Actors are an incredibly important part of a lot of media. A good performance can make or break a character, and depending on how important that character is to the story, it could make or break the entire thing. It doesn’t matter how good your script is if you don’t have the right people to bring it to life.
Animated media is an entirely different beast. Whether it’s a movie or a video game or an anime, they rely heavily on the voice cast. Acting is one thing, and voice acting another one entirely. While certain aspects of each skill set translates into the other, being a good actor does not inherently make a good voice actor, and vice versa. As such, voice actors deserve a lot of kudos.
Kudos that they do not get. Not just from fans who don’t think about where the voices of their favorite characters come from. But from the studios that employ them.
Voice actors are severely underpaid and mistreated. Despite their massive contributions to the projects they work on, studios tend to treat them no better than the dirt beneath their boots. It’s a truly disgusting situation that has always been bad and only seems to be getting worse as time goes on.
The first major issue is the simplest: pay. A lot of highly talented voice actors are given penny scraps for their performances. Not just by acting standards; this isn’t rich people complaining about not making rich people wages. These people are sometimes being paid less than you’d get from a minimum wage job!
For example, let’s look at the film Jujutsu Kaisen 0. Anairis Quiñones, the English voice of Rika, reportedly received a grand total of $150 for her performance. In a more recent case, let’s look at the Bayonetta video game series; voice actress Hellena Taylor, the voice behind the leading lady herself, was offered a grand sum of $4000 for the entire game. Neither Anairis nor Hellena were offered residuals, meaning that neither one would receive royalty payments for the success of either Jujutsu Kaisen 0 or Bayonetta 3.
To put into perspective how disgusting that is: I made more money in one day washing dishes than Anairis did for her entire performance. In three months of work, I made more than Hellena would have for Bayonetta. These ladies would have been better off working at a fucking McDonald’s than they would voicing characters in multi-million dollar projects.
The second major issue is workers rights. Voice actors aren’t typically given rights such as health care or other such insurances while they work for a studio. That’s why voice acting unions and union contracts are so important in their line of work; those insure that they have the necessary rights they need while they’re working a voice acting gig. Problem is, a lot of studios do not sign union contracts.
For example, let’s look at Mob Psycho 100. English voice actor Kyle McCarley, the voice of Mob, wanted his work for the third season to be under a union contract. He didn’t even ask for increased pay, just the benefits that he felt he and the rest of the cast deserved. Crunchyroll, the producers of the English dub, refused, which led to Kyle walking from the project. He’s since tried to get the executives to sit down with him for a meeting, but no news has come of it. Since the third season has already began and the English dub is simulcasting, it’s reasonable to assume Kyle’s efforts were ignored.
Finally, we come to issue number three: voice actors are treated as lesser. A lot of executives act as though voice actors aren’t real actors because they specialize in vocal performances. As such, when it comes time to cast a new animated feature, they’ll hire big name performers who specialize in more traditional acting.
You need look no further than the upcoming Super Mario movie. Rather than hiring the supremely talented Charles Martinet, the actual voice actor for Mario, the executives at Illumination and Nintendo instead decided to go for Chris Pratt. Was this because Pratt’s voice was the better pick? As we learned in the new trailer: no. It doesn’t even sound like the man is trying. They picked him because he’s a recognizable big name in Hollywood and they think that will sell tickets.
Sad thing is: I guarantee he got paid more for his lazy Brooklyn accent than any of the voice actors I listed in this entire article have been paid for any of their work.
None of these problems are new. They’ve plagued the industry for decades now. But as they’ve gone more or less unaddressed, they haven’t ever been fixed. In fact, they’ve been getting worse.
Thankfully, voice actors are starting to become more vocal about their mistreatment, as we saw in just about all the cases listed above. The first step towards fixing all of these issues is bringing them to light. That way, fans can fully understand what goes on behind the scenes and take appropriate action to make the studio executives notice.
Which is all to say…
Boycott Bayonetta 3. Donate to charity, buy yourself a nice dinner, whatever you want. Just don’t buy the game. Because in the end, nothing speaks louder than where you put your money.
We’re living in a Capitalist dystopia and I hate it.
One response to “The Disgustingly Unfair Treatment of Voice Actors”
Update on the Helena Taylor situation:
According to a few sources, she was actually offered $3-4k per session, with 5 sessions total. This would amount to $15-20k for the whole game, much higher than the industry standard for voice actors. However, Helena reportedly demanded six figures and walked when her demands were not met.
Whether or not this is true is still yet to be confirmed. I will simply present you all with both sides of the argument and let you ponder on it. From now on, I’ll try not to be so quick with making judgements and presenting incomplete information.
The overall point of the article still stands, but that one example is a bit more complicated than expected.