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

Women and Hollywood By Inkoo Kang | Women and Hollywood January 31, 2014 at 4:00PM

Don't tell Zooey Deschanel.
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Zooey Deschanel
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: 


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

This article is related to: Women Directors, Sexism


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