The Judy Greer Effect
I have to be honest, I’m not sure how many people – even culture vultures like myself – are on a first name basis with Judy Greer. I’ve long had a sort of hobby of knowing the second or third leads in film, and Judy Greer isn’t just one of those people, she’s the defining characteristic of those people. She’s been in dozens of movies for years, but she’s totally anonymous. Hell, she wrote a book called I Don’t Know What You Know Me From, and I don’t know anyone who’s read it besides me.
This article is a response to Judy Greer articulately writing about the wage gap in Glamour. She points out that male actors she worked with in the beginning, when she was coming up, make much, much more than her now – and she’s wondering how to close that distance.
So I guess the questions are how come and now what?
For me, How Come is harder to come by. Judy Greer is talented and really, really funny. She’s a talent that’s going to waste. And before you get on me about ‘glamour’ or ‘charisma’, well, glamour is usually purchased with an A-list stylist. Nobody looked at Jennifer Lawrence on that sitcom she was on and went ‘oh, that’s clearly an Oscar winner and face of a fashion line’, and Judy Greer is great in interviews, but she’s not getting the 10,000 hours of experience that, say, an Anna Kendrick has at being charming in the chair. Not yet.
The other part of ‘how come’, especially the part about her counterparts getting more and better work, is, of course, because they’re men, and there are always roles for men that are real “actor” roles, charged with character and choices and opportunities to show off your range (and thereby they get offered better stuff), whereas there are a lot of roles for women that are, you know, the six-line wife. The admonishing sister. “Hey, are you sure that guy’s a good idea?” I mean, someone’s got to deliver that line, but if it’s a brother, that guy is going to wind up having a goofy subplot, I promise you.
Which brings us to Now What. It’s so easy to go, “Well, complain then. Speak up! Or don’t take the parts”. But that’s not reasonable for someone who’s trying to pay her mortgage. “Stop acting!” I think that’s what a lot of women do. Maybe because there are no roles for women over 40, and the ones that are available are written for Meryl Streep.
“Well, go to TV! Head to TV!” Judy Greer is in a series called Married, on FX, and I haven’t seen it and neither have you because there’s no time and it hasn’t been promoted as heavily as, say, Mad Men.
But the awesome upshot of this is that Greer basically says she’s got nothing to lose. That she’ll risk being thought of as ‘difficult’ so that she can demand more money for the roles she plays. Which should be only reasonable, but in today’s ridiculous world, is actually BADASS. Which should make you like her more, which should make you more interested in the projects she makes which will make them more money which drives up her quote and has her star in more things. I know – I get it. You’re spending enough time on your own career without worrying about someone else’s.
But there are precious few ways to change the things we see onscreen, and a lack of women is one of the most egregious. The easiest way to vote is with your money, and every time something like Pitch Perfect 2 breaks the box office, a tried-and-true rule becomes a lie. I am all for making most of those rules, the ones that say ‘guys don’t see girls’ movies’ and unf*ckable women a long-gone lie, aren’t you?