When news broke last week that The Crown star Matt Smith made more than lead Claire Foy, the Internet went understandably nuts. Speaking at a press conference in Israel, producers of the show revealed that Foy earned less than Smith for her work on the first two seasons of the show. Foy plays lead character Queen Elizabeth, while Smith plays her husband Prince Philip. Smith was brought onto the show with somewhat more notoriety thanks to his three-season lead role in Doctor Who.
In response, fans have started an Internet petition calling for Smith and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to donate those extra earnings to the Times Up movements. The Care2 petition references similar events involving Mark Wahlberg:
Recently, a Care2 petition called on Mark Wahlberg to donate his extra paycheck to Time’s Up when reports showed he was paid one thousand times more than his co-star, Michelle Williams. Over 16,000 Care2 members added their names to call and Walhberg [sic] listened, donating millions to help sexual harassment survivors fight back! We can do it again—this time in the name of the Queen!
As of this article’s publishing, the petition has racked up more than 23,000 supporters towards its 25,000-signature goal.
In this era of #TimesUp and #MeToo, it can feel surprising to see such a blatant example of Hollywood sexism. Still, as this petition reminds us, women face pay disparities in all industries, earning an average 80 cents for every man’s dollar. Women of color earn even less than their white counterparts. While it makes sense that Matt Smith was valued for his Doctor Who past, his role on The Crown occupies considerably less screen time (and has garnered considerably fewer awards) than Claire Foy. Foy, who stars in the upcoming Steven Soderbergh feature Unsane and will portray Lisbeth Salander in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, has drawn critical and awards attention to The Crown thanks to her star-making performance. It’s also notable that, in the show itself, Queen Elizabeth regularly has to deal with sexist nonsense including ridicule and infidelity from her pouty husband.
According to Left Bank creative director and executive producer Suzanne Mackie, from now on “no one gets paid more than the Queen.” That makes a good soundbite, but it’s irrelevant to Foy. The Crown is about to make a time skip to the 1970s, with Foy to be replaced by Olivia Colman. This is a mistake Netflix can’t undo, but—at least according to this petition—they can counterbalance their sexist practices by supporting a feminist Hollywood organization. And it’s nice to know Colman will be compensated properly for her upcoming work.
The pay gap is far from closed, but it’s getting more attention every day. Until women receive equitable compensation in all areas of the workforce, men and executives can prove their social mettle by using their power for good. If Smith and Hastings take on this petition, it won’t undo sexist Hollywood practices, but it will mark a step in the right direction.