The Disparity Is Out There
As the X-Files resurfaces, a scandal erupts:
In infuriating news, Gillian Anderson revealed she was initially offered half of David Duchovny’s salary for the upcoming “X-Files” reboot, despite putting in equal star power and screen time.
“I’m surprised that more [interviewers] haven’t brought that up because it’s the truth,” Anderson said in an interview with the Daily Beast. “Especially in this climate of women talking about the reality of [unequal pay] in this business, I think it’s important that it gets heard and voiced. It was shocking to me, given all the work that I had done in the past to get us to be paid fairly. I worked really hard toward that and finally got somewhere with it.”
James Joyner is unimpressed:
My overall perception, though, is that Duchovny is by far the bigger star. He was already a known commodity when the original show aired, having been the lead on “Red Shoe Diaries,” and went on to star in “Californication.” Anderson, by contrast, was a 25-year-old unknown when the show started and, while she’s worked steadily, hasn’t carried anything of note.
The amount of screen time surely isn’t the only factor in who gets paid what in the entertainment industry. I presume Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe got paid more on “The West Wing” than did John Spencer, Bradley Whitford, and Richard Schiff (whose names I actually had to look up just now). I presume Cybil Sheppard made more when “Moonlighting” debuted than did Bruce Willis, given that she was already a star and nobody had ever heard of him.
Similarly, Tom Petty gets a much bigger cut than any of the Heartbreakers and Don Henley and the late Glenn Frey made more than their Eagles bandmates.
There are a lot of examples of the pay discrepancy between male and female actors. A lot of them are pretty bad. Of course Harrison Ford is going to be able to demand a premium for his small role in The Force Awakens, he’s Harrison friggin’ Ford. Further, he was the face of the role, meaning that he had the leverage of being able to relieve them of the fan controversy of a recast. The role of Rey may have been more important to the movie, but it was also open casting. Actress One declines, take Actress Two. (Now, if the actor for Finn made more money, that is more revealing. I haven’t read one way or the other on that, but if there is a disparity – and if there is that in itself may be important – there almost certainly isn’t as large of one. The other comparison, between Ford and Carrie Fisher, is also undone by what Ford has done since and Fisher hasn’t, as well as the importance of the roles that they did play in the movie.
This, though? This is the best exemplar of actor/actress pay inequality I can imagine. When they were first getting started, way back when, there was a good argument for there to be a gap. As the series wore on and Scully’s role because more integral, the gap closed just as it should. But for this project, there is really no reason to believe that they shouldn’t start on at least comparable footing because both Mulder and Scully have necessary roles for an X-Files reboot to work. Duchovny may have had more success after X-Files, but not terribly much more (in fact, I’ve not seen anything he’s done since and I have seen Anderson since). And indeed, when Anderson discovered the disparity and demanded a change, she got it. Indicating that yeah, she is pretty important.
But the fact that they offered her so much less to begin with says… something. Why? Why wasn’t it obvious that they were at least in the same ballpark? Why did they assume that she would take less? The Occam answer is because they expect women to take less by default. Why did Anderson initially take less? Probably at least in part because she is used to being offered less.
So yeah. Raise hell, Scully.