So you might remember that, a few months back, Sony Pictures was hit with a massive hacking scandal. One of the more interesting reveals was that Jennifer Lawrence was paid significantly less than her American Hustle co-stars Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner. Yep – even though her performance was so good, she won a Golden Globe for it, and even though none of the guys did, she was paid less.
The former co-chair of Sony, Amy Pascal, has now spoken about the revelation for the first time while at Wednesday's Women in the World conference in San Francisco, in her first interview since being fired from her position. "Here’s the problem: I run a business. People want to work for less money, I'll pay them less money,” she said. “I don't call them up and say, 'Can I give you some more?' Because that's not what you do when you run a business. The truth is, what women have to do is not work for less money. They have to walk away. People shouldn't be so grateful for jobs. ... People should know what they’re worth."
Mmm. Here’s the thing: I get what Pascal is talking about. I do. Stand up for yourself and the results will follow. But when you’re a woman, that doesn’t always happen. Let’s not forget that, traditionally, Hollywood doesn’t like its female stars sticking up for themselves. When Katherine Heigl called out Judd Apatow for creating one-dimensional female characters, which one of them was temporarily shut out of the industry? Who had their reputation tarnished by that? Certainly not Apatow, who came out of it with a sh*t-eating grin.
In another of the Sony hacks, it was revealed that when Angelina Jolie began asking questions and making requests for her new film, Cleopatra, producer Scott Rudin called her “a minimally talented spoiled brat.” Nice! And when Janice Dickinson joined the many women who have accused Bill Cosby of rape, she was labelled “attention-seeking.” The message for women who want to stand up for themselves? Do it at your own risk.
What needs to change is not, for example, Jennifer Lawrence’s perception of her own value, but the film industry’s perception of the value of women in general. At Sony Pictures, for instance, 17 staff members are paid a salary of over $1 million. Only one of those is a woman. Female-led movies are still considered “niche” (um, because they only appeal to 50 per cent of the population?). Of the eight movies nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, all of them are about men, and only two pass the Bechdel test.
So who’s really at fault here? Every single woman who works in Hollywood, for not “walking away”? Or everyone else, for letting them?