By now you’ve probably seen Jennifer Lawrence’s 658 word essay regarding the American Hustle pay gap courtesy of last year’s Sony e-mail shitshow. She’s sick of trying “to find the ‘adorable’ way to state [her] opinion and still be likable” with everything she wants to say. And we should be glad she’s speaking up because she’s at the very best possible place in her career to tell us about it. J-Law is THE figurehead star of female American millennials. She’s every studio’s #1 choice for a pile of amazing roles tailor-made for a talented, beautiful white woman with 20s-age looks. Every chapter of The Hunger Games has domestically out-grossed (ignoring inflation) the 18 installments of LOTR, Hobbit, Twilight, and all-but-one Harry Potter. She’ll likely get a 4th Oscar nom this year. Think about that. FOUR NOMINATIONS BEFORE TURNING 26!
But I’m not about to tell you that Jennifer Lawrence was unfairly paid for American Hustle.
She actually had the best deal of the five key players when you consider the number of back-end percentage points she received vs the amount of time she appeared in the film (screentime). So she can’t be mad at herself for “giving up” early in negotiation because that’s simply her agency’s job. And her agency, CAA, negotiated themselves a helluva through their represented talent in American Hustle (including 9% points for Director David O’Russell).
|Back-End % Points:||9||7||9||9||7|
(Note: I couldn’t find Jeremy Renner’s total screentime anywhere so I just tossed an estimation on that table. American Hustle was also very forgettable so I’m not inclined to go back through again to count it myself)
WAIT WAIT WAIT. But how in the hell did get Renner such an amazing deal? Heavy screentime? No. Performance difficulty? Nah. Star power? Negligible. “But he’s an Avenger.” LOL. “I’m going to see that new Jeremy Renner movie.”- said nobody ever. So yes, when it comes to Renner’s “hustle” here, J-Law may have a damn good reason to gripe since she undoubtedly draws a larger audience. But what happens when J-Law no longer represents that 20-something gal that women want to be and men want to be with?
Well that brings us to the real issue: where the hell is any mention of Amy Adams? Why does she have the worst deal of the whole crew? She clearly had the acting chops befitting of a lead actress (leading to an Oscar nom) and drew more screentime than all but Bale. Her stardom may not shine like Bale/Cooper but it’s certainly brighter than Renner’s! Everyone knew she’d look amazing on a billboard which means she’s visually marketable, right? So why did she work more than twice as hard as J-Law for the same amount of money? What’s the difference between those two women?
The real pay gap in this American Hustle situation resides in the 16 year age difference between Adams and J-Law. Should not the more-qualified, more-experienced worker receive the better compensation deal? In any other situation, you’d certainly think so. But our culture doesn’t value women the same way once they’ve moved-past the 20s-something pre-marital, American Sweetheart stage. Beyond then, high-gravity roles for women start to wear thin as they migrate towards what Amy Schumer calls the “no longer believably fuckable” age. As such, the competition for these roles is pretty heavy. If Adams’ crew fought too hard for a better deal, the producer/studio (Megan Ellison in this case) could easily say, “not a problem, there are plenty of Jennifer Aniston/Reese Witherspoon/Kate Hudsons out there that would love the opportunity to be abused by David O’Russell for an Oscar nomination.”
So even though she missed out on dealing a solid to Amy Adams, you gotta give Jennifer Lawrence credit for having the willingness to speak her mind. But you have to give her publicity team even more props for waiting until she had another movie on the one-month-horizon to bring this 10-month-old story back up! It’s very likely there were other factors that went into the American Hustle deal (up-front fees, shooting schedules, etc) that we aren’t privy to. But Lawrence & team chose to point at the gender pay gap and a tiny data sample when the real story should have been about Adams who, as far as we know, was clearly under-represented. As this subject sees more light, the solution may yet right itself through the creation of additional roles for the 40yo+ actress pool. Hopefully, 15 years from now, J-Law’s essay will have given her a better seat at the negotiating table than her predecessors had.