Dynasty was an American TV soap opera that aired worldwide between 1981 and 1989. Created by Richard and Esther Shapiro who were a real powerhouse of its day, and produced by Aaron Spelling, one of the most prolific producers in the US TV history.
The story revolved around the uber wealthy oil magnate Blake Carrington, his second wife Krystle, his children, and equally affluent the Colby family whose never-ending quest was to surpass the Carringtons in their success and prosperity.
The series was a huge success all around the world. But not right from the start.
The first season met with a lukewarm reception from the audience and mixed reviews from the critics, and nearly got cancelled. Then one day the Shapiros and Spelling came across Joan Collins, a British star who joined the cast of Dynasty for the subsequent eight seasons as Alexis, Blake’s first wife, Krystle’s nemesis, and in essence the driving force behind the success of Dynasty from then onwards. Big shoulder pads, marvellous designer clothes, fast cars, mountains of caviar, gallons of champagne, lavish productions sets paired with Joan’s talent had all helped to push Dynasty into the stratosphere of the soap opera world.
Against the backdrop of her clearly evident talent and influence, Collins had unsurprisingly embarked on years-long negotiation campaign for a pay review to be put her on the same path as John Forsythe, her lead partner playing Blake in Dynasty.
It’s taken Collins seven years, but she had finally succeeded in getting pay parity with Forsythe to $120k per episode. Unfortunately, her euphoria was not long-lived as very shortly she was informed that although she was going to receive her pay increase, Spelling could only afford to pay her for ten out of the twenty episodes of the closing season of the show. Surprisingly, Forsythe was contracted to feature in all twenty episodes. Collins was left puzzled: on the one hand she was called the highest paid TV actress in history, and yet, she was forced to go ‘part-time’ by her employer on the other hand.
I like to think that we have made much needed progress since the late 1980s and are continuously striving to maintaining pay equality between sexes and genders.
In the US, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was set up as a federal law prohibiting wage discrimination based on sex and requires that men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work. The jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal. Job content (not job titles) determines whether jobs are substantially equal. All forms of pay are covered by this law, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and benefits.
In the UK, the Equal Pay Act 1970 was introduced to prohibit any less favourable treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment. The Act was based on the Equal Pay Act of 1963 of the United States and has now been mostly superseded by the Equality Act 201, which gives both women and men the right to equal pay for equal work, with women and men being legally entitled to be paid at the same rate for like work, work rated as equivalent, and work of equal value.
I cannot but think that Dynasty was exceptionally successful at entertaining some many people around the world, and following from Esther Shapiro that it’s ”done important things for women with Dynasty, for middle-aged women, to let them know that it was OK to want power and be romantic.” Yet, in the light of the above legislations, the Shapiros and Spelling failed to uphold equal pay among their cast.
This year’s International Women’s Day campaign theme is focused around building a gender equal world that is free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. One that is diverse and inclusive where differences are valued and celebrated.
We all have a role to plan so that collectively we can #BreakTheBias