On the 15th of October, Hellena Taylor, the voice actress for Bayonetta, posted some videos on Twitter and created a massive controversy by claiming that Nintendo, the publisher, only offered her 4,000$ for her work on Bayonetta 3. She was so mad that she asked the fans to boycott the game and give the money to charity instead.
Now, if you follow the industry news, you have probably heard from here and there that many people who work in the industry complain about being overworked and underpaid. According to statistics by UNI Global Union, 66% of Video game workers believe they are underpaid.
Sporadic news is also about voice actors and animators not being paid enough for their work in other fields. Basically, the general consensus is that the entertainment industry treats its talents like crap unless they have reached celebrity status. And sometimes, not even then.
So considering how prevalent this assumption is, it’s no wonder that Hellena Taylor’s attack against Bayonetta developers (Platinum Games and Nintendo) was like throwing a lit match to a TNT warehouse.
There’s much emotionality in Hellena’s videos. She acts as a freedom fighter, fighting against the tyranny of mega-corporations. She says: “I understand that boycotting this game is a personal choice, and there are those who won’t .. that’s fine. But if you’re someone who cares about people .. who cares about who gets hurt by these financial decisions? Then I urge you to boycott this game. I decided to do it to stand up in solidarity with people all over the world who do not get paid properly for their talents. Fat cats cream off the top and leave us the rotten crumbs.”
She’s quite the wordsmith, isn’t she?
Well, the initial reaction was supportive. Since everyone knew – to some degree – that talents don’t get paid that well by the entertainment industry, her accusation was taken very seriously, especially considering how determined and serious she seemed to burn all the bridges behind her. Many people pointed out Nintendo’s past shadiness, and some people claimed that they canceled their pre-order for Bayonetta 3. However, there are always two sides to a story. Three days later, Jason Schreier posted a Twitter Thread and shared an article he wrote on Bloomsberg, explaining that what Hellena Taylor said was – frankly – a lie based on evidence provided by people who were familiar with the deal. Essentially, she was not offered 4000$, but 15000$ and the reason the deal didn’t go through was that she was asking for a six-figure salary, a salary that Nintendo was not willing to pay, so they hired someone else – Jennifer Hale, who is a much bigger name and most definitely was not hired with low pay.
Of course, in an email to Bloomberg, she called this claim a lie and an attempt by the publisher to save their ass and the game. Also, she said she wants to move on from this “bloody” franchise and get on with theater, but that’s such an irresponsible response after starting this whole fiasco in the first place. Many people got harassed because of her claim, especially Hale, who had to put out a statement. Lady, you are the one who called people to boycott this game. You are knee-deep in this shit. You can’t just call it quits.
I know that in this time and age, we might prefer to think that mega-corporations are the devil and that any complaint against them is justified. Still, if Taylor was truly lying, this anti-corporation sentiment can be easily abused. As Schreier himself pointed out: “It’s unlikely that the full story will get as much traction or as many eyeballs as the original Twitter videos, which (imo) raises some interesting questions about pleas to emotion and how information is disseminated in the social media age.”
Now at this point, we don’t have rock-solid proof about anything. It’s one of those “he said-she said” scenarios. But there were some interesting takes on Twitter about the issue that I like to give my thoughts on:
۱. The “Supply and Demand” Argument
While I understand “supply and demand” and all that, this is a wrong take. If there’s an industry-wide unfair treatment of workers and talents in any way, it’s the moral duty of those workers and talents to object to the situation rather than just take the rotten crumbs people at the top leave for them. If Hellena Taylor’s claim was the truth, her act would have been nothing short of brave and necessary. 4000$ would have been too low for a game like Bayonetta 3.
۲. The “Boycotting is Unfair to Other Workers” Argument
While I agree the call for a boycott was a bit extreme and self-entitled on her part, it doesn’t put anyone at risk apart from the publisher because everyone else is paid beforehand for their work.
۳. The “Voice Acting Is Easy, So the Pay Should be Low” Argument
This argument does not consider that some jobs become relatively easy to perform because you have to spend years developing the talent to do them. Voice acting is one of them. It’s wrong to look at it as just sitting in a room and reading lines as if anyone could do that.
Also, in her videos, Taylor claimed that Bayonetta’s identity is tied to hers as if she is the real deal and the other voice actress is an imposter. It’s interesting to consider how much a voice actor should be credited for giving identity to a character. Still, if we’re being fair, the answer is not much if Taylor could be replaced with Hale without too much problem.
So the ultimate question is: who’s right in this scenario? Taylor recently posted another Twitter thread low-key confirming that she lied in her original video by leaving out critical information: she was offered 10,000$ at first, and after making an appeal to Hideki Kamiya, her offer was increased to 15,000$. After she declined that, a month later, the following offer was 4,000$ to “voice some lines.”
Was Hellena Taylor’s work worth more than 15,000$? That’s debatable. What’s not open to debate is that she purposefully left out this critical piece of information that would definitely impact how people view her claims. In the fight against unfairness towards creative talents in the entertainment industry, BayonettaGate was not a step forward but a step back.
However, we should not let one unfortunate incident distract us from the fact that there’s an industry-wide problem when it comes to paying creative talents. This problem becomes more noteworthy when we focus on the crazy 7-figure payments celebrities receive when they do voice acting. The same job could be done by a professional voice actor just as good, if not better, and a fraction of that 7-figure salary could change the lives of many creative talents if distributed among them. Unfortunately, the people who do creative work are usually introverts who are not the best at job negotiations. It’s easy for the industry to rip them off and call it “industry standard.” Regardless of the Bayonetta situation, the campaign towards better pay and work conditions for creative types should continue, and awareness should be raised about unfair treatment. Just don’t do what Hellena Taylor did. Please give us all the facts from the beginning.
(Photo Credit: Nintendo Bayonetta 3)