Gillian Anderson has been pretty public about her fight to get paid the same amount as David Duchovny for her work on The X-Files. She’s clearly a badass. To Fox, though, I have to say: Are you fucking kidding me?
Earlier this month, Anderson told the Hollywood Reporter that “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.” Which—as Scully herself says in one of the upcoming episodes—is batcrap crazy.
This is stupid on so many levels that it’s going to take some time to unravel. We should be well past the point where female costars are paid less than their male counterparts, but we aren’t. That’s the base level at which this is awful.
But on top of that, it’s not like there’s any unknown quantity to these negotiations. Because the show was on TV for nine fucking years, everyone involved knows that Mulder and Scully are a team. Even if Mulder’s obsession initially drove the show, you can’t say the characters aren’t equals. You can definitely say that Duchovny and Anderson are co-stars, not a lead and a sidekick. In fact, Duchovny left the show and Anderson carried it for two years as the lead. And they’re going to offer her half of what they offered him? FUCK NO.
It’s not like he’s become some superstar while she languished in obscurity and she should just be grateful for any work and they needed to offer him more as an incentive. I would watch The Fall and Hannibal and Bleak House 20 times each rather than sit through a single episode of Aquarius.
I get that Duchovny left, so maybe there’s an argument that he might need more convincing in the form of cold hard cash. But at this point, they’ve both moved on. Even if Anderson were more willing to come back, offering her half from the outset is just insulting.
So, really, the only reason to offer her less is because of sexism—either because her work isn’t valued as much or because of the idea that women won’t negotiate for as much. Everyone who thought this was a valid negotiation strategy should be forced to roam the hills of Los Angeles until a coyote gnaws off their face.
Now we get to the point where the specifics get even more absurd. Apparently, the network initially required Scully to always stand a few feet behind Mulder and it took three years for Anderson to get equal pay to Duchovny. Speaking to the Daily Beast, Anderson said:
I can only imagine that at the beginning, they wanted me to be the sidekick. Or that, somehow, maybe it was enough of a change just to see a woman 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!
Either option is laughable. The partnership between Mulder and Scully is what made The X-Files work. Even if Scully was initially seen as a sidekick, she should have been able to walk next to him. Unless you can tell me that Burt Ward was required to always be behind Batman in 1966. Oh no? Then fuck right off.
It wasn’t the studio that realized there needed to be a change. It was Anderson, who may very well be flawless:
I have such a knee-jerk reaction to that stuff, a very short tolerance for that shit. I don’t know how long it lasted or if it changed because I eventually said, “Fuck no! No!” I don’t remember somebody saying, “Okay, now you get to walk alongside him.” But I imagine it had more to do with my intolerance and spunk than it being an allowance that was made.
I imagine she’s right. Because Hollywood will always try to hang on, tooth and nail, to the status quo until someone stands up. Which could backfire completely and get an actress labeled as difficult.
Anderson also points out that getting offered half the salary that Duchovny got seemed especially strange given that she’d fought so hard for equal treatment the last time around:
It was shocking to me, given all the work that I had done in the past to get us to be paid fairly. I worked really hard toward that and finally got somewhere with it.
Even in interviews in the last few 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.
It is shocking that, over two decades later, nothing had changed. The same network tried to pull the same bullshit with the same person. And thought, what? It would work? She would suddenly be cool being treated unfairly? And tell people? And they wouldn’t look like asshats of the highest order?
Even though Anderson ended up getting paid the same amount as Duchovny, the assumption that she shouldn’t be is galling. In the Daily Beast interview, Anderson calls it “sad.” I have another word for it: Bullshit.