Here's Why Hollywood's 'Black Dress' Activism Doesn't Impress Me

Meryl Streep, from left, Ai-jen Poo, Natalie Portman, Tarana Burke, Michelle Williams, America Ferrera, Jessica Chastain, Amy Poehler, and Saru Jayaraman arrive at the InStyle and Warner Bros. Golden Globes afterparty at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Hollywood put on quite a show on Sunday, when the celebrities attending the Golden Globes showed up almost all wearing black, to show their solidarity with the victims of sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination.


The black designer frocks looked elegant, but I remained skeptical that this was more than an empty gesture.

I got some static for that tweet, but real change requires more than an evening’s fashion choices. As I wrote after the show:

If these awards are racist or sexist, it’s the entertainment industry’s fault.

They literally control every aspect of the process: which scripts get green-lit, who is cast, every creative aspect of how films and shows are made and promoted, and then they are the ones selecting the nominees and voting for the winners…

This was a year where Patti Jenkins made audiences of all political stripes rejoice at her awe-inspiring Wonder Womanmovie, Kumail Nanjiani gifted us with a uniquely American multicultural love story with The Big Sick, Jordan Peele wowed with his script and direction for Get Out, and Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird had a nearly perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes — and none of them were even nominated for a Golden Globe.

A report by USA Today drives home how systemic Hollywood’s sexism issues really are.

Ridley Scott’s film All the Money in The World made headlines last year when the decision was made to recast Kevin Spacey’s role with Christopher Plummer after Spacey’s fall from grace due to his own reported sexual predatory behavior. The film had already been completed when Plummer was cast, requiring expensive reshoots.


Scott earned a lot of positive buzz for the “bravery” of his decision, and he portrayed the reshoots as a sacrifice, adding an additional $10 million to the film’s budget, to pay Plummer and the crew, but the other actors generously donating their time to help salvage their movie.

From the USA Today story:

RIDLEY SCOTT: “The whole reshoot was — in normal terms was expensive but not as expensive as you think. Because all of them, everyone did it for nothing.”

USA TODAY: “Really?”

SCOTT: “No, I wouldn’t get paid, I refused to get paid.”

USA TODAY: “You didn’t pay the actors more to do it?”

SCOTT: “No, they all came in free. Christopher had to get paid. But Michelle, no. Me, no. I wouldn’t do that to — ”

USA TODAY: “The crew, of course, did get paid?”

SCOTT: “Of course. “

“Everyone did it for nothing”?

Well, not quite everyone.

The other two major stars in the movie, Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams, also were paid for their additional time on set. Williams was paid an $80 per diem, totaling less than $1,000.

Wahlberg, on the other hand, earned an additional $1.5 million.

As USA Today pointed out, “That works out to Williams being paid less than 1% of her male co-star.”

Both Wahlberg and Williams are represented by the William Morris Endeavor agency, which USA Today notes “[has] a reputation in Hollywood for driving a tough bargain.”

Maybe they’re tough negotiators for Wahlberg, but it sounds like they didn’t even try for Williams. Is that because she didn’t ask them to do so, or because they didn’t suggest it?


To be far, Williams was previously quoted as being willing to donate her time for the reshoot:

I said I’d be wherever they needed me, whenever they needed me. And they could have my salary, they could have my holiday, whatever they wanted. Because I appreciated so much that they were making this massive effort.

Would she have felt so charitable if she had known that her male co-star was not willing to work for that per diem peanuts rate?

Two people were asked to participate in reshoots for a movie. The man was paid $1.5 million. The woman, a few hundred dollars. 

Wahlberg was the highest-paid actor last year, earning a whopping pretax and pre-fee earnings at $68 million according to Forbes, but Williams is a star in her own right, winning a past Golden Globe and Tony Award for Best Actress, in addition to four Oscar nominations.

No one reasonably expects them to be paid exactly the same, but that’s a heckuva salary gap, Hollywood.

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker


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