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Pay Parity: How the progressive cinema industry dictate actresses worth?

All that glitters is got gold and it cannot be overemphasised when we take into account the most glittery industry — the cinema. Is cinema a glimpse of reality or the manipulative truth? A life that you live with a character is deceptive, it convenes thoughts that it doesn’t stand true for. A world of equality, perfect fiction, displays a frivolous attitude towards women in reality. The advocates of a progressive world are bound with the shackles of prejudice. 

The wage gap is evident in almost every profession, but it is especially wide in the movie industry. There is no country on earth where women make as much as men for the same work, according to the World Economic Forum. It predicts the global gender pay disparity may take up to 170 years to close. The fact is upheld for a progressive industry as well. 

From left to right-Rooney Mara and Deepika Padukone

If I begin to write the instance of how the women are subtly told their worth through their paycheck, then the instances wouldn’t end. Most of the times the success of the movie solely gets the name of the leading actor and the actress stands way behind them, by which it exhibits that you were merely there to support the male actor, to make him look good– that is your job.  To begin with, I will start with the hugely popular franchise of the Marvel Studios and what will follow are the women narrating their profound experiences of finding their identity and space in a so-called progressive industry. 

Gal Gadot, who debuted as Wonder Woman earned $400,000 for her role even though the movie made $300 million in its opening weekend. On the other hand, Robert Downey Jr. was paid $ 50 million for Captain America: Civil War even though he was not the main lead. 

Yes, never thought superheroes in real life live in the same unequal world, they do. 

In another incident, during an October 2015 interview with the Guardian, Rooney Mara, the “Carol” actress said she’s discovered that some of her male co-stars have been paid twice as much as she has.

“To me, it’s frustrating, but at the same time, I’m just grateful to be getting paid at all for what I do,” she said.

Rony Mara affirmed that sexism in Hollywood goes beyond the pay gap between men and women.

“To me, the thing that’s more unfair than the pay is the terminology that’s used to describe actresses who have a point of view, and want to have a voice in their life and their career, and what they choose to do,” she said.

From left to right- Mila Kunis and Emma Stone

In 2016, the “Black Swan” star Mila Kunis wrote an open letter in A Plus Magazine saying that she’d been “insulted, sidelined, paid less, creatively ignored, and otherwise diminished based on my gender.”

Refusing to be “complicit” any longer, Kunis spoke up about having a producer threaten that she’d “never work in this town again” if she didn’t pose semi-nude on a men’s magazine.

The pay gap between men and women in acting careers is very visible in Forbes Top paid Actors lists and rankings. Men have to have $9.5 million to make it to the Forbes List, but women are in the list with $5 million to make it to the list.

Sofia Vergara is the highest-paid female actor in the world, according to Forbes’ latest list. She has made $43 million in a one-year period, which is the equivalent of Rs 315 crore. Also included in the top 10 are Angelina Jolie ($35.5 million), Gal Gadot ($31 million), Melissa McCarthy (25 million), Meryl Streep ($24 million), Emily Blunt ($22.5 million), Nicole Kidman ($22 million), Ellen Pompeo ($19 million), Elisabeth Moss ($16 million) and Viola Davis ($15.5 million).

  • Dwayne Johnson. Earnings estimate: $87.5 million which is equivalent to Rs 641 crore
  • Ryan Reynolds. Earnings estimate: $71.5 million
  • Mark Wahlberg. Earnings estimate: $58 million
  • Ben Affleck. Earnings estimate: $55 million

Dwayne Johnson makes more money than Forbes two leading ladies Sofia Vergara and Angelina Jolie together. 

Now coming to Bollywood, mainstream cinema in India and the counterpart in scale to Hollywood in the United States. Bollywood is no different when it’s come to the huge pay gaps between actors and actresses. The gender pay gap is still high in India and women in the country earn 19 per cent less than men. Wage inequalities in favour of men are present in all the relevant sectors. The current gender pay gap in India stood at 19 per cent where men earned Rs 46.19 more per hour in comparison to women. The survey report puts the median gross hourly salary for men in India in 2018 stood at Rs 242.49, while for women it stood at around Rs 196.3.

It seems no actress can come close to the massive stardom of Bollywood biggies, most prominently the Khans, Akshay Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan. Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone, all are paid less even after having a big commercial and critically hit to their names. Often actresses have discussed the struggle of pay parity upfront.

From left to right- Priyanka Chopra and Sonakshi Sinha

Padma Shri Awardee, Priyanka Chopra said, “I think gender pay gap is a global problem. It exists in every profession, be it Hollywood, Bollywood or the business sector where male are paid more than females. I feel it’s a big problem and is not just confined to the film industry.”

At a public event, Deepika Padukone confessed to rejecting a film because the director was hell on “accommodating” a male actor’s pay. She said, ” I don’t think I would be able to live with the thought that despite the same kind of creative contribution as my male co-star, and bringing the same kind of value to the film as him, I am being underpaid. I was not okay with it.”

Anushka Sharma in her column published in Economic Times wrote, “Women are not treated equally. Women have an equal stake in work and in society. In fact, in many cases, we are even more influential than men. And yet, women are not treated equally.”

“I don’t really understand why we are paid less than the male actors because we put equal effort,” actress Aditi Rao Hydari said in an interview with PTI.

Actress Sonakshi Sinha told the Hindustan Times that “if a filmmaker shows that kind of trust in a woman, and if she brings the returns [on investment], you can and should give her the pay that you give to the men.”

It is not okay to be not recognised for your equal contribution to the commercial success of the film, which translates into the paychecks to the leading stars. The overwhelming pay parity is nothing but a reflection of the void of the society that takes women’ rights and equality in full swing but loses its essence in practicality.  The movie industry is just one other industry out of the thousands of others that doesn’t seem to recognise the contribution of women in the success of the company.  The inequality in one of the leading industries reflects how creativity, commercial, the critical success of the film is mandated to the gender of the actors and lacks genuine appreciation.

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