Stories on unequal pay have featured all too prominently in the news in recent years. Specifically, it’s all about men getting paid more than women, even when both are doing the exact same job. A recent example of this is the case of Matt Smith and Claire Foy, stars of The Crown, a Netflix-original historical drama. Smith played Prince Philip in the first two series, whereas Foy played Queen Elizabeth. Despite being co-stars, it came to light that Smith was being paid more than Foy. This is one of many examples where a man has received more than a women – so why is this the case in the entertainment industry?
In an ideal world, a man and a woman booked for a job will receive equal pay for equal work. However, the entertainment industry doesn’t work like that. It’s quite uncommon to see a cast for a TV show or film all receiving the exact same wages. The reason is simple: the bigger names who can draw more viewers in get more and the lesser names get less. If you’re a big star, a well known name in the industry, chances are you’ll get more people interested in the project, so you’ll be paid more. It’s as simple as that really. People aren’t just paid for the work they do, they’re paid for the attention they bring to the project. The bigger the star, the more attention the project will get and, in turn, the more that star in question will be paid.
The rebooted American Idol, for example, is a prime example of how this works. The show wanted three well known judges for its relaunch – one of them had to be a big, current name to draw people in. That main ‘star’ judge is none other than Katy Perry. Producers thought her huge numbers of record sales and social media followers would help draw in viewers, so she ended up with an eye-watering $25 million salary for one series. Fellow judges Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie both received considerably less. Again, this is just the way things are these days. Perry is much more of a media presence than either of the two other judges, so her salary is higher. What’s interesting is that there’s a demand for women to be paid the same as men, and yet Perry’s higher salary doesn’t seem to have drawn any criticism when she’s clearly getting paid a lot more than her male colleagues.
People have been calling for men and women in the entertainment industry (and all other industries with unequal pay) to be paid the same when doing the same job. However, the industry has been working this way for decades and things aren’t going to change any time soon. The bigger star will always be paid more, whether it’s a man or a woman. Some projects will pay equally despite some stars being more of a draw than others, but when projects pay according to star power, it’s not being sexist – it’s simply paying for more attention.