Forbes’ list of the top male earners on the big screen reveals an ongoing struggle for wage equality in Hollywood.
The earnings of Hollywood’s male actors eclipsed their female counterparts this week.
Forbes has published its list of the world’s 20 highest-paid male actors in 2016 — and, unsurprisingly, their earnings dwarf what female actresses made last year. Altogether, male actors in the top 10 spots took home a combined $488.5 million, as compared to the top 10 women, who made $172.5 million.
Mark Wahlberg was Hollywood’s biggest breadwinner for 2016, reportedly earning $68 million from sources including his films Transformers: The Last Knight and Daddy’s Home 2. Coming in second was Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — the overall highest-paid actor the year before in 2015.
Johnson slipped just behind Wahlberg to net $65 million for his 2016 total. His earnings stemmed from films including Jumanji and Baywatch, in which he starred opposite Zac Efron.
Capping off the top five spots are Vin Diesel, Adam Sandler, and Jackie Chan. And three Bollywood stars — Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, and Akshay Kumar — made it into the top 10 overall, broadening out the list’s international scope. Each of them earned more than $35 million — not entirely surprising, given that Variety evaluated India’s wildly popular Bollywood industry at $2.32 billion last year.
Here is the full list of Forbes‘ top 20 highest-paid male actors for 2016:
1. Mark Wahlberg, $68 million
2. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, $65 million
3. Vin Deisel, $54.5 million
4. Adam Sandler, $50.5 million
5. Jackie Chan, $49 million
6. Robert Downey, Jr., $48 million
7. Tom Cruise, $43 million
8. Shah Rukh Khan, $38 million
9. Salman Khan, $37 million
10. Akshay Kumar, $35.5 million
11. Chris Hemsworth, $31.5 million
12. Tom Hanks, $31 million
13. Samuel L. Jackson, $30.5 million
14. Ryan Gosling, $29 million
15. Ryan Reynolds, $21.5 million
16. Matt Damon, $21 million
17. Jeremy Renner, $19 million
18. Chris Evans, $18 million
19. Chris Pratt, $17 million
20. Mark Ruffalo, $13 million
Combined total earnings: $720 million
If this year’s top female earner, Emma Stone ($26 million), found herself on the list above, she would have come in at #15 — a fact that points to the well-documented wage gap between men and women in Hollywood. Although A-list actresses like Jennifer Lawrence have spoken out in the past, the entertainment industry continues to face a dismal reality when it comes to gender equality.
“The reason for the [wage gap] problem is the nature of the industry itself, and the nature of the industry is based on the nature of the culture,” says Dr. Robert Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University. “The basic fundamental problem is that women are being paid less for roles that are just as much work [as men’s roles], and they are equally big stars.”
Thompson points to a few explanations: The relative shortage of work for women in Hollywood, ongoing biases that favor men, and the notoriously limited age range that female actresses face before they are no longer within the market’s sweet spot.
Even in the Hollywood of 2017, studies show that screenwriters have created a world where women are largely seen and not heard. Data compiled earlier this year showed that women were given only 27 percent of spoken lines in the 10 highest-grossing films of 2016, according to Newsweek. What’s more, Variety reported in 2015 that only 12 percent of leading roles in films were held by women.
“There’s a complex sexist clock that has been wound up and is continuing to tick,” Thompson concludes. “But the one happy bit of optimism is that, eventually, that clock can wind down.”
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