There’s at least one valuable tool to keep in the social outrage toolbox — ignorance of the facts. The manipulation of stats that used to be routinely reserved for lying politicians and corrupt moneymen has spread evenly to those with an agenda and a Twitter account. The press is either dumb or complicit, providing for the perfect storm of advancing unchallenged and often totally baloney narratives into the town-square. You’d be apt to call it fake news, but convenient lies makes sense as well and isn’t tainted by a phraseology connected a narcissist with orange marshmallow hair.
The gender pay gap as a whole, such that it exists as a single thing, is largely based on anecdotal evidence supported by latter day numbers crunching and a unending set of assumptions that would make even an economist blush. It’s akin to saying Africa is warmer than North America, explaining it by the average temperatures in 197 cities across each continent, then waiting for some guy to not understand that it’s 120 degrees in Palm Springs but 78 in Kinshasa and he packed all wrong.
The underlying subtext of the gender pay gap is a conspiracy among humans with penises to seek to undermine the compensation structure of the ones who make babies. That’s the only way to explain how the issue might be so universally present, as so claimed. The conspiring may be subconscious, bored down to the patriarchal grey matter present in male DNA. Therefore, it’s not necessarily a meeting behind the bowling alley where these oppressor decisions are being made, but perhaps a man merely watches WWE wrestling matches then walks into work the next day absentmindedly deciding to pay the male marketing manager in his office ten grand more than the female marketing manager of similar worth and talent. It’s so sinister, it can’t even be detected by the naked eye. Conveniently, there’s no microscope or device invented yet that can spot it either.
There’s nobody who’s walked this Earth for a few decades or more who won’t concede that men often do take advantage of women in the commercial marketplace. It’s neither a conspiracy or professional wrestling induced subjugation, but more so the way men are wired to take advantage of all business situations, or relative to most women. Men tend to be more competitive, more aggressive, and more willing to be complete assholes in public and social settings than women. Hence, they strike better deals for themselves and the entities they might represent. Men do not see haggling, bargaining, or exploiting their opponents weakness as inherently negative interactions. In fact, many find them near erotic. It’s a game. And men love games.
The interaction of how the two genders approach confrontation will tilt business outcomes in men’s favor. What that means for the happiness quotient in life remains up for grabs. Women pay more for air filters at Jiffy Lube. But they pay less on dates. Does it even out or is the cosmos still inequitably lashing out at the ladies?
Women on the whole are paid less than men. Partly due to this “afraid to speak up” or “willingness to accept less” factor, and partly due to numerous relatively complicated career path, lifestyle, and marketplace value factors. I’m not qualified to explain the largely mythical qualities of the gender pay gap as a phantom menace in the agricultural sector where women are compensated less than men on the whole, the hotel and hospitality sectors where they are also paid inferiorly, or the sex worker trade, where, because there is a kind god, women make the large bulk of the total revenue pie.
I am rightly qualified by experience and knowledge to provide insight into the on-the-ground reality of the purported pay gap between male and female actors and entertainers, most notably at the upper echelons from whence comes the most notable public comments and social media trafficked complaints. Once picked up in the more than willing entertainment press, these supposed civil rights outrages take on a life of their own.
To understand the Myth of the Rich But Unfairly Paid Female Entertainer Pay Gap, you must dig into some facts on the topic and choose to either red pill or blue pill them, depending on your preference for truth or blind rage, respectively.
You must believe that acting talent is the measure by which actors are paid. If acting talent defined compensation, Meryl Streep would make more money than Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg, neither of whom would have scored better than a D- in any legitimate assessment of dramatic skills. The same would be true for Daniel Day Lewis, Edward Norton, and other finely skilled thespians who make scratch compared to Chris Pratt these days. Actors are paid on very crude, very cold, economic realities of scarcity, and marketplace value. What are you worth to the bottom line of the (now worldwide) box office and ancillary markets and how much would it cost to replace you?
Jumanji, Welcome to the Jungle explains why Dwayne Johnson makes oodles of acting dollars, with Kevin Hart not far behind, but Saoirse Ronan has to live in only a swank condo with no valet service on Sundays. The film, a reboot of a closed-end Robin Williams adaptation of a kid’s book from 1995, was neither demanded, needed, or likely wanted even by fans of the original. The Welcome to the Jungle revised edition isn’t even a sequel to the first successful film. It merely stole its title and chief plot trick. That and The Rock nets you a film that’s approaching $900 million in worldwide box office. Karen Gillan was interchangeable to the film’s performance. Even as she fought back complaints about her racy outfit. She was expendable. The Rock, and to a lesser degree, Kevin Hart, and a touch of Jack Black, were not. The studio is already announcing a sequel to the reboot and who knows what amounts of other ancillary business and licensing offshoots.
There is almost nobody who can do what The Rock does for a movie’s bottomline in the current market. Mark Wahlberg perhaps with a lousy Transformers movie. Which is why these two knuckleheads and fourth rate actors can demand and receive a ton of guaranteed money in their contracts. Angelina Jolie used to be able to carry a film, she got paid big. Jennifer Lawrence didn’t get paid the same as Bradley Cooper when she made a bunch of David O. Russell films with limited revenue top ends. When she became the star of Hunger Games, a blowout franchise, she got super rich. This seems so easy, so simple, but the truth is never the real purpose of any social cause.
Actors in Hollywood are not even themselves negotiating their own deals. They hire savvier, ambitious, a-holes to milk the maximum amount of contract value possible with each project. Occasionally, like Kevin Durant coming to win rings with the Warriors, they’ll agree to take a little less to finally make a movie they can show their parents. In both sports and entertainment, agents have research books explaining the value of their clients in the millions of dollars to any team or project. They’re obviously inflated, but they use some limited economic science to explain the bottomline value of their client’s contract demands. Mark Wahlberg is far more valuable than Michelle Williams. When All the Money in the World was reshot and Wahlberg’s agent demanded the $1.5 million in his contract under the “must do extra shooting work” clause, everybody compared that to Michelle Williams who took a bag of Doritos and a hot coffee to come back for an extra week to help sponge Kevin Spacey out of the film. Williams agent works at the same company as Wahlberg’s agent. Had they switched agents, each would have leveraged the best deal possible for their brand new client and Wahlberg still would’ve been paid while Williams would’ve been told to put on her charity boots and help out.
Agents earn off percentages of deals. They will max out for their clients. Occasionally, and undeniably, they will subserve their lesser clients in order to score bigger deals for their bigger clients at the firm. That’s ever rep firm everywhere ever catering to the best interest of their highest producing clients. Wahlberg brings in millions to the firm. Michelle Williams commissions don’t pay for parking, despite the fact she’s a remarkable actress, a hard worker, and universally beloved. Capitalism isn’t always pretty. Look at Wahlberg’s massive roid guns at forty-four. It’s not like he’s slouching on the effort front.
The movie market is largely driven by young men, teen boys, and fanboys. That’s who spends an inordinate amount of time and money consuming crappy blockbuster franchise films. The same can not be said for young women. They don’t go to movie. They don’t watch TV anymore. But they do devour online magazines and social media, where female celebrities make a remarkably uneven amount of cash in sponsorships, promotions, and advertisements. There is no male version of the Kardashians pulling in tens of millions from pushing merchandise and media to a female audience. Jennifer Lawrence and her similar level entertainer women peers can pull in tens of millions a year pushing fragrances, clothes, makeup, and other consumer products. Paris Hilton has sold over a billion dollars in licensed perfume. Jessica Simpson more than a billion dollars of trinkets and wares in box stores and on TV sales channels. The only comparison for this type of cash available to women in entertainment is men in sports. David Beckham can move a lot of cologne. But Mark Wahlberg can’t.
There’s no time to discuss the music industry where pop female artists dominate their male counterparts in the hundreds of millions earned in music and ancillary. Much like with film, it’s hardly a talent issue. It’s a brand issue and an audience issue, and the audience in music is teen girls. Is that incredibly violative of male civil rights for equal pay? Don’t think too hard on that.
Same work, same pay makes sense in an occupation where the work is so completely objective and rote that it’s fair to compare two workers output. It’s impossible to do in entertainment. Actors are not paid by the day, their hours, their skill level, years of experience or educational achievements. They are paid based on what they are worth to ticket sales. Every studio and funder and investor has MBA’s and CPA’s up the wazoo crunching the numbers. This is how labor prices are determined in the market. There is no grand conspiracy or secret meetings with invisible ink agendas. In film, The Rock and his ability to turn Jumanji into a mint makes him a mint. In music, it’s Taylor Swift. In dramatic series television, Ellen Pompeo scored a $20M+ annual contract because women in a key demographic watch her show year after year. You’d have to change the world first, to sensibly back into changing the pay scales in Hollywood. That seems like a mighty task, especially given everybody chanting “gender pay gap” seems to want to pretend this foundational fact doesn’t even exist.