Forbes just released the World’s Highest Paid Actor list for 2015, and Robert Downey Jr. is leading the pack, being paid a your-eyes-pop-out-of-your-head-just-hearing-about-it sum of $80 million a year, thanks to his roles in Avengers: Age of Ultron and the forthcoming Captain America: Civil War. This is the third year in a row that Downey has topped the list and it’s his highest-grossing year yet.
While that’s all great for Robert Downey Jr., these stats do reveal something disturbing and depressing about the Hollywood pay gap. Sandra Bullock made $51 million last year, which is, yes, a LOT of money, but it’s also a lot LESS money than Downey- 36% less if you want to get math-y about it. The highest-paid female actress is getting paid 64% as much the highest paid male actor, which means the wage gap here is actually bigger than the average wage gap (in 2013, women made 78% as much as their male counterparts).
Of course, we’re talking about MILLIONS and MILLIONS of dollars here, and yes, it’s hard to feel sorry for someone who didn’t get that $30 million pay bump when they already have, you know, 51 million. That’s the argument you hear a lot re: the wage gap in Hollywood, that we shouldn’t feel badly for actresses who are making millions. But this isn’t about feelings, this is about fairness. The problem with the wage gap is that it’s a problem that persists because of its invisibility, people often don’t know how much their co-workers are making. In Hollywood, those wages are more visible, and if we can get wage equality happening in Hollywood, it’s going to be a lot easier to normalize pay transparency and get wage equality going in other fields.
It’s important to note here that even though Bullock is making only 64% of what Downey is making, she is making more than every other male actor on the highest paid list- $1 million more than Jackie Chan’s $51 million, $4 million more than Vin Diesel’s $47 million, almost $10 million more than Bradley Cooper’s $41.5 million, etc. Those figures, of course, would be a little more heartening if the other women on the highest-paid list were making nearly what their male counterparts make. According to Forbes, Angelina Jolie and Sarah Jessica Parker trail their male counterparts at $30 million, and Reese Witherspoon andJennifer Aniston clocks in at $28 million, proving that the wage gap exists every step of the way.
As I said up top, this issue is able to exist largely because we often DON’T see the gender pay gap in our workplace (because we often DON’T know how much other people are making). Being vigilant and demanding transparency is the only way we’re going to achieve pay equality in the workplace.
Image via Paramount Pictures