If you’re up on your pop culture news, you know that recently, actresses and actors including Jennifer Lawrence, Viola Davis and Bradley Cooper have addressed the gender-based wage gap and overall lack of female opportunity (further multiplied for women of color) that exists in Hollywood. After all, Patricia Arquette’s Oscars speech on the rampant sexism in the entertainment industry did result in this iconic Meryl Streep moment:
Hoping to explain this phenomenon that is contributing to the suppression of women and their talents, Cosmopolitan recently spoke with a Hollywood agent (a woman who asked to remain anonymous) who went over possible reasons women are earning less than men for roles of equal breadth and skill.
In the interview, the agent speaks to some of the systemic forces of inequality that are in action when actresses and actors negotiate movie contracts, and how these forces result in conditions and stories like those exposed by the Sony hack.
“Women all across the board are just not valued,” she outright states. This makes it easy for production companies on the other end of negotiations to back out of deals with actresses that they consider to be asking for too much; production companies regard actresses as easily replaced. From their point of view “there’s no one like [Leonardo DiCaprio, but] Jennifer Lawrence, you just get someone else.”
In order to combat this problem, the agent suggests that female actors need to stand their ground in salary negotiations and that filmmakers need to create female roles that are simply better. Women in movies need to have roles that equal those of their male counterparts in terms of screen time, presence and plot necessity. Women need to be offered more main character roles, and these roles need to have greater depth.
As stated by the agent, “it’s better for creativity if you allow different diversity of storytelling.” Hollywood needs to take heed of this call and learn from those who are speaking out. Until the opportunities for women in entertainment are made equal, it is a simple fact that the quality of the products Hollywood is selling us will remain subpar.