Another view: The problem with Hollywood’s gender pay gap



This week I learned that the two best-paid actors of last year are… Can you guess? I know I couldn’t: Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock). What I could have guessed is that both of them would have enjoyed nearly three times the annual pay packet of the top two actresses, Emma Stone and Jennifer Anniston. Because they did.

You want figures? Wahlberg and Johnson earned $68m and $65m respectively, while Stone and Anniston took home $26m and $25.5m, with Jennifer Lawrence close behind with a paltry $24m (the third placed actor was Vin Diesel, whose thespian talents have so far eluded the Oscar panel). Just as pertinently, the women were at 15, 16 and 17 in the Top 30 published by Forbes, showing that it’s not just the BBC that pays its male stars more than women who do the same job. But we knew that already, didn’t we.

What I didn’t know is that someone has calculated that women only have 28 per cent of the speaking roles in Hollywood films, which is really shocking – although not shocking enough to explain the gender disparity in their salaries (the top ten actors banked $488.5m, nearly three times as much as the top ten women with $172.5m).. Of course, what really winds us up is not the salaries themselves, and not even the discrepancy between the genders, but the fact that the people making the big money make such rubbish films.

It’s easy to mock actors who run around in elaborate costumes firing weapons at invisible creatures created on a computer and added to the film after the actors have all gone home, but it’s got to be a skill acting like you mean it when there’s nothing but a green screen behind you and a bunch of technicians yelling instructions. Just not one that wins awards.

Mark Wahlberg crowned highest-paid actor of 2017

None of my favourite actors are ever in the Top Twenty, but then very few of my favourite films are in the Top Twenty either. I am well aware that for every one of me, with a taste for indie, foreign and ‘arthouse’ films, there are a hundred, perhaps a thousand, others who prefer something with explosions and gunfire and special effects.

And I’m not suggesting for a moment that my arcane tastes are somehow superior or sophisticated. Just don’t expect me to acknowledge that, just because action film franchises are more popular, that makes them any better either. It’s all a matter of personal taste.

I’ve long ago realised that my taste in just about everything – films, music, food, travel, women – is unlikely to correspond with the most popular examples in society at large. But I’ve never wanted to follow the herd: unfashionably in these Brexity times, I think diversity is something to be celebrated, not criticised or banned.

I have a friend, Dan, who loves going to the cinema; like me, he goes once and sometimes twice a week. When we first discovered a shared interest in cinema, we asked each other what our favourite films were.

Much to our mutual surprise, it turned out that I had seen none of his, and he had seen none of mine. In most cases, we had not even heard of each others’ favourites because it had never crossed our minds to watch them. When I listed mine, he asked “Who’s in it?” and when he listed his I asked “Who made it?”

Mark Wahlberg: in pictures


Oddly, we agreed – for the first and, quite possibly last, time – when I recommended ‘Get Out’ to him and he loved it as much as I did, just as I knew he would. It’s hard to say why: I’m tempted to say because it’s the most accessible and plain enjoyable film of the year.

I couldn’t even entice him with the usual names of famous actors (because there aren’t any, unless you’re a massive fan of Girls or Skins and have closely followed Allison Williams and Daniel Kaluuya’s careers), but then again I had not been attracted by the writer or director (Jordan Peele) who was making his first film.

I guess I depended on reviews, ratings, and my own instinct. It certainly wasn’t the trailer which, to my mind, gives away far too much of the twist towards the end, and is best avoided until afterwards (I only saw it afterwards).

It’s a definite word-of-mouth film, which is why it’s still on in cinemas months after release, and why it’s doing so phenomenally well.

And with its hard-to-define genre – it’s kind of a romantic comedy at first, but it’s also a bit mysterious and weird, and with a sudden shocking shift near the end that turns it into something completely different – it’s hard to imagine many people who wouldn’t like it. I haven’t met any.

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