The film industry has been accused in recent years of neglecting diversity, and gained the most mainstream traction around the time of the Oscars last year – and while the Academy Awards seemingly pledged to strive towards resolving the issue over the coming years by spreading out its voter base, the issue is far from fixed. The point I’m making here is that this argument that went on last year has definitely been recognised – yet a massive matter that is very much neglected is gender equality within the industry.
You may have seen headlines like “Ashton Kutcher paid three times more than Natalie Portman for No Strings Attached,” and it admittedly sparked some debate on the issue. That situation appears incredibly black and white, with Portman being given less for some reason, which she claimed was linked to her gender – but if you dig deeper into the cogs of the film they co-starred in, it may make more sense as to why it happened. Portman was an executive producer on the movie, and what does this mean? Basically, your agent negotiates that you are given this title, and you are paid a relatively small amount for your actual acting in terms of time put in, but then you also receive a cut from the revenue that the film generates in the box office. This changes the frame of the situation, and I think points to a more reasonable explanation rather than the narrative Portman was trying to create. If we look at a similar state of affairs, The Avengers had Robert Downey Jr as an executive producer, with the film going onto make over $1 Billion worldwide, meaning a big pay-out for him. Something to also note from that film is that Scarlett Johansson was the joint-second highest paid individual of the actors’ salaries, meaning she was paid more than a lot of actors who had previously led films such as Captain America, and Thor.
The pay of actresses is the main focus of most controversial instances where this topic comes up, and I am of the firm opinion that this is a case of dying on the wrong hill within the industry – I think the plight of female filmmakers and writers should form the focal point of the majority of arguments in the area. A recent study conducted by San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film found that only 7% of the top 250 grossing films of 2016 were directed by females, and women made up only 13% of writers. This is shocking. I want you to think of a film that you saw last year that was directed or written by a woman – it is not an easy question to answer.
Actresses make up a major part of film, and if they make their voice heard, it is usually a self-focused one about the conditions of work for an actress – they are perfectly entitled to do this, but it leaves a vacuum: who fights for those without a voice? There is no leading voice in this conversation that we should be having about the ability for females to create films, and that makes me sad. If anyone read my piece on the Golden Globe in the last issue, this kind of relates to that in a way – I feel that those who have a platform to speak on the issue, such as Meryl Streep, don’t. If we look back at last year, we had multiple voices all reaching out to comment on the issue of diversity, but those voices aren’t there for this, so nothing will be addressed.
The way I see it, the easiest solution to the problem, is for actresses to come out in solidarity of females that are involved in the filmmaking process. I hope to see this happen one day soon, but that’s not a certainty I can lean on. I don’t like ending articles on a negative note, but I can’t finish it positively, because we are far from a situation where we can resolve this issue – so we should be restless in raising our voices for those who aren’t heard in order to even attempt to fix this issue.