Top Dollar

This week’s film was Beasts of the Southern Wild. An amazing film and it features the youngest ever Academy Award for Best Actress Nominee, Quvenzhané Wallis.

I’ve been thinking about the value of male actors & female actors and how the movie industry values them.

Right at the top with the highest paid actors, there is a huge discrepancy between what male actors and female actors earn. The pay gap is astonishingly big. I don’t have exact and precise data, but working off data collected by Richard Ash, and presented on his site in graphs, you can clearly see the pay chasm from 2011/2012.

The average earnings for the top ten men was $36.15m and the average for the top ten women was $19.75.

The data is from Forbes so we can’t be sure of its accuracy, but even with a big margin of error, the gap is enormous. Here are the numbers from the previous year, also according to data from Forbes and presented on Love Graphs’ site.

Average earnings for top ten males: $37.5m. Average earnings for top ten females: $21.8m.  Both genders earned more that year but the gap remains around the same.

I was also quite surprised that Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock earned more in 2011/12 than ANY female actor. I guess what this shows is what Hollywood values. It values blockbuster action franchises over (arguably) original, quality film making. And it certainly values men over women.

Another thing I noted was that of the top ten men in 2011/12 – none of them had ever won an Oscar, but the top ten women had 7 Oscars between them (though Meryl Streep claims 3 of those). From the previous year’s list, the men had 2, both from Tom Hanks and the women again had 7.

What this shows is that to earn the top dollars, female actors need to be considered the very best in their field. They have to have been given the highest accolades within their profession in order to command the highest pay. And even when they are Oscar-winning, their pay still isn’t as high as the top paid men. So, The Rock, a wrestler by trade and training, whose highest acting accolade was a nomination for 2008’s Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award for favorite movie actor, can command considerably higher pay (over three times as much!) than 3 times Oscar-winning Meryl Streep.

What would be really interesting would be to see how the gender pay gap works on a much lower level, those who are not at the top. Do men and women actors get paid the same in small indie films? Does the pattern continue right down to TV movies? Or, maybe, the lower the overall budget of a movie the more equal the earnings? Someone probably has data on this. I don’t. I’m just a woman watching movies with chicks in.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Top Dollar

  1. “I guess what this shows is what Hollywood values.”

    Given that most big-name actors are essentially paid on commission, doesn’t it show more what the mass audience values?

    Anyways… that is semantics. I just wish there was a solution. Some similar debates have been going on in the cricket world this past year, where the pay gap is faaaaaaaar bigger than anything going on here; but how do you square that oval?

    (Veering (almost) totally off-topic, while researching the situation, I was surprised to discover that (in the UK) pro sport is explicitly excluded from gender equality laws; and I do wonder why no one has challenged this under human rights legislation.)

    • They are not paid on commission. Here’s an article about that http://metro.co.uk/2012/12/29/natalie-portman-tops-forbes-list-of-best-value-actors-3332591/ Basically, the top women are often better value for money.

      The solution definitely lies in having more female roles, and upping the ratio from 1:4 to 1:1.

      I’m quite surprised by the sport pay gap law exclusion, but also not surprised. I think there’s a move to balance up the pay in women’s sports. Obviously tennis is already there. It’s a long road that involves increasing the coverage of women’s sports to the point where they are commercially as successful. Tennis has done it, so I’m sure cricket, rugby and football could do it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s