Following the recent reveal that Matt Smith out-earned Claire Foy on The Crown – even though Foy was the true lead of the series – fans are calling on Smith to help even the score.
A Care2 petition is asking Smith and Netflix to donate the difference in Smith and Foy’s paychecks to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, as a way to “make up for this sexist pay gap.” At time of writing, the campaign has over 24,000 signatures.
Smith and Netflix did not respond to Mashable’s requests for comment.
News of the pay disparity emerged last week, when producers admitted during a panel that Smith was paid more in large part due to his Doctor Who fame.
However, they added, the imbalance would be righted for future seasons. “Going forward, no one gets paid more than the Queen,” said Left Bank creative director Suzanne Mackie. Which is good news for Olivia Colman, who’s been tapped to play Queen Elizabeth II in Season 3, but doesn’t do Foy a whole lot of good since she’s already moved on.
While the gender pay gap in Hollywood is nothing new, it has come under renewed scrutiny in the era of #MeToo and Time’s Up.
Earlier this year, Mark Wahlberg was pressured into donating the $1.5 million he’d made on All the Money in the World reshoots, after it came out that Michelle Williams had been paid just $1,000 for the same work.
Smith’s situation is a little bit different. Much of the outrage surrounding All the Money in the World stemmed from the perception that Wahlberg was trying to make money off of a collective effort to right the wrong of hiring Kevin Spacey.
Smith, on the other hand, just seems to be benefiting from the fact that he’s got really great agents. Moreover, it’s unclear if he knew about the difference between his paycheck and Foy’s.
Still, it’d be a classy move on Smith’s part to donate that extra money to Time’s Up, as a way of signaling his support for pay equality. (Worth noting: Smith wore a Time’s Up pin to the Golden Globes, so at the very least he wants to look like he supports pay equality.)
It goes without saying that this is entirely up to Smith. The petition isn’t calling for Smith to be jailed or blackballed or publicly humiliated. It’s just asking him to consider the fact that, as someone who benefited (knowingly or not) from his industry’s sexism, he might be in a position to give back to a cause he claims to care about.
(And no, despite what Terry Gilliam might say, getting a bit of social media blowback is not the same thing as being “beaten to death.”)
So is it a bit unfair to expect Smith to give up some money to help right a wrong he didn’t commit? Well, maybe. Smith could rightfully point out that he didn’t personally make the call, that this is on Foy’s agents for not fighting harder for her, that this is on the producers for signing paychecks they knew were unequal.
But it’s also unfair that Foy got paid less in the first place, and it’s unfair to both of them that they’re part of a system that prioritizes men’s stories over women’s, that provides more and better opportunities to men than women, and that favors men’s contributions at the expense of women’s.
In other words, there’s a lot about this situation that’s unfair and uncomfortable. Smith has an opportunity here to signal that the buck stops with him, and that he’s putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to pay equality. Or, you know, not. It’s his money, and he has the right to spend it as he sees fit.
In the meantime, just the fact that we’re having this conversation should send a message to other men in his position: The days of shrugging that it’s not your job to care about the pay disparity are over. Now, people want to know what you plan to do about it – and you’d better have an answer.
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