pay” quip, Mackie noted specifically that Smith was paid more because of his notoriety from his previous role as Dr. Who. Therein, she provided the all grown-up economic rationale for the pay difference, only to then declare that that cultural messaging and rank egalitarianism should triumph over an objective business analysis. This seems like a flimsy deck upon which to build an equality movement.
If you’ve ever heard a religious person dismissing the theory of evolution in favor of their more comforting belief system, you know how this process goes. You also know that the Suzanne Mackies of the world would mock those who choose biblical faith over the science. She’s not alone in that regard. It’s always worth noting that while Hollywood is hardly a bastion of traditional religious fervor, it’s adopted a faith based, moral caste system of its own to rival any of the legacy religions that meet in houses of worship. Membership is not optional if you wish to work. Virtuous hashtags and high-minded quotes are the hymnals.
The originator of the Care2 petition insists that Smith’s pay is indicative of a gender pay disparity, that while in this specific case is merely among people who make extraordinary salaries each, sets a bad example for the remaining billions in each gender:
“While it may be easy for some to dismiss gender pay disparity for already high-paid actors like Claire Foy, I believe that publically adresssing [sic] high-profile cases of sexism will also help create greater opportunities for all women—in all careers.”
Ignore the spelling errors. The generic sentiment is spot on zeitgeist. Sexism is invoked, never proven. And the call to action, like the political gender movements themselves, insist this isn’t about the extremely privileged white women in Brentwood and the fashionable pied-à-terres of Manhattan clearly providing their juice, but about the women put upon in less fabulous lines of work. Such as the seamstresses who toil over their haute couture, the agricultural laborers who pick and pack their kale, or the nail salon girl they tip weekly to heal the wounds of modern transnational indentured servitude.
The framers of the errantly worded manifesto have decided that Smith’s salary differential over Foy prior to rectification constitutes the “extra pay” that requires restitution on Smith’s behalf. As if Smith has committed a gender assault, despite Smith’s representatives clearly negotiating in the best interest of their own client, without regard to other actors on the project. These justice revolutionaries would have Smith’s salary be lowered to match Foy, such that disparity would be eliminated. A more strategic feminist might ask for more pay for the female to rise up to the level of the cursedly blessed male, but that forgoes the satisfaction of leveling punishment, and punishment drives the passion for most of these causes. Gender equality is nice, but gender vengeance is what keeps you warm at night.
According to the demands of the righteous, Smith’s “extra pay” is to be delivered in check form to the Time’s Up movement, and their legal defense fund. While the petition writers are not necessarily directly connected to the organization, it’s hard to miss the self-serving nature of these demands. If you follow the work of injustice hustlers like Al Sharpton who have determined that the only way for companies with racially unjust practices to make the world whole is by writing a check to Sharpton’s organization, you know how this shake down process works. It’s coincidentally financially fortuitous for the self-appointed leader of the aggrieved, not so much the aggrieved.
Can wealthy actresses band together to improve the lives of oppressed female migrant farmworkers in this nation? Of course they can. Though there’s nothing to indicate they ever will. There have been well-to-do women in Hollywood for a century now, and over that same time period, the life of the female lettuce picker hasn’t improved a whit. Perhaps it’s coming.
There is no social ill that has ever been cured through completely irrational argument. Short of having guaranteed headlines in both coast’s Times, The Huffington Post, Hollywood trade journals, and leading women’s magazines, nobody is that upset that Jennifer Lawrence had to make five million dollars compared to her better known male co-stars ten million dollars for a few movies while waiting her turn to earn twenty million to her male co-star’s twelve million on future horrible movies that would all tank at the box office. Not to mention untold millions more in commercial endorsement deals. At 27, she’s worth a cool $120 million, damn you dastardly chauvinistic cabal.
Lawrence used to complain about the gender pay gap, now she’s perhaps the most overpaid talent in Hollywood in relation to her financial performance (along with Johnny Depp, another unexplained overcompensated actor). You hear less from Lawrence now on the subject, though she has raised the possibility of retiring for a year to work on women’s political issues. Nobility is a moving target for the modern aristocrat; you need to be constantly adapting strategies from your Malibu seaside estate, else you lose righteous points. Remember, this is all religion. God pay the Queen.