Fired up by the publishing of Forbes’ list of actor salaries, the yearly wailing about top male movie actors earning more than top female movie actors is up again. It must be the patriarchy at work.
The complainers are focusing on the wrong issue, however. What they should be wondering is why top movie actors (male and female) earn yearly salaries which are tens to hundreds of times higher than the salaries of us working Joes. Actresses like Jennifer Lawrence, Charlize Theron, and Natalie Portman, who every year get tens of millions of dollars in their accounts, come over as childish whiners when they complain that “it is not enough.”
The answer to why top actors earn a lot of money is, of course, that movies make a lot of money because they are in them. Actors are not paid because their profession is “movie actor,” but according to what they are worth. This means that if a movie tends to bring in much more money if Mark Wahlberg is on the credits than if Emma Stone is on the credits (which they do), then Wahlberg is worth a lot more than Stone, and thus Wahlberg’s agent can sell him for more money than Stone’s agent can sell her.
The simple truth is that actors who are worth more for their movies are earning more than actors who are worth less. That the actors who are worth more tend to be male is incidental. Have you ever wondered why top male football players earn more than top female football players? That is because male football matches bring in much more advertising money than female football matches. And it is not always in favor of males, by the way. Female porn actors earn six-figure salaries which are five to ten times higher than the salaries of top male porn actors. That’s not because they are female, but because that is in accordance to what their presence brings in.
An actor who feels that they earn less than they are worth, should get an agent who is able to sell them for more. And if they cannot find such an agent, then they are probably mistaken in what they are worth.