Scarlett Johansson's $15 Million Payday for Black Widow Is a Disgrace

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My entire life, I've been told I look like a lowbrow Scarlett Johansson.

From my high school photography teacher broadcasting that our yearbook pictures are identical, to a waiter in Beijing noting in broken English I resemble Robo Love (a sex doll modeled after the starlet), I'm thrilled to share some facial features with the movie star.

How could I not be? She's not only the highest paid actress, she's brought to life unforgettable roles in Girl With a Pearl Earring, Lost in Translation, and The Other Boleyn Girl. Plus, Johansson is a longtime advocate for Planned Parenthood, a vocal defender of the dignity of women, and even had the courage to change her ways when LGBTQ activists called her out on transface. She even outdid Siri when portraying sultry operating system Samantha in Her.

So when The Hollywood Reporter informed me that Johansson will be making $15 million for her solo portrayal of Black Widow, I was pissed. 

Now $15 million is a humongous payday. But it's also the one that Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth earned playing their superheroes as supporting characters in Avengers: Infinity War. In a movie with an army of bankable stars, these two had a smidge of screentime.

Less screentime means fewer lines — and less work. Certainly, less work than Johansson will be putting in to bring us a movie centered around her long beloved character.

So once again, cash cow Marvel continues to subject its ladies — often wearing tight or revealing outfits — to an enormous pay gap. 

For a superstar like Scarlett Johansson, $15 million is a disgrace. 

Johansson has experience, critical acclaim, and box office draw. Evans and Hemsworth have penises. 

The Black Widow star has been consistently starring in major films since 1994. Evans broke through in 2001 with Not Another Teen Movie and failed to make another feature until 2004. Hemsworth first made his way to Tinseltown in 2009.

Even before getting her solo debut, Johansson has starred in nine blockbusters that grossed over $100 million, including her solo success Lucy. She's also garnered significant praise as an actress and even scored a Tony along the way.

When he was cast in the titular role in Captain America: The First Avenger, Evans had starred in two blockbusters of that sort, both for the Fantastic Four franchise as an ensemble character. Hemsworth had been in one blockbuster; he was in 2009's Star Trek in a role so small he wasn't even on the poster. None of them had any prestigious acting awards under their belts and still don't to this day.

Even if you don't care about bankable star power or critical acclaim, Johansson is the first woman to win Esquire's Sexiest Woman Alive twice (in 2006 and 2013.) Chris Evans has never been hunky enough to score a similar honor, and Hemsworth only got it once from People Magazine in 2014.

No matter how you slice it, dice it, or sex it, Johansson is worth more than the $15 million that her male peers pulled in for smaller roles.

Even if you don't care about superheroes — I certainly don't — you should care about how much this one makes. 

Johansson is not just a hypersexualized Hollywood phenomenon. As the highest paid actress this year, she hasn't just broken the glass ceiling; she represents it. Whatever she makes is the most women can earn in the acting industry — the value of their likeness, characters, and voices on- and off-screen.

Oscar-winner Brie Larson is also coming to Marvel; in fact, she's going to be its Captain as Captain Marvel. She might not be the box office draw Johansson is, but she's sure as hell got the acting chops. Her credibility as an Academy Award winner bestows a level of prestige to the film that matters.

Yet for her solo film, she's getting $5 million. That's $10 million less than Evans or Hemsworth as supporting characters. Plus, she signed a seven-picture deal with the studio — a major commitment of her time and talent. 

These women are worth more. They can be paid more too.

For ABC's Grey's Anatomy, Ellen Pompeo pulls in $20 million per year as the titular character. It's estimated each Avengers' movie earns at least $1 billion worldwide, likely much more than a year of episodes from even the most successful show.

Although Marvel is known to give large bonuses to actors for their performances and is disputing just how much Johansson is going to make for Black Widow's solo debut, $15 million simply is not gender parity. Would they ask for an ultra-successful actor at half price?

ARIEL SOBEL is an editorial assistant at The Advocate. You can learn more about her at her website, but if you want to get really personal, check out her TEDx Talk.

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