A LOT HAS been said about the pay gap in Hollywood as actresses have complained about being paid less than their male counterparts. For example, in 2018, Hollywood’s highest-paid actress, Scarlett Johansson, earned almost $198.5 million less than the highest-paid actor, George Clooney.
Nowadays, we are not spared from these annoying complaints, with the media screaming to the heavens because Lady Gaga is earning a not inconsiderable $10 million compared to the $20 million Joaquin Phoenix will earn in Joker 2.
Although it seems like a completely elitist and unrealistic problem, what explains the difference between the earnings of actors and actresses on the big screen?
When we simply compare the gap, we find that actresses received on average $2.2 million less per film than their male counterparts, meaning 56% lower pay in relation to actors.
Now, a lot of factors can explain the pay gap among Hollywood stars among which are: the box-office success of the films they are involved in, the financial returns of the productions, the time the actors stay on set, the production budget, and the popularity of the genres they are involved in.
When all these factors are considered, the salary gap between the highest paid actors and actresses in Hollywood is reduced to one million dollars, as shown by a study that compared the incomes of the industry’s top performers.
However, there continues to be a 25% gap between actors and actresses, which remains unexplained by the aforementioned factors.
Do action movies explain the differences between men and women in Hollywood?
One of the arguments that could explain the pay gap between actresses and actors is the importance and attention drawn by a particular genre: action movies.
If there is a film genre that has become popular among young Americans, it is action movies. Since the 1970s, authentic cult sagas such as Terminator, Rambo, Die Hard, Mission Impossible and Fast and Furious, have been shown in theaters generating millions of dollars at the box office.
The main characters of these action movies are mostly men, which has allowed some actors to become the personification of epic characters such as Vin Diesel, playing the undercover cop Toretto, Sylvester Stallone with the mercenary Rambo, Tom Cruise as the agent Ethan Hunt, or Keanu Reeves as the reckless assassin John Wick.
Since the 2000s, adventure and action films have been the highest-grossing genres at the box office, grossing a combined total of more than $300 billion in the last decade.
Although there are women who have managed to take over leading roles in the genre, such as Angelina Jolie as the epic Lara Croft, action roles have generally been played by men.
It is possible for some actors, when obtaining the legendary status granted by the epic characters they personify, to have a bargaining bonus that other actors or actresses not so active in the action genre, do not have.
Age matters in Hollywood
When age is considered, payment for actors either both genders decreases over time. While in most industries age and experience increase the salary, the opposite is true in Hollywood, where the number of roles tends to decrease over time and rarely does an older person star in a movie.
However, after the age of 50, the gap increases again and the difference in salaries can be as much as $4 million. This is largely due to the fact that, to a large extent, Hollywood values women’s beauty and youth more than men’s, which ends up playing against women when they get older and reach a certain age.
Some psychological explanations indicate that men tend to be more aggressive when negotiating their salary than women, but Hollywood actors have teams that negotiate their pay for them.
Does this debate really matter?
Pay gaps are a highly politicized issue, often used by progressivism to sell the narrative of a society that privileges men and oppresses women. But the reality differs from the feminist narrative, and several economists, through studies, have dismantled many of the fallacies that are said about wage gaps in the labor market. Among them, is the omission that men and women are not distributed equally in the labor market, that their occupations are different, that working hours also change and that if there is a wage differential it is not due to discrimination.
Admittedly, however, this debate, at least, makes much more sense among the middle and working classes, but in Hollywood?
Even if the pay gap in the film industry does not end up being explained, does it really matter? Hollywood actors are the most privileged people in society, getting incomes per year that the average American could never dream of achieving.
If the above reasons do not quite convince those who believe there is a wage gap, please, Hollywood actresses have millions of dollars to cry about, even though their male counterparts may earn a few dollars more by the vagaries of fate.
Economist, writer and liberal. With a focus on finance, the war on drugs, history, and geopolitics // Economista, escritor y liberal. Con enfoque en finanzas, guerra contra las drogas, historia y geopolítica