Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

June 21 2017 5:03 PM

No, Gal Gadot Was Not Ridiculously Underpaid for Wonder Woman

The internet was outraged on Tuesday (as it so often is) over reports that Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot had earned just a tiny fraction of what her male counterparts earned for their own breakout superhero roles. A story on Elle’s website compared Gadot’s base salary of $300,000 for her first superhero standalone with an alleged $14 million earned by Henry Cavill in 2013 for Man of Steel. Had the comparison been accurate, it would certainly have been worthy of outrage, another egregious example of gender imbalance in Hollywood—but the story was incredibly misleading, as actual reporting quickly showed.

Here’s what we can reasonably assume to be true: Gadot did sign a three-picture deal with Warner Bros. for Batman v Superman, Wonder Woman, and the upcoming Justice League movie, with a $300,000 base salary per film. As Kyle Buchanan over at Vulture points out, that’s pretty consistent with the salaries of other superheroes just starting out, including Chris Evans, who made a similar amount for the first Captain America movie.

Gadot’s reported $300,000 paycheck alone probably wouldn’t have caused such a stir, except that the Elle post used it as an example of the gender pay gap in Hollywood by comparing Gadot’s salary to the $14 million Henry Cavill earned for Man of Steel. (Never mind for a moment that that $14 million figure is already incredibly dubious, since it seems to originate from a Forbes article that uses some pretty unreliable sourcing.) Even assuming that number does correctly reflect how much Cavill received for the film overall, there’s no way it refers to Cavill’s base salary alone. Vulture asserts that Cavill, like Gadot, earned a six-figure paycheck for his superhero debut, and a source “with knowledge of studio negotiations on franchise films” told Vanity Fair something similar, adding that it would be “insane” for the studio have paid Cavill that much for a single movie upfront.

So where did that mythical $14 million come from? As Vanity Fair’s source explains, “Entry-level actors in franchise films are paid an initial rate. As a franchise takes off, they stand to make more money.” Actors starting out in major franchises stand to make most of their money based on the film’s box office success—which means that Gadot is also likely to be on the receiving end of some substantial bonus checks, considering the film is close to grossing $600 million worldwide at the box office.

While the pay gap in Hollywood is a very real problem, it’s not the villain in this particular story. The real test will come when Gadot negotiates her contract for the Wonder Woman sequel, which is already underway, but she already has quite a foundation to demand that she be paid what she deserves—and an internet ready to be prematurely outraged if she doesn’t.

June 21 2017 4:59 PM

A New Study Finds—Surprise!—That Hollywood Diversity Pays Off

As it turns out, movie audiences like it when movies have diverse casts and tell diverse stories. Who would've thunk it?

According to a Los Angeles Times report, a study conducted by Creative Artists Agency CAA found that movies with diverse casts consistently earn more money than movies whose casts aren’t as diverse.

CAA examined 413 theatrical films released from January 2014 through December 2016, detailing cast ethnicity for the top 10 billed actors per movie, a total of 2,800 people. They found that for the top 10 grossing movies in 2016, 47% of the opening weekend audience (and 45% in 2015) were people of color. Moreover, seven of the 10 highest-grossing movies from 2016 (and four from 2015’s top 10) delivered opening weekend audiences that were more than 50% non-white.
From there, the study notes that at every budget level, a film with a cast that is at least 30% non-white — CAA’s definition of a “truly diverse” film — outperforms a release that is not truly diverse in opening weekend box office. And on the audience side of things, the average opening weekend for a film that has a “truly diverse” audience, pegged at 38% to 70% non-white, is $31 million versus $12 million for films with non-diverse audiences.
The numbers suggest a more diverse cast brings a more diverse audience, which brings in more money.

Another interesting tidbit from the study is that, castingwise, horror films and fantasy films are the least diverse, while comedies and thrillers are the most diverse. White audiences, according the study, prefer drama and romance; black audiences lean towardsbiopics and thrillers; Hispanics toward horror and animation; and Asians toward animation and fantasy.

It's nice to have some numbers to back up what many people have known all along: Diverse audiences like it when diversity is reflected on screen. If this study has done anything, it's to put the importance of diversity in terms—i.e., those involving dollar signs—that Hollywood is more willing to listen to.

CAA's study is a nice piece of supportive evidence to justify why diverse casting should be an imperative for the movie industry. But economic studies shouldn't be the only argument for Hollywood to start giving us more diverse casts and more diverse stories. “Diversity pays” shouldn't be the argument for why historically marginalized communities should be represented in film. “Diversity matters” should.

If Hollywood can let Matt Damon maintain his star wattage and industry leverage after so graciously saving the Chinese people in this year’s flop The Great Wall, then surely Hollywood can afford John Cho to be in a box office bomb or two and have those films not serve as referendums for his and other Asian movie stars’ box-office worth.

It's great that diversity pays, but even if it didn't, it would still be consequential. And for the love of God, let’s please get John Cho in more summer blockbusters.

June 21 2017 1:18 PM

In the New Trailer for Game of Thrones Season 7, the Lone Wolf Dies, but the Pack Survives

The penultimate season of Game of Thrones is drawing nearer, and the battle is heating up. The second trailer for Season 7 shows the forces gathering for the ultimate showdown and incorporates a warning that if Westeros’ various factions fail to get on the same side, the Night King and his armies might prove victorious.

“Don’t fight in the North, or in the South,” warns Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) as Sansa (Sophie Turner) walks away from what looks like Winterfell’s godswood. “Fight every battle, everywhere, always.”

It’s followed by shots of characters—Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow, Arya Stark—turning or moving toward the camera, as if to face what’s coming, while Littlefinger himself lurks in the shadows. Swords are sharpened, gates are raised, dragons fly—in other words, shit is about to go down.

We close with a warning from Sansa, as a group of warriors form an outward-facing circle: “When the snows fall, and the white wind blows, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.”

The trailer doesn’t offer much in the way of revelations, but hey, it’s more exciting than watching ice melt.

Game of Thrones’ new season starts July 16.

*Correction, June 21, 2017: This post originally misspelled character Daenerys Targaryen’s first and last names.

June 21 2017 12:08 PM

A Segment on an Offensive Band Name Shows How The Daily Show Has Become a Voice for People of Color

Trevor Noah’s Daily Show is at its best when it leans on its fieldpieces from its senior correspondents, and, on Tuesday night, Ronny Chieng’s piece on a racially-charged Supreme Court case was proof of that.

In Chieng’s segment, he sits down with the Oregon-based Asian-American rock band who, in an effort to reclaim an anti-Asian slur, named themselves The Slants, and became the subjects of an eight-year long court battle that just recently wrapped up with a Supreme Court caseMatal v. Tam—that ruled in the band’s favor. As Noah points out in the preface to Chieng’s segment, the SCOTUS ruling could mean that Washington’s NFL team could retain their offensive name.

Matal v. Tam was brought about by The Slants’ frontman, Simon Tam, after the band was denied a trademark application on their name by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. Tam explained to Chieng that the PTO claimed that the band couldn’t use “The Slants” because it could be seen as derogatory towards Asians. When the issue was brought to the courts, the patent office’s labyrinthine argument was that the band was “too Asian” to use the name, and that anyone could register “The Slants” as long as they aren’t Asian.

“[The court] said our race provides the context for [the name] being a racial slur,” Tam explained to Chieng.

“So, by protecting you guys against racial discrimination, they’ve actually discriminated against you racially,” Chieng said, trying to break down the court’s core argument. “How the hell does that make any sense?”

Chieng went on to point out that “The Slants” wasn’t even the most offensive name the band could’ve come up with, and suggested a couple of alternative names they could have used, like the Ching and Chong Sing-a-Longs, Gook Face Killas, Wok and Rollers, and Vanilla Rice.

Chieng’s fieldpiece is well-packaged, light on its feet, and pokes fun at Asian stereotypes. At one part of the segment while Chieng is delivering a standup with the band in the background, the camera focuses on every other person in the shot except for Chieng, in a spoof the “all Asians look alike” stereotype. “Can you not tell us apart? The fuck?” Chieng asks.

The piece is another well-produced and funny Daily Show investigation for the consistently funny Chieng who, in the past, has covered things like Jesse Watters’ racist O’Reilly Factor Chinatown segment, America’s voting machines, and selfie culture.

Say what you want about Trevor Noah’s Daily Show, but it has managed to take an institution that was once considered to be the least diverse in late night to being one that, on a good number of nights, offers a much-needed perspective on stories affecting minority communities.

June 21 2017 9:33 AM

A Damon Lindelof Watchmen Series Is in the Works at HBO

Just weeks after finishing The Leftovers, Damon Lindelof is reportedly at work on another project for HBO: a new adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen comics.

According to Deadline, the project is “very premature in the early deal-making phase,” but considering that even Watchmen fans are fairly cool on Zack Snyder’s 2009 feature-film adaptation, another take on the subject matter, especially by someone less invested in the myths the series was created to overturn, is most welcome. Although Snyder himself was involved in an earlier attempt to turn Watchmen into an HBO series, Variety reports that this version is officially Snyder-free.

More than 30 years after Watchmen’s initial run, its influence on contemporary comic-book culture is still hard to overstate. Not only did the series, along with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, set the template for the gritty sensibility that still governs most comic-book movie franchises, but it was part of a wave of comics, also including Art Spiegelman’s Maus and the Hernandez brothers’ Love & Rockets, that made comic books permanently safe for self-respecting adults to read without risking the opprobrium of their high-minded peers. Now that the same thing has happened for series television, a meeting of the mediums seems only fair.

June 21 2017 7:33 AM

In Its Season 3 Finale, Better Call Saul Reached the Point of No Return

My go-to term for describing the languorous pace of Better Call Saul has been “slow burn,” but after the third-season finale, which aired Monday night, any reference to fire now seems in poor taste. “Lantern” ended with Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) sending a gas lantern crashing to the floor of his partially demolished house, followed by a long shot of the flames beginning to spread, and though Saul co-creator Vince Gilligan has a bad history of unintentionally ambiguous season-ending deaths, the interviews that Gilligan’s co-creator, Peter Gould, has done in the episode’s aftermath make it clear that Chuck perishes in the fire.

In retrospect, I should have known Chuck’s story was nearing its end when McKean told me in a recent interview that he doesn’t like to know what’s coming next for his character but in this case he already knew “everything” about what happened to him. But then, warning signs are always easy to see in retrospect. Only a few episodes earlier, Chuck’s prospects seemed to be on the rise; his brother, Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk), might have handed him a defeat in court, but Chuck’s humiliation on the witness stand had the happy byproduct of freeing him from the psychosomatic “condition” that rendered him excruciatingly sensitive to electricity. The lights were back on in his house, and he could make it through a meeting without first requiring everyone in the room to get rid of their cell phones. But Except Jimmy’s further machinations also cost Chuck his law career, a blow struck not in the name of self-preservation but out of spite; with Chuck’s mental illness on the record, the insurance costs for his law firm spiked, and he was forced out by his partner and former protégé. The law was all Chuck had, and then he didn’t have it anymore.

“Lantern” began with a touching flashback to Chuck and Jimmy’s childhood, with the older brother reading his younger brother a story during a backyard campout. The confines of a tent kept them close, and the (retrospectively ominous) lantern glow provided both light and warmth. But much of the episode broke down into a series of two-person conversations in which characters were pushed to the edges of the frame, facing each other but rarely in the same shot, or on the same page. Jimmy reached out to Kim (Rhea Seehorn), who very nearly worked herself into an early grave when she blacked out on the way to a client meeting and drove her car off the road. She’d vowed to devote herself solely to a single client, but with Jimmy’s law license suspended for a year, Kim took his money woes on herself —seeing through his unconvincing assistance that he’d make it through somehow—and nearly died in the process. Neither one of them either noticed that the logo Jimmy designed for their joint office, a combination of the W in her last name and the M in his, took on the shape of a perilously plummeting sales chart. Giving up that office is one of Jimmy’s most noble gestures, and it frees Kim to put some time into healing herself, but you can see the panic beneath Jimmy’s bravado. He needs money to care for the person he loves, and in the world universe of Breaking Bad, that can be an excuse for almost anything.

June 21 2017 12:06 AM

Seth Meyers Analyzes Georgia’s Special Election Without Knowing Who Won

Cable news talking heads are in the business of stringing stock phrases together until it’s time for another Goldline ad, so much so that it doesn’t much matter what’s actually happened: The strategists and consultants on the news circuit will say more or less the same thing. Seth Meyers took that fact to its logical conclusion Tuesday night, taking advantage of his late-afternoon show time to pre-tape election analysis of Tuesday’s special election in Georgia (Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff) before knowing who’d won.

With the help of “Democratic strategist Ben Holland,” Meyers examined the meaning of the election under the assumption Ossoff had won, then re-analyzed the outcome assuming Handel was the victor. First, Holland gives the maximal spin the Democratic Party would have used in victory:

Seth, it is not an overstatement to say that the political world was turned on its head tonight. We always thought this election was the epicenter of the current political moment, and we knew we would win it. Anything short of victory would have been a disappointment.

Then Holland offers the take that’s already being floated by pundits now that Handel’s won:

Seth, we always knew this was going to be a long shot. The fact that Jon Ossoff was even competitive is a major win for the Democratic party. I think the media and pundits placed way more attention on this election than those of us here on the ground.

It’s a great little flowchart of partisan political analysis in 2017, where the news is always good, the party is always winning, and policy outcomes matter not at all.

June 20 2017 11:15 PM

Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller Fired From the Han Solo Star Wars Movie Midshoot

Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the writing and directing team behind 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie, have been fired from the Han Solo Star Wars spinoff film they were directing, Variety reports. The film has been shooting since February but still has several weeks remaining; reshoots are already scheduled for later this summer.

According to Variety, Lord and Miller clashed with producer Kathleen Kennedy and co-writer and executive producer Lawrence Kasdan. The duo wanted more freedom than Kennedy was willing to give them, and after months of fighting, Kennedy fired them. “Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are talented filmmakers who have assembled an incredible cast and crew, but it’s become clear that we had different creative visions on this film, and we’ve decided to part ways,” she said in a statement.

Lord and Miller were equally conciliatory in their statement. “Unfortunately, our vision and process weren’t aligned with our partners on this project,” they said. “We normally aren’t fans of the phrase ‘creative differences’ but for once this cliché is true. We are really proud of the amazing and world-class work of our cast and crew.”

It’s unclear who will be brought in to direct the film or how credit will be divided, since Lord and Miller were in the middle of shooting when they left the project. Deadline suggests that Ron Howard is currently the top choice, although Lawrence Kasdan’s name has also been floated.

The film stars Alden Ehrenreich as a young Han Solo and features Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, and Woody Harrelson. According to Disney, it will open on May 25, 2018, no matter who directs.

June 20 2017 4:25 PM

Trevor Noah Can’t Joke About the Philando Castile Verdict

A lot happened over the weekend, and, on Monday night, Trevor Noah tried his best to make jokes about it all: poking fun at Trump trying to roll back everything Obama did—“[Trump’s presidency] is a series of control-Zs, punctuated by golf weekends”—Trump invoking a miserably bad Spanish accent to pronounce Spanish words during a speech in Miami, and Trump’s surrogates not being able to get straight whether the president is under investigation during their Sunday morning show appearances.

But there was nothing funny about the Philando Castile verdict, and Noah didn’t try to go for laughs. “How does a black person not get shot in America?” Noah asked. “The bar is always moving. The goal post is always shifting. There’s a different thing to explain why the person got shot. Oh, the person was wearing a hoodie. Oh, the person was running away from the police. Oh, no, the person was going toward the police. Oh, no, the person was running around at night ... But at some point you realize there’s no real answer.”

Noah delivered this part of his monologue in a calm but somber tone—a tone that we have seen before from him. It’s the same one he’s employed each time he’s covered an unjust act of police violence on a black life. It’s the same tone he used when talking about Terrence Crutcher, the Chicago police, and Alton Sterling. He doesn’t scream at the camera, sigh with exhausted frustration, or repeatedly jam his pen into his desk as his predecessor might have. Noah is composed, measured, and restrained. It’s emotionally affecting television, and it somehow still manages to effectively convey frustration

Noah went on to point out how the NRA, an organization that claims to seek to protect the rights and lives of legal gun owners in America, has been silent on Castile’s death, the circumstances of which involved a legal gun owner being shot seven times at close range with his girlfriend and her daughter in the car after, upon reaching for his ID, he informed the officer that he was a legal gun owner and was armed. You’d expect that NRA leaderswould lose their “goddamned minds” over this. Too bad, Noah said, the organization’s mission doesn’t seem to extend to black people.

June 20 2017 4:00 PM

Hip-Hop Pays Tribute to Prodigy of Mobb Deep, Dead at 42

The rapper Prodigy, who was one half of the iconic New York hip-hop duo Mobb Deep, has passed away at the age of 42. According to a statement released by Mobb Deep’s publicist, “Prodigy was hospitalized a few days ago in Vegas after a Mobb Deep performance for complications caused by a sickle cell anemia crisis. As most of his fans know, Prodigy battled the disease since birth. The exact causes of death have yet to be determined.”

Prodigy was one of the best rappers to ever do it, and some of hip-hop’s biggest names took to social media to pay their respects.