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Study: Female Movie Stars' Paychecks Decrease Rapidly After Age 34

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by Inkoo Kang
January 31, 2014 4:00 PM
14 Comments
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Zooey Deschanel

On the hit show New Girl, Zooey Deschanel's character Jess is finally embarking on responsible adulthood. In real life, though, the perpetually youthful Deschanel apparently stands at the precipice of irrelevance. 

That's because Deschanel is 34, the age at which female movie stars statistically begin making rapidly diminishing sums of money, according to a new study that looked at over 250 actors who starred in movies from 1968 to 2008. That's in stark contrast to their male counterparts, whose salaries peak at age 51. 

While twentysomething actresses out-earn their similarly aged male peers, the wage disparity between actors and actresses grows increasingly wider the older they get. The result is that a woman in front of the camera would be happy to make 75 cents on every dollar a man in front of the camera makes.  

As written up by USA Today (which offers handy infographics), the researchers only scratch at the entrenched sexism within Hollywood: 

"This is a microcosm of what happens in society," said Timothy Judge, a management professor at the University of Notre Dame and one of the study's lead authors, in an interview with USA TODAY Network.

"We are such an appearance-based society," he said, offering one theory as to why this disparity exists.

Researchers suggest roles for older female actors are limited, creating more pressure on female stars to maintain a youthful appearance.

"Men's well-worn faces are thought to convey maturity, character and experience. A woman's face, on the other hand, is valued for appearing young," according to the study.

But it's not just about appearance, but about opportunities. The larger, interrelated problems (and this is really the essential truth that Women and Hollywood is based on) is that 

Because fewer women screenwriters and directors are hired or funded, there are fewer women's stories on screen.

Because fewer women's stories are on screen, there are fewer roles for actresses. 

Because women are not on screen or behind the camera, studios and investors think women can't get the job done. 

Repeat cycle. 

So sure, we can all wring our hands about how American consumers are too superficial, as if there is any culture on the planet that isn't appearance-based. Or we can let the bigwigs know this: 


In the meantime, we'll keep telling you what films by and about women are coming up next week. 
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14 Comments

  • lulz | February 4, 2014 1:25 PMReply

    ' Men are attracted to beauty, women are attracted to confidence/status." Nope, I am a woman and I won't go out with a man unless he is good looking. '. I'm sure even if he was good looking, if he was broke he'd only be good for a one night stand to you. Which is why you date your sybian and your cats instead. Enjoy the decline.

  • Kate | February 2, 2014 2:14 AMReply

    "Men are attracted to beauty, women are attracted to confidence/status." Nope, I am a woman and I won't go out with a man unless he is good looking.

  • budmin | February 4, 2014 8:24 PM

    This wasn't about your personal dating preferences. This is about what consumers reward at the box office.

  • Silver nose rings online | February 1, 2014 2:39 AMReply

    I like this post. This is really an informative post

  • cubic zirconia tirichy | February 1, 2014 2:38 AMReply

    Thanks for sharing wonderful information, it is really nice information.

  • ManosphereRadio | January 31, 2014 6:00 PMReply

    Zooey has turned from a girl next door to a hit and quit. Surprised? Not really.

  • rivelino | January 31, 2014 5:54 PMReply

    "the researchers only scratch at the entrenched sexism within Hollywood"

    "Because fewer women screenwriters and directors are hired or funded, there are fewer women's stories on screen."

    why are most screenwriters and directors men? it must be entrenched sexism.

    why are most presidents and CEOs men? it must be entrenched sexism.

    why are most prisoners and homeless people men? it must be ... oh wait.

  • Dagonet | January 31, 2014 5:23 PMReply

    All of these age statistics correlate to people's fertility and sexual market value. This has nothing to do with "sexism" or discrimination, but basic human biology. Women's fertility declines rapidly once they enter their 30s, and their physical appearance reflects this. Women simply do not have the same mass appeal (to either gender) after this point. They aren't lusted after by men, and women don't aspire to be like them to the same degree. However, as the study astutely notes, women are often times MORE valued than men when they are still in their sexual prime (early-mid 20s). The flip side of this is that men continue to gain value and respect as they mature through their 30s and 40s.

    Again, this should be plainly clear to anyone with even a cursory understanding of human sexuality. This study predictably reflects basic truths of human biology, and you can scream and pull out your hair all you want, but your protestations will always be a pin drop compared to the tidal wave of genetic reality that silently governs us all.

  • erm | February 4, 2014 1:33 PM

    'And it is up to women to pick up the pen and change those penis-related fears and perceptions on the page and screen, so that numbskulls like you can get educated.'

    We've had female directed films before. They don't sell. So the rich male khazars that run hollywood could care less, unless you can make them money doing it.

  • Star | February 2, 2014 10:39 PM

    "Been happening since the Bible, because men are essentially threatened by the live-giving, pleasure-giving power women possess. Women's essential power doesn't diminish doesn't diminish with age, but is enhanced by experience and confidence, which is even more threatening. And it is up to women to pick up the pen and change those penis-related fears and perceptions on the page and screen, so that numbskulls like you can get educated."

    What a load of bunk...

  • dee | February 1, 2014 7:17 PM

    Dagonet--It sure sounds like you're trying to sound high-falutin' and all, and I'm sure we all agree that you have the authority to expound on the "basic truths" for us all, but in reality, you are coming off as an ignorant twit. Movies INFLUENCE our perceptions on everything from violence to chocolate milk, so don't pretend that your own sexist perspectives were formed in a vacuum. Decades of male-dominated stories written by men, directed by men and marketed by men have had more than a little impact on how little boys and girls view themselves: either as heroes or victims; protagonists or ancillary characters; honorable righteous conquerors or morally corrupt temptresses. Been happening since the Bible, because men are essentially threatened by the live-giving, pleasure-giving power women possess. Women's essential power doesn't diminish doesn't diminish with age, but is enhanced by experience and confidence, which is even more threatening. And it is up to women to pick up the pen and change those penis-related fears and perceptions on the page and screen, so that numbskulls like you can get educated.

  • anonymous | February 1, 2014 12:04 PM

    "The fact is there are some women such as Meryl Streep or Judi Dench who have the ability to carry a movie without having sex appeal. THAT is the goal that Hollywood should attempt to reach. Women CAN do more than just be sexual objects."

    I agree.There should be more roles for women that don't depend on sex appeal. I hate "its biology so lets never try to change anything" arguments.

  • Xman | February 1, 2014 12:32 AM

    MDL: You cannot negotiate genuine desire. Women are more desired at their prime than men, while men's prime lasts longer. Overall, their value is equal, women just have higher peak and shorter window.
    Men are attracted to beauty, women are attracted to confidence/status. Men are attracted primarily through their eyes, women through their ears. Men objectify women as sexual objects, while women objectify men as status/ecosystem success objects.

  • MDL | January 31, 2014 8:13 PM

    The problem with your theory here is that women are then ONLY seen as sex objects. While men can be sex objects and good actors and character actors and father figures, etc. Women should have the same right. The fact is there are some women such as Meryl Streep or Judi Dench who have the ability to carry a movie without having sex appeal. THAT is the goal that Hollywood should attempt to reach. Women CAN do more than just be sexual objects. I hope you understand that. Hollywood doesn't seem to yet.

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