Culture

'House of Cards' Star Robin Wright's Unique Approach to Equal Pay: She Demanded It

Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Here’s an idea…

Actress Robin Wright says she demanded the same pay as co-star Kevin Spacey for her work on “House of Cards” and got it.

Wright plays first lady Claire Underwood, an equally devious partner for Spacey’s President Frank Underwood, on the Netflix series.

The Huffington Post reports Wright said during a Tuesday interview at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York that she demanded equal pay after seeing statistics showing her character was more popular than Spacey’s for a period of time. She says she threatened to “go public” if she didn’t get paid.

For all of the faux socialists it produces, Hollywood is one of the freest markets left in America. If you’re a popular component of a red-hot franchise like “House of Cards” you have some serious leverage and Wright wisely took advantage of that. Sometimes it’s a gamble, but that usually is the case when an actor was relatively unknown and hits gold with popular new series then overestimates his or her contribution to that popularity (see: Shelley Long). Wright had, well, very good cards to play and did so.

That’s the key.

In the ongoing “debate” about gender pay inequality, an important component is oft-discussed but still too easily dismissed: the difference in the way men and women negotiate salaries. A quick Google search sends back pages and pages of articles (click to enlarge):
Google Women Negotiate

The novelty in Robin Wright’s situation may not be that she was in a position to demand an equal salary, but that she demanded it at all. Rather than hit the Internet with a tantrum (looking at you, Jennifer Lawrence), Wright armed herself with facts and made a case for her value to the project.

Once more, with feeling: it worked.

Sooner or later, most avowed leftists lose the ability to demand change that isn’t top-down. After all, it’s easier to whine about the government doing something for you than it is to hustle for yourself. It is especially weird watching this play out in the entertainment industry throughout my career. Actors, comedians, musicians and almost anyone else who really wants to work in the industry tend to be aggressive self-starters and hustlers. It’s the only way to get anywhere in the business. How that so often morphs into a collectivist mindset still baffles me three decades later.

Kudos to Robin Wright for not waiting for someone to give her the salary she deserves. Let’s hope the rest of them don’t demand a public apology from her for not taking the tantrum route.