On the Golden Globes red carpet, four-time host Ricky Gervais declared, "They hired me to be me" — which is to say: utterly offensive.
But the British comedian, notorious for body-shaming remarks, came off, at times, surprisingly... feminist. Three times he jabbed Hollywood for underpaying women.
The jokes didn’t stop at salaries. He subtly attacked the misconception that movies with female leads sell fewer tickets:
"All-female remakes are the big thing," Gervais said in the opening monologue. "There’s a female remake of 'Ghostbusters.' There’s going to be a female remake of 'Ocean’s 11.' And this is brilliant for the studios because they get guaranteed box office results and they don’t have to spend too much money on the cast."
And he displayed a nuanced understanding of America’s gender wage gap. Research shows pay disparities often persist when women perform the same work as male peers.
"Of course woman should be paid the same as men for doing the same job. And I’d like to say now, I’m being paid exactly the same as [what Tina Fey and Amy Poehler received] last year. No, I know there were two of them, but it’s not my fault if they want to share the money, is it? That’s their stupid fault. It’s funny because it’s true."
Gervais pointed out that the problem extends far beyond Hollywood, but millionaire actresses are generally better equipped to absorb injustices.
"Jennifer Lawrence made the news when she demanded equal pay for women in Hollywood," he noted. "She received overwhelming support from people everywhere. There were marches on the street with nurses and factory workers saying, 'How the hell can a 25-year-old live on $52 million?!'"
Women in entertainment and media make about 85 percent of their male colleagues' pay, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Several actors have condemned the inequity on principle rather than financial need.
Amanda Seyfried, for example, told the Sunday Times last year she was once paid 10 percent of what her male co-star bagged. Bradley Cooper called for male stars to share pay numbers with their female colleagues.
Lawrence, Hollywood’s top-paid actress, penned an essay about her frustrations in October for Lenny, Lena Dunham's newsletter, after the Sony Pictures hack revealed she was paid significantly less than her male co-stars in 2013’s award-winning "American Hustle."
"Another leaked Sony email revealed a producer referring to a fellow lead actress in a negotiation as a ‘spoiled brat.'" Lawrence wrote. "For some reason, I just can’t picture someone saying that about a man."
Who knows if Gervais intended to raise awareness around the equal pay issue. He may have simply sensed that the wage gap remains a hot cultural topic.
Twitter responded with mild applause:
Even the Secretary of Labor jumped in:
The gender wage gap varies dramatically by age and race. Women working full time in the United
States earned 79 cents for every dollar paid to men last year, according to the Census Bureau, but that number doesn’t examine education and career path.
Federal data show women concentrate in lower-paying occupations — sometimes by choice, sometimes because male-dominated fields have historically excluded or created uninviting work environments for them.
Generations ago, employers explicitly paid women less because they assumed men were breadwinners and therefore needed more money. Today, women advance less often than male counterparts when they reach middle age — sometimes because they want to stay home with their families, sometimes because workplaces lack family-friendly policies.
Women may also negotiate for higher pay less often than men, or their negotiations are received less favorably. People who watched men and women negotiating with the same words in a 2005 study rated the men as strong and the women as too demanding.
Economists say reasons for the gap, which shows up across entry-level gigs and ultra-prestigious positions, are multifaceted and complicated. Even the wealthiest women aren’t immune.
Hollywood is a prime example.
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