Jennifer Lawrence no longer wants to be ‘adorable’ if it means unequal pay

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Jennifer Lawrence in "American Hustle." Photo provided

Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle.” Photo provided

Jennifer Lawrence made my week. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

In an essay for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter e-newsletter, the Oscar-winning actress — and thanks to The Hunger Games franchise, one of the most popular movie stars working today — has addressed the unequal pay she received for her Academy Award-nominated work in American Hustle.

As TheDailyBeast.com reported back in December, the Sony hack revealed emails showing Lawrence, 25, had earned significantly less than her male co-stars Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper, despite the star power afforded her by her excellent work as The Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen.

“It’s hard for me to speak about my experience as a working woman because I can safely say my problems aren’t exactly relatable. When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with d—–, I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need. (I told you it wasn’t relatable, don’t hate me),” she writes in the essay.

Wanting to be liked…

“But if I’m honest with myself, I would be lying if I didn’t say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.’ At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realized every man I was working with definitely didn’t worry about being ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.'”

Some people may be tempted to dismiss Lawrence’s complaints about her unequal pay because she’s an actress who makes millions. But the fact is that unequal pay for women is an issue across the board. Yes, Lawrence topped Forbes’ 2015 list of the highest paid actresses: According to Forbes, she banked $52 million pre-tax over a 12-month period when her movie The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 was the top-grossing movie of the year.

But that compares to the $80 million made in the same 12 months by Robert Downey Jr., who topped Forbes’ 2015 list of the top-paid actors. 

That is not a small wage gap, even taking into account Downey’s key role in the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Gender conditioning…

Lawrence acknowledges in her essay that her failure to negotiate harder might be due to her youth or her personality, but she also ponders how much of it is due to gender conditioning: How women feel like they must soften their speech or come across as less aggressive in the workplace in order to considered appropriate – and how men react when women do speak bluntly.

“A few weeks ago at work, I spoke my mind and gave my opinion in a clear and no-bullsh– way; no aggression, just blunt. The man I was working with (actually, he was working for me) said, ‘Whoa! We’re all on the same team here!’ As if I was yelling at him. I was so shocked because nothing that I said was personal, offensive, or, to be honest, wrong. All I hear and see all day are men speaking their opinions, and I give mine in the same exact manner, and you would have thought I had said something offensive,” she writes.

“I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable! F— that. I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. It’s just heard. Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves. If anything, I’m sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share.”

Perhaps even more than the unequal pay issue, this part of Lawrence’s essay seems be resonating with women. Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post responded to Lawrence’s essay by translating several famous historical quotes uttered by men into the apologetic language she dubs “Woman in a Meeting,” the way women in the business world have to say them during a meeting so as “not to be perceived as angry, threatening or (gasp!) bitchy.” Translated in “Women in a Meeting,” Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” becomes the much more wishy-washy “Dave, if I could, I could just — I just really feel like if we had liberty it would be terrific, and the alternative would just be awful, you know? That’s just how it strikes me. I don’t know.”

Similarly, the Twitter parody account @manwhohasitall ponders what the world would be like if we saddled men with the same ridiculous expectations and empty platitudes that we stick to working “super moms.” Today’s tweets include such inane advice as “STRESS STRICKEN DAD? Beat stress by luminating dark spots, simplifying your morning routine & reading about vitamin deficiencies” and “WORKING DAD? Batch cook meals that you can freeze & use on days when you have no time to cook. Smart dads get ahead!”

Just as Lawrence is among the fortunate women whose unequal pay doesn’t leave her with a relative economic disadvantage, I’m one of those fortunate women whose husband and boss both encourage her to speak strongly and frankly. But like Lawrence, I recognize that I’m a rarefied position in that way.

The truth is, women need both equal pay and the liberty to speak their minds without being labeled angry or overly aggressive – and logic would indicate that the two issues are most likely strongly linked. As Lawrence notes, it’s hard to ambitiously negotiate a salary if you have to worry about being adorable or apologetic along the way.

Celebrity Support…

Emma Watson, Jessica Chastain and Mark Ruffalo are among the celebrities who came out in support of Lawrence’s outspoken essay on Twitter. Cooper, one of Lawrence’s higher-paid American Hustle co-stars, not only praised Lawrence for speaking up, but he also spoke out against how little co-star Amy Adams, who had one of the largest roles in the film, was paid. And he took it even a step further, telling Reuters he has begun teaming up with female co-stars to negotiate salaries before any film he is interested in working on goes into production.

“I don’t know where it’s changing otherwise but that’s something that I could do,” Cooper said.

“Usually you don’t talk about the financial stuff, you have people. But you know what? It’s time to start doing that,” he added.

Indeed, it is well past time for a change when it comes to equal pay – and not just in Hollywood.

Maria Giese. Photo provided

Maria Giese. Photo provided

EEOC BEGINS INTERVIEWING FEMALE DIRECTORS

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has begun interviewing female directors as its investigation into discrimination against female film and TV directors is officially underway, reports Deadline.com. Director Maria Giese (Hunger, When Saturday Comes) was the first to be interviewed – for four hours Wednesday at the EEOC offices in Los Angeles.

Giese, who first brought the problem to the EEOC’s attention in 2013, said investigators were interested in a wide range of issues regarding the employment of female directors.

“They’re looking for patterns of hiring and how they could possibly result in discrimination,” she told Deadline. “They’re looking for ways in which the studios, the networks, the guild, the agencies, and even management companies and indie production companies function in order to determine why and how women continue to be almost completely shut out of the directing profession.”

EEOC investigators are also asking about specific instances of discrimination that female directors have experienced or witnessed.

Again, hopefully, this will lead to much-needed and long-lasting change.

mummy movie poster

MORE GENDER SWITCHES COMING TO THE MOVIES?

Last month on this blog, I wrote about the upcoming film Our Brand Is Crisis, starring Sandra Bullock in a role that was originally written for a man, and my hopes that the idea of taking roles written for men and looking for opportunities to cast women instead will catch on with both male and female power-players in Hollywood – and even extend to switching out male directors and screenwriters with females. Then, we’ll start to see some progress. But I believe it has to become a conscious, deliberate choice until we narrow the gender gap.

Well, the past week has brought word of more possible gender-switching in upcoming films. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Universal is resurrecting The Mummy as the kickoff to its planned monsters universe. But the remake from director Alex Kurtzman and writer Jon Spaihts may feature a mummy that is female, with a unique backstory. The Mummy remake is due in theaters March 24, 2017.

And Deadline.com reports that Sony Pictures is in talks with Mad Max: Fury Road star Charlize Theron to take on The Gray Man, an adaptation of the Mark Greaney novel that at one time had Brad Pitt attached to star with James Gray directing. The thriller centers on an assassin and former CIA operative who is forced to evade adversaries to save the lives of daughters he didn’t know he had. That might get complicated with the gender switch, but Hollywood certainly made more far-fetched notions work on the screen.

And as Deadline notes, Sony famously changed the gender of another spy thriller, 2010’s Salt, which was tailored for Angelina Jolie after Tom Cruise bowed out of the lead role.

star wars episode 7 poster

REY LIGHTS UP NEW STAR WARS POSTER

Check out Daisy Ridley’s character Rey featured front and center in the new official poster for Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, which was unveiled today. The long-awaited sequel opens in theaters Dec. 18.

In sharing the poster, Regal Cinemas announced on Twitter that its putting tickets on sale Monday.

Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm president and producer of the movie, has said that a new female character will be “extremely significant” to its plot, according to The Guardian. Kennedy, one of the most successful executives in the movie business, also revealed that six out of eight of the people involved in developing the film were women and that 50 percent of her executive team were female.

“Having a balance of men and women in the room changes the story,” she said. “The dialogue, the point of view.”

With the directors of the new yet-to-be released Star Wars films all men – JJ Abrams, Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow – Kennedy told The Guardian she would love to appoint a female director for one of the spin-off movies also set to hit cinemas over the coming years.

“There’s nothing we’d like more than to find a female director for Star Wars,” she said.

The films have always had female fans, she said, but it tended to be men who approached her about working on the next set of films. “There is an assumption made that the people involved should predominantly be men. There are women who are Star Wars fans. That’s what’s so insane.”

QUICK HITTERS

Meryl Streep to lead Berlin Film Fest jury: Suffragette star Meryl Streep has been named president of the jury for the 2016 edition of the Berlin Film Festival, according to The Guardian.

Streep was given an honorary Golden Bear by the festival in 2012 as a lifetime achievement award. The Berlin Film Festival is set for Feb. 11-21.

Women win big at London Film Festival: Four female directors won prizes at the London Film Festival, reports Variety.com.

Australian documentarian Jennifer Peedom won the Grierson Award for best documentary, for Sherpa. Indian duo Shai Heredia and Shumona Goel won best short film for An Old Dog’s Diary. And in something of an upset, Greek writer-director Athina Rachel Tsangari’s relatively under-the-radar Chevalier was named the best film of the festival.

Only one male filmmaker was honored, and for a female-fronted film: U.S. newcomer Robert Eggers took the festival’s most longstanding prize, the Sutherland Award for best first feature, for the New England horror tale The Witch. 

Plus, Cate Blanchett received the BFI Fellowship, a career achievement honor.

Censored Women’s Film Fest debuting in November: The first-ever Censored Women’s Film Festival, a summit featuring films by and for women whose voices have been censored, is set for Nov. 19-20 at George Washington University. For more information, go to www.cwff2015.com.

-BAM

 

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