Are you kidding me? No.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Agent Scully is what makes The X-Files worth watching. While the show is about an FBI duo tracking down supernatural crimes, Agent Dana Scully (played by Gillian Anderson) is the stand-out character whose level head and no-bullshit attitude holds the show together. Watching reruns of the show today, Agent Fox Mulder (played by David Duchovny) comes off as an egotistical jerk.
So imagine my horror today when I learned that Gillian Anderson was initially offered half as much money as David Duchovny to co-star in Fox’s six-episode revival of the show, which premieres this Sunday. The keywords there are “co-star” and “half.” Half as much money! Anderson first disclosed the issue in The Hollywood Reporter and brought it up again this week with The Daily Beast. “I’m surprised that more [interviewers] haven’t brought that up because it’s the truth,” Anderson told reporter Melissa Leon. “Especially in this climate of women talking about the reality of [unequal pay] in this business, I think it’s important that it gets heard and voiced. 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…. It is sad.” Anderson and Duchovny eventually negotiated to be paid equally for the revival—but it is sad.
Agents Mulder and Scully get equal space on the promo poster for The X-Files revival… why not equal pay?
It can seem a little absurd to feel sad for actors who are taking home millions of dollars for their work while the race- and gender-based wage gap persists in every single state. Many, many women are systematically underpaid for their work, and the results are disastrous—women are much more likely to be living in poverty than men, particularly women who are the sole breadwinners for their families. Many women will never earn over a lifetime what a Hollywood A-lister earns for one film. But whether Anderson and Duchovny are making one million dollars or 10 million dollars for The X-Files (the amount they’re paid hasn’t been disclosed), the principle at work here is the same: women’s work is undervalued. The production team behind The X-Files thinks they can get Gillian Anderson for a bargain rate. Gillian Anderson who is currently kicking ass on The Fall. Gillian Anderson who was Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier on Hannibal. Gillian Anderson who defined the art of the condescending smirk for an entire generation. They think she’s worth half of what David Duchovny is. Because, why? They’re fans of Californication? Maybe they admired his performance more in Evolution? (Let’s just look at that film’s poster one more time for posterity.)
Good on Anderson for negotiating for equal pay. It’s great that she could. Unlike a lot of Americans, she had both the clout to negotiate without the threat of being fired and the knowledge that she was being underpaid. A lot of workers are legally banned from discussing their salaries with others, so it’s hard for people to know they’re being underpaid. The American Association of University Women and other groups trying to end the race- and gender-based wage gap support federal legislation called the Fair Pay Act, which would ban companies from having these “gag orders” that stop employees from discussing pay. The reasons for the pay gap do not make for mysterious case that Mulder and Scully would need to solve—this is straight-forward discrimination.