Robin Wright has once again proven herself to be one of Hollywood’s brightest stars. This time though, it wasn’t with a spellbinding performance, or eloquent acceptance speech, but a few seemingly simple statements on equal pay.
“I was like, ‘I want to be paid the same as Kevin [Spacey],’” she said, while discussing House Of Cards. “It was the perfect paradigm. There are very few films or TV shows where the male, the patriarch, and the matriarch are equal. And they are in House of Cards.”
But Robin’s – quite frankly, brilliant – candid comments left me feeling slightly disheartened. As she states, Claire and Frank Underwood – and both her and Kevin – are equals. Both actors also write and produce, while their on-screen alter-egos each give as good as they get.
So why does Robin still have to fight for the same wage packet as her co-star? If she still has to fight for equal pay, what hope is there for the rest of us?
Robin’s comments gave new life to a conversation that’s been ongoing in Hollywood for quite some time. Her words trended on Twitter, and featured on news programmes, throughout the day. Few would dispute that equal pay, regardless of your gender, ethnicity, age or sexuality, is a basic right. And yet it’s undeniable that the gap still exists.
California only passed its own equal pay act – after pressure from the entertainment industry – in October 2015, while just this week, the UK was named one of the worst countries for gender equality in the workplace, with the estimated gender pay gap sitting at 7% for women with no children, and 21% for those who do.
After explaining that her character, Claire Underwood, was statistically more popular than Kevin Spacey’s, Robin revealed what made bosses cough up the cash, and even the monetary playing field.
“I was like, ‘You better pay me or I’m going to go public,’” she is as quoted as saying. “And they did.”
Hats off to Robin for forcing their hand, but this additional detail makes one fact unavoidable: she had a trump card ready that is reserved for the privileged.
Robin must (rightly) mean a lot to TV bosses, given that they pay her a cool $5.5m per series for House Of Cards, but, according to her, she still had to make threats to get what is rightfully hers. The woman on the street doesn’t usually have that card to play.
Jennifer Lawrence found herself in a similar position as Robin, when leaked Sony emails revealed she was short-changed for her work on the film ‘American Hustle’. Only once the news was made public could she ensure it wouldn’t happen again.
However, she still attracted some criticism; from some who questioned whether she really deserved the same amount of cash (spoiler: she did), and others who debated whether the actress should have thrown herself behind a more worthy cause.
All too often, stars find themselves in the firing line for tackling ‘serious’ or ‘feminist’ topics. But the reality is, they can put the spotlight on issues in ways that us mere mortals can’t.
Women are just one of the many groups whose voices can often go unheard, and quite frankly, it should be nothing short of air-punch inducing when those in a position of privilege, and in the public eye, raise the issues.