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Equal Pay Demands Equal Value

(Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment via AP)

Jurassic World star Bryce Dallas Howard recently gave an interview with Variety magazine, claiming she was paid much less than her co-star, Chris Pratt. Howard told the entertainment publication that once she agreed to a rate for three films, she was locked in.

“The reports were so interesting because I was paid so much less than the reports even said, so much less,” Howard said. “When I started negotiating for ‘Jurassic,’ it was 2014 and it was a different world, and I was at a great disadvantage. And, unfortunately, you have to sign up for three movies and so your deals are set.”

She wasn’t throwing Pratt under the bus. Howard made sure to explain that the Guardians of the Galaxy star did what he could to secure a better deal for her once he found out.

Howard continued, “What I will say is that Chris and I have discussed it, and whenever there was an opportunity to move the needle on stuff that hadn’t been already negotiated, like a game or a ride, he literally told me, ‘You guys don’t even have to do anything. I’m gonna do all the negotiating. We’re gonna be paid the same and you don’t have to think about this, Bryce.’”

“I love him so much for doing that,” Howard concluded. “I really do, because I’ve been paid more for those kinds of things than I ever was for the movie.”

The daughter of famed director Ron Howard did not say how much money she earned, but it is surely beyond the wildest dreams of the average American for just a few months of work.

The travails of the rich and famous aside, it certainly is annoying to know you are working as hard as your counterparts and not be recognized for it. I understand the impulse to be resentful. There are plenty of cases where favoritism can deny equal treatment. Life isn’t always fair and people can be crappy. However, that doesn’t excuse logic.

Howard’s case is not one of unequal treatment, it is simply supply and demand. At the time of the first film in the Jurassic World series, Pratt was one of the biggest and most bankable stars in the world. The guy who plays the next door neighbor on your favorite sitcom might be just as good an actor as Pratt, but you don’t pay a Chris Pratt the same as a “next door neighbor character actor.” That’s because people want Chris Pratt, not other guy.

People pay to see Chris Pratt. You put someone with massive public appeal in a role in your film and you sell more tickets. It’s not rocket surgery. No one was going to see Jurassic World – any of the films, from the first to the last – to see Bryce Dallas Howard. She’s a beautiful woman, a talented actress and probably unfairly shadowed by her famous father. She’s got a lot going for her, but still, no one is saying, “I can’t wait to see the new Bryce Dallas Howard movie!”

Chris Pratt’s paycheck was based on the tickets he could potentially sell, not his genitals. It is disingenuous for Howard or other Hollywood actors to pretend that their gender is the only reason they weren’t paid as much as others. The whole point of becoming a famous actor is so that you make the most money and have the most options.

At the height of his popularity, does Chris Pratt accept an offer for work that values him at par with his less famous cast mates? What would that say about his value overall? I’m the Deputy Managing Editor at RedState. If I know I’m getting paid the same as the newest part-time writer on staff, how would that affect my commitment and motivation?

Pratt was offered more because he had a higher value than Howard. It’s that simple. It’s wrong to keep stoking the fires of resentment over an issue that is about value, not gender.

Pratt, being the mensch that he is, secured a better deal for his friend. That’s great. But it’s also a generosity that she was not owed. In the end, it was still Pratt’s caché that got Howard her deal. His value was the highest, so it was his ask they listened to, not hers. Her pay was a part of his studio deal because the studio considered Pratt’s star power worth the price.

The #MeToo movement seems to have failed to give women in Hollywood the ability to do anything other than complain and hope the men around them act generously. What would have been more valuable is for Howard to make herself worthy of that big payday. Instead of just taking what Pratt negotiated for her (what she couldn’t negotiate for on her own) she should be taking advantage of her unique industry connections. Her dad is one of the most influential people in Hollywood. Howard should be making moves, becoming the woman who makes the projects instead of just performing in them. She could be someone who changes the system, who uses her influence to create equal footing for other women in the business.

It would be unsurprising, however, if she were to discover that a good businesswoman pays her employees based on their value, not their gender.

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