Hollywood pay gap proves controversial

In an attempt to not sound “spoiled” or like “a brat,” the raging “Hunger Games” superstar Jennifer Lawrence recently wrote an essay via the popular website Lenny Lerner about the wage gap between male and female actors trying to make it big in Hollywood. 

After the 2014-2015 Sony cyberhacks, emails speculated that after the box-office hit “American Hustle,” Lawrence was originally only going to be paid five percent of royalties, two percent less than her co-star Amy Adams (“Big Eyes”), and four percent less than her male counterparts Bradley Cooper  (“Aloha”) and Christian Bale (“Exodus: Gods and Kings”), who would receive nine percent. The email states that because of Adams’ “two point lead” (points being percent profit) over Lawrence, the actresses must be on the same level of royalty acquisition, thus the Columbia film agency raised Lawrence’s percent to match Adams’.  However, the two were still upset with the now two percent difference in royalties of their male co-actors.  Lawrence was specifically appalled at this revelation and resorted to writing a very strongly worded essay regarding Sony’s actions and the discrimination concerning her gender and the respectable wage. 

With all due respect to Lawrence, last year she was ranked the highest paid actress, making over $52 million, only $28 million less than the highest paid actor, Robert Downey Jr. At the age of 25, she is a millionaire.  From what I understand, this essay was written out of fear for female salaries in Hollywood.  Let me reiterate, in Hollywood. Yes, in many jobs in the United States, women receive lower salaries than men, and yes, there is a peak in the definition of modern day feminism. However, at a time such as this, it is hard to relate to someone who is upset over a wage gap when the individual makes $52 million annually.  Is this a question of feminism or the extreme emphasis on female roles in the film-making industry? 

Lawrence’s character Katniss Everdeen in the popular “Hunger Games” series is unquestionably one of the most popular female protagonists of this decade.  Everdeen’s resilience, bravery and stubbornness evidently make up for one heck of a positive female role model.  In the essay Lawrence states, “When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid, I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need (I told you it wasn’t relatable, don’t hate me).” 

She goes on to suggest that she did not want to continue fighting Sony for the same wage as her male co-stars because she did not want to seem like a “brat.” I can only do my best to understand that as a hardworking female actress it must be tough to not be paid the same amount as your costars. However, in the severity of the working class world, I can see that many people have a right to be upset with Lawrence’s sudden revelation.  If the Sony emails had not suggested that women were being paid less, would this problem even make headlines? Also, with the millions of middle class women in America and around the world who struggle with wage equality, it is rarely spoken about and as blown up as this story was. Does it take a female actress who makes $52 million a year to be the first to help us realize the wage gap that has been discussed and dissected since after World War II?  The relationship celebrities have with working class individuals does not remotely intersect. In the simplest of terms, if anyone has the right to worry or concern themselves with a wage gap, it is not someone who is involuntarily subject to the world’s eye and publicly paid as an advocate for thoughts on women’s rights.  Blue collar, white collar and essentially anyone trying to make it in any other industry besides film, have a reason to discuss wage equality.

In efforts to make it clear that Lawrence’s argument was not about being a woman, I think she lost the sincerity that she needed in order to truly relate to fans and working class women around the world. Yes, on average women do get paid less, but in the end, there are only a few that make it onto the top 10 highest paid actresses list. 

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