Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Jennifer Lawrence and the Gender Gap

Jennifer Lawrence, the highest paid actress in Hollywood, recently wrote an essay titled, “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?” The male co-stars in question are Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, and Jeremy Renner of the film American Hustle. In an email hacked by a group known as Guardians of Peace, the President of Business Affairs and Administration for Columbia Pictures Andrew Gumpert writes:

Got a steve warren/gretchen rush call that it’s unfair the male actors get 9% in the pool and jennifer is only at 7 pts. you may recall jennifer was at 5 (amy was and is at 7) and WE anted in 2 extra points for Jennifer to get her up to 7. If anyone needs to top jennifer up it’s meagan. BUT I think amy and Jennifer are tied up so upping JL, ups AA.

We’re not talking about Jennifer Lawrence, the B-movie, second rate actress here. We’re talking about Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar winner and MAIN star in the Hunger Games franchise which topped $2.9 billion worldwide. Anyone who thinks talent and bankability trumped gender in this case is a fool. And it’s mind blowing, to me, that Lawrence was originally at 5 pts. before Gumpert’s feminist leanings nudged him to bump her up to 7 pts. WOW.

Personally, I’m broke and sleeping wherever someone allows me to lay my head. Most people in my situation would scoff at Lawrence’s argument because she’s worth $60 million. Acting, however, is not an affirmative action program and she’s not the daughter of Hollywood studio execs (obviously). Her mother is a children’s camp manager and her father is a construction worker. Acting is a brutal, highly competitive business that swallows most who eke out a meager living while trying to make it big in Tinseltown. And for women in Hollywood especially, the roles offered to you get less and less the older you get.

In Lawrence’s essay she says, “It’s hard for me to speak about my experience as a working woman because I can safely say my problems aren’t relatable. 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).” Lawrence shouldn’t feel bad about speaking out. Anyone who is mad about the money she is making should pack their bags for Hollywood and go about the business of getting their foot in the door, otherwise let it go.

I’ve long been in favor of LeBron James making more money than he does. The value of the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise when he’s a member of the team versus the years he was in Miami should be reflected in his salary. He is the face of that franchise. If you think otherwise, go and turn around the fortunes of a struggling franchise with your basketball skills, and, let’s be honest, that’s not going to happen.

Jennifer Lawrence may have been the youngest member of the American Hustle ensemble, but her resume reflects anything but a fresh face on the block who needs to prove herself to justify earning what Bale, Cooper and Renner earn. She won a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook. She was also the MAIN star in the Hunger Games franchise which grossed $2.9 billion worldwide, not to mention her role in that film as Katniss Everdeen was recognized by Guinness World Records as the highest-grossing action heroine of all-time. And this is where the real disparity comes in to play. How does the highest-grossing action heroine stack up against her male counterparts in other franchises? I’m glad you asked.

Of the $2.9 billion that the Hunger Games franchise took in, Jennifer Lawrence brought home $26 million. Compare that with The Matrix trilogy which grossed $1.6 billion worldwide. The star of that franchise, Keanu Reeves, made $256 million off that gig. The Mission Impossible franchise took in $2.8 billion worldwide, while its star, Tom Cruise, raked in $257 million for his work. Jennifer Lawrence is the face of the Hunger Games franchise and you could make the argument that she should be paid less if the films didn’t generate $2.9 billion worldwide. The fact that she got paid ten times less is not only shameful, but indicative of how Hollywood treats female actors compared to male actors.

And to Chris Rock who said, “You hear Jennifer Lawrence complaining about getting paid less because she’s a woman, if she was black, she’d really have something to complain about." Is being black the only criteria for airing your grievances, even if they’re valid? Let it go, man.*

*This is an older article I wrote for SlantNews.com on Jan. 13, 2016. Yes, I post older articles from time to time.

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