Mulder and Scully, arguably one of the most memorable teams on TV, are in the spotlight today, and it’s not just because of the revival of the supernatural hit show The X-Files. It’s about a more serious topic: the gender pay gap.
(Photo Credit: Genevieve/Flickr)
A Little Background on The X-Files
When it first aired in 1993, nobody anticipated how successful The X-Files would end up being. The show followed two FBI agents, Mulder and Scully, as they attempted to solve mysteries with a supernatural element while also unraveling a government conspiracy involving aliens, bees, and an evil, nicotine-addicted bureaucrat. Or something like that.
The show went on for nine seasons. But what you might not have known, even if you were a fan during its original run, was that the biggest mystery of all was why Gillian Anderson was paid so much less than her co-star. Equal pay for equal work is a great philosophy but does not translate well to Hollywood, and The X-Files is a perfect example of how incredibly common pay disparity is between men and women.
According to The Daily Beast, it took Anderson three years and a Golden Globe to close the gap between her pay and Duchovny’s. Let’s take a look at why the stars of The X-Files deserved the same pay for the same work:
- Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny both worked on the show and were represented equally during the first seven seasons. We can assume they did equal work.
- Season 7 arrived and David Duchovny dropped out. Gillian Anderson played the main character and carried the show.
- Duchovny eventually returned as an occasional lead for seasons 8-9.
Where’s the Gender Pay Gap?
With The X-Files being on top of everyone’s mind right now, there’s been a lot of press about the actors as they prepared for the comeback season. If you sift through all the fluff about how great it is for the actors to be back together, you will find a real, serious problem. Despite the fact that these actors have done equal work and are equally received by audiences, the network apparently still tried to pay one of them less than the other.
“There’s no point in dealing with my side [first] because, as usual, they come to me with half of what they want to offer David,” Anderson told The Hollywood Reporter, explaining the salary negotiation process for the limited series.
When you consider the fact that Gillian Anderson carried the show during the time when Duchovny left, it makes no sense why the actors wouldn’t be paid the same. We all know the The X-Files wouldn’t be the same without Scully, so why is it OK to pay her less? Is her work valued less? Is it plain sexism? Or did they just not expect Scully to be so successful?
“I can only imagine that at the beginning, they wanted me to be the sidekick,” Anderson said in the same interview. “Or that, somehow, maybe it was enough of a change just to see a women having this kind of intellectual repartee with a man on camera, and surely the audience couldn’t deal with actually seeing them walk side by side.”
As io9 points out, the partnership between Mulder and Scully is what made the show work and be so successful. So even if Scully was “supposed” to be just a sidekick, that isn’t the way the show panned out, and we all know it.
“It was shocking to me, given all the work that I had done in the past to get us to be paid fairly,” Anderson said. “I worked really hard toward that and finally got somewhere with it. Even in interviews in the last years, people have said to me, ‘I can’t believe that happened, how did you feel about it, that is insane.’ And my response always was, ‘That was then, this is now.’ And then it happened again! I don’t even know what to say about it.”
Anderson had to fight for it but eventually ended up getting paid the same amount as Duchovny. Speaking with The Daily Beast, Anderson dubbed the experience “sad.” We agree.
Tell Us What You Think!
What do you think about Hollywood paying women less than men? We want to hear from you! Comment below or join the conversation on Twitter.