One argument I have heard put forward bitterly by many women, is that it is flagrantly unfair that actors get paid more than actresses for big Hollywood movies. The other night, I heard Tracy Ulman on the Parkinson show saying that the discrimination against women in sports is blatant, citing the example that the prize money for the womenís tennis competition at Wimbledon is less than for the menís.
This argument I believe to be ludicrous, and to be based on several false assumptions.
People do not pay other people stupendously large amounts of money because they want to, nor out of charity, nor are they paying for the personís labour. The above argument misses these points. When a film producer offers Arnold Schwarzenegger tens of millions of dollars for acting in a film, he does not do this because he likes spending more than he has to, nor because he fears that Arnie might be a bit hard up and need the cash. Neither is he paying for Arnieís labour. Other actors, more able to do things like speak and walk and express emotions, would do the same job for far less. If a second actor were to be cast in the same film alongside Arnie, would people complain that he got paid less? Imagine that this other actor is not very famous or experienced, but is talented at acting. Everybody understands that a new actor, even if he is better than the famous one, is going to be paid less, even if he has to work longer hours. As I wrote, Arnie is not being paid for his labour or his talent. He gets paid so much because he is one man, and one man cannot be in two places at once.
If I want Arnie in my film, I have to pay him vast sums of money, because if I donít, then some other producer will attract Arnie over to another film, by offering more. If I could get Arnie without having to out-bid my rivals, I would, but ultimately, money talks. I would not be offering Arnie squillions of pounds because I thought he is a good actor. He isnít a good actor. Heís actually an unusually poor one. He is, though, an established movie star, and established movie stars get people into cinemas to watch their films. Film-making is a business, and I would want my money back. I know, or at least I guess, that Arnieís being in my film would mean that my film makes fifty million pounds more than it would without him. He is therefore worth any amount up to fifty million.
If I wanted Sigourney Weaver in the same film, then I would have to offer her lots of money too, because she is also an established film star. However, Sigourney I could get for a lot less, because the other film producers are not bidding so much for her. They have done their maths too, and they guess that Sigourneyís presence in a film might add twenty million to the filmís profits. She is therefore worth up to twenty million. This has nothing to do with her acting talents. This issue is not about people who might starve for want of money; it is about people who are already very highly paid. We should feel sorry for none of them. Arnie gets paid ridiculous amounts of money thanks to this bidding process and his "box-office draw". Sigourney is also being paid silly money, just not quite as silly as Arnold.
There is nothing unfair in that Sigourney gets paid less. She gets paid according to her box-office draw. The fact that women at the very top of the acting profession get paid less (the word "earns" is inappropriate when we are discussing amounts this size) than the men is nothing to do with some dark conspiracy against women, nor any prejudice nor so-called "sexist discrimination". The reason that women get paid less is that they have less box office draw. In most films, the actress star is required to be physically attractive to the viewer. Many women are pretty. There are easily enough pretty women in the world to keep film casting agents happy. Because prettiness is not very rare, women do not command the top pay packets by beauty alone. Men find novelty in pulchritude attractive. A woman a man has never seen before, and who is pretty, is found more attractive than a familiar but equally pretty woman. Film goers want to see new pretty women, and established familiar men. This is a fact of life, to do with innate human nature. The female catwalk models who get paid the most are, by and large, the best - the prettiest and most professional. This is no scandal, surely? This, though, disadvantages the more unprofessional and less pretty models. That's life. Pretty women's faces, used in advertisements, sell products better than ugly women's faces, just as they sell products better than handsome men's faces. Do people complain that male models get paid less? By and large, people seem silent on this one.
In the pornography film industry, the male stars get paid far less than the female stars. This is because the potential purchasers and viewers of these films want to see very attractive women, and care very little about what men they see, if any. Again, this is just the way the world is. Perhaps the male porn stars should complain, but I doubt many people would feel very sympathetic. A Hollywood movie actress who is being paid many millions per film, similarly fails to gain my sympathy, when she complains that she is paid less than her male co-stars.
In sports, money is made at the very top. The public will pay a lot to see the very best sports stars in action. Football attracts very large crowds both live and via television. With crowds, comes money. Top football players get paid more than top badminton players because badminton does not attract the huge crowds. Male tennis players are better than female tennis players. People are interested in the very best. The interest in watching a race in which the world's fastest ever man is running, is far far greater than the interest in a race with the second-fastest ever. The man who gets the Olympic gold and breaks the world record gets all the sponsorship deals, and his name on breakfast cereals the world over. The man who came second might get to do an advert or two in his native country. The public is more interested in watching the world's best male tennis players, because everybody knows that these men are a lot better at tennis than the world's top women. When Chris Evert married John Lloyd, interviewers kept asking her if she practised with her husband. She said that it was pointless, because he always beat her easily. She was the world number one at the time, and he was ranked somewhere in the hundreds for the men. The people running Wimbledon are not running a charity. They will offer enough of a prize to attract the best players, and would be fools to offer more. They can get the best women by offering less, so they do. There is nothing unfair about this. Do not feel sorry for people who get to make a living playing sports all day.