Wonder Woman: The saga of pay parity and the fiasco involving Gal Gadot's $300,000 salary
Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman is a groundbreaking film in several respects — it is the first superhero film in more than a decade to have a female protagonist, and it is a $150 million project directed by a woman. Not just that, it broke several box office records by garnering $100.5 million on its opening weekend in America.
It left behind Sam Taylor-Johnson's Fifty Shades of Grey, thus making it the highest grossing film directed by a woman. These facts combined will change the fate of women both behind and in front of the camera in Hollywood, however limited that change may be. It is a moment in cinema that all these women will herald as being monumental.
Such a moment also provides the perfect opportunity to point out and outrage over the surprisingly high wage gap between how much Wonder Woman's Gal Gadot and Man of Steel's Henry Cavill were allegedly paid. Particularly so, when the reported difference between what Gadot and Cavill made respectively is one of magnitude proportions — 46 times, to be precise.
An article by Elle stated that Caville earned $14 million for his performance as Superman in Man of Steel, which made Gadot's $3,00,000 paycheck pale in comparison. These findings would be appalling, explosive too, and worthy of debate — if they were true.
Thanks to the toxic mix that is social media virality, irresponsible (or entirely absent) fact-checking protocol and the power of large statistics, several people on social media and in the news believed that Gadot earned significantly less than Cavill. It began with a Teen Vogue columnist, Lauren Duca, who put out a tweet comparing the earnings of the two actors, calling the wage gap the "most compelling DC villain".
— the real chris beck (@SubBeck) June 21, 2017
It's easy to understand why she got retweeted 14,500 times (one of these was mine; guilty as charged). The comparison wasn't the only the only point of outrage; people were also enraged because Wonder Woman was a much better film. The tweet made me wonder if this is the fate of other actresses in Hollywood, too. It has now been deleted.
Duca sourced this information from the aforementioned Elle article, which was edited and updated to say this:
"Reports that Henry Cavill earned $14 m for Man of Steel are unconfirmed. Although the pay gap persists in Hollywood, this example is not adequately supported by the information available."
Elle got the information about Gadot's salary from an article by Variety, which in turn referred to an Israeli entertainment show Good Evening with Gai Pines. The numbers for Cavill's paycheck came from an article in Forbes, which cited The Richest — a website that tracks the money earned by some of the highest paid celebrities of the world.
It says that Cavill's net worth is $8 million, but does not provide a breakup for this figure with the exception of two entries — his earnings from Man of Steel and the value of a Omega De Ville Hour Vision wristwatch owned by him.
In contrast, after this tweet went viral, Vanity Fair reported a source close to studio negotiations that it would be "insane" for the studio to pay Caville this amount. Another publication Vulture uses The Daily Dot as a reference to say that Chris Evans earned the same amount for Captain America. Once you return from the rabbit hole of hyperlinks and sources upon sources, you'll realise that the sources used by these two publications to prove Duca's claim wrong are more legitimate than the ones used by Elle and Forbes.
Duca tried to point out that Gadot's $3,00,000 takeaway is still abysmal as compared to the total earnings of the film, which is more than $500 million. But what got lost in the discussion is the fact that salary figures are not inclusive of bonuses, additional contractual obligations. Gadot was paid this six-digit figure because she is a debutante when it comes to superhero films, a fate that male actors too, have to suffer. She will have negotiating power when it comes to the upcoming films in the franchise, just like Robert Downey Jr did in Iron Man.
There is no clarity or precise fact known yet about real difference in pay received by Gadot and Cavill. We don't know if Gadot received a bonus after the film was released, or if she was paid any additional money. We're also not sure about the possibility that Cavill may have been paid more because of his seniority as an actor, though that could be a significant factor at play, despite Man of Steel being his debut as a superhero.
What must not be forgotten is that the wage gap is a real issue, and that this sort of activism does more harm to the cause than good.
Unethical and inaccurate journalism aside, this incident does much damage to the cause of women empowerment and gender equality at a stage when feminism is considered a bad word by many. This fiasco is a classic example of using questionable sources to push one's agenda, however well-meaning it may be.