One of the most popular sitcoms on television right now has (finally) joined the grown-ups at the wage gap debate table. And like the title of their show, they’ve done it with a big bang. The lead actors of CBS’ Big Bang Theory – Kaley Cuoco, Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg – have reportedly decided to take $1,00,000 pay cuts from their $1 million per episode salary in order to ensure salary raises for Mayim Bialik (Amy) and Melissa Rauch (Bernadette).
Bernadette and Amy have been a constant in the show since Season 3 and despite the huge popularity of their characters, Mayim and Melissa are only paid $2,00,00 per episode. Things had come to a standstill after both demanded a pay raise before renewing their contracts for the two upcoming seasons with the situation only gaining momentum after the four lead actors offered to take a pay cut.
This has thankfully brought the wage gap debate back into the limelight. True, Kaley gets paid at par with her male co-stars but the question is, had the genders been reversed, would two male actors in Mayim and Melissa’s shoes even be fighting for parity? Most likely, they’d have received a generous paycheck right after they became show regulars.
In a flashback to 2016, when Forbes announced their list of highest paid actors and actresses, the lists only added more statistics to how wage inequality is an issue and a major one at that. Jennifer Lawrence topped the actresses’ list with $46 million, which only seems like a good amount if you ignore how much the highest paid male actor made that year. Dwayne Johnson, who topped the list of richest male actor ended up with a whopping $64.5 million. That’s a gap of $18 million, in case Math isn’t your strong point.
This ironical interchange of digits was enough to tell us wage gap is anything but a figment of our imagination. Lawrence’s earnings are closer in amount to Johnny Depp who comes in fifth on the list of highest paid actors, and to top it off hasn’t even given a hit film in recent memory.
What the Sony Pictures email hack revealed was this massive gender pay gap and with Lawrence’s open letter addressing the issue, things have since then snowballed. Even being the highest paid actress does not ensure one gets paid the same as their male co-stars. Case in point: Lawrence was paid less than Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper for American Hustle, despite her pivotal role. Patricia Arquette and Meryl Streep too have been pretty vocal about this issue.
Closer home, Deepika Padukone was the only Bollywood actress to make it to the Forbes highest paid actresses list and she barely made the cut at $10 million. While it’s awesome that she has joined the club, let’s not celebrate yet. The total earnings of the highest paid actress in Bollywood, when compared to the men makes for a horrifying read. Shah Rukh Khan made $33 million, Salman Khan ended up with $28.5 million, Akshay Kumar was at $31.5 million, while Amitabh Bachchan made $20 million. Do the Math, guys. Are you telling us this feels okay to you?
Big Bang Theory actor’s have set an example and shown us a new way of fighting against wage inequality, but the fact that they even had to make such a gesture simply to get for their co-stars what they deserve, is truly sad. Those of you who love making obtuse statements about how ‘rich’ actresses should not crib because ‘they get paid enough’, here’s the thing: nobody deserves to get paid less than their colleagues for the same amount of work just because of their gender. Nobody.