So, a lot of conversations about the pay disparity in the film industry end up with someone, usually a dude who needs to 'splain at the ladies How the World Works, saying that the pay disparity is justified because male stars are bigger box office draws, thus justifying their larger salaries. Sure, films are art, but they are also commerce, LADIES.
Paul Feig, trollbuster and director of the all-female Ghostbusters reboot (among other female-centered comedies, like Bridesmaids and The Heat), took this argument head-on in a new interview, and it was terrific:
What are your thoughts on equal pay for women in Hollywood? If you felt your actress weren't being treated fairly, would you take a stand on their behalf?Emphases mine.
I'm glad we're having this debate, but there are two levels of it. There's the business side of it where, leaving gender out of it, your paycheck is based on what you made previously. Nobody's going to get an enormous raise unless they prove that they're a box office draw. That's across the board, for men and women. Now if a woman is an equal box office draw and she's being paid less than a man, then that's criminal and I wouldn't allow that to happen.
But it's also a chicken-or-egg thing, because there aren't enough quality female roles to launch actresses to become box office draws, so it self-perpetuates. You're not giving women the roles to become big stars who command big paychecks. It's a bigger problem than a glass ceiling on paydays — we've gotta fix the scripts.
The conversation should be had, but an actress has to be given an opportunity to shine. Jennifer Lawrence should be paid every cent as much as her male counterparts, and probably more because she has proven to be a bigger draw. But Hollywood is not going to be altruistic about anything unless it means they're going to profit from it.
We need more leading roles for women, and they don't have to be "strong female characters," because I hate that term. People don't mean it in a derogatory way — they just mean "good" — but people have weaknesses and vulnerability and insecurity. They don't have to be superhuman, but if they're not completely human and relatable, then that's not a good role either.
That is perfect pushback on this notion that women shouldn't make as much because they don't draw as much box office and it's "crazy" to expect that there should be pay parity in a for-profit industry. Address why it is that women aren't drawing as much box office. Go right to the root of the inequity.
Fine: You want women to bring in as much before you pay us as much? Then give us great roles.
Write us great roles, produce great woman-centered films, give us directors who want to evoke tremendous (or cool, or flashy, or whatever) performances from women.
(I love the bonus commentary on "strong female characters," too, and how being one-dimensionally impervious is just as dehumanizing as a misogynist stereotype.)
This reminds me a lot of what Viola Davis said in her Emmy acceptance speech: "The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there."
Better roles for women. All women. The end.