Neve Campbell is the Scream franchise’s original “scream queen,” starring as Sidney Prescott in five of the slasher films. However, she isn’t returning for Scream 6 — and her reason why goes deeper than you think.

Neve Campbell starred the Scream films from the beginning, playing Sidney Prescott, the repeated target of the Ghostface killers. She’s not merely the cornerstone of an ever-changing cast, but also central to what makes the franchise what it is. That’s why fans were shocked when Campbell announced in June that she won’t return for Scream 6.

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With such an important role, and five other Scream movies to her credit, what led Campbell to call it quits? It had nothing to do with the franchise itself, and everything to do with Campbell recognizing her own value.

Why Neve Campbell Won’t Return for Scream 6

Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott in Scream (2022)
Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott in Scream (2022)

Campbell’s decision not to return for the sixth Scream, set for release in 2023, hinged on a public salary dispute. The pay offered “did not equate to the value I have brought to the franchise,” Campbell said earlier this month..

But the issue is about more than just money. It’s a matter of principle, rooted in Hollywood’s gender pay gap. “I couldn’t walk on set feeling that – feeling undervalued and feeling the unfairness,” Campbell said, “or lack of fairness, around that.”

Campbell was 23 when Scream premiered in 1996. Before that, she was known for the teen horror film The Craft and for the TV series Party of Five. By the time of the second and third Scream films, Campbell was recognized for her work in drama and horror. Since then, she’s become a modern horror icon. Doesn’t she deserve to get paid like one?

What Neve Campbell’s Scream 6 Decision Says About Hollywood Sexism

Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox in Scream (2022)
Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox in Scream (2022)

It would be naïve to think Hollywood isn’t subject to the same pay gaps common in other industries. While we’ve certainly made advances in gender equality, it hasn’t been nearly enough to close the gap in wages.

A 2020 study by labor economist John Heywood found female stars make about $1 million less per film than their male counterparts. The research also determined ageism came into play in that women, on average, had shorter Hollywood careers. What’s implied is that our perception of beauty is relative to age when it comes to women, but not so much in men.

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Now, let’s take apply those findings to Campbell, who isn’t the only horror heroine who feels she’s underpaid. Jamie Lee Curtis, who starred in the Halloween films, also claimed to not make much money off of the franchise. “The industry has no problem when a man makes millions of dollars on something that’s a franchise,” Curtis told Variety. “But then if a woman says, ‘Well, I would like that same piece of the pie,’ I think people would think you’re being greedy, or not being grateful. As if somehow we as women have to be just grateful for the opportunity.”

Campbell shared similar sentiments with People magazine. “As a woman in this business, I think it’s really important for us to be valued and to fight to be valued,” she said. “I honestly don’t believe that if I were a man and had done five installments of a huge blockbuster franchise over 25 years, that the number that I was offered would be the number that would be offered to a man.”

What Neve Campbell Teaches Us About Personal Value

Neve Campbell in Scream (2022)
Neve Campbell in Scream (2022)

Pay gaps and sexism in Hollywood aren’t new concepts, but definitely an ancient way of thinking. We assume we are more progressive as a society than we actually are. In truth, sexism still exists. Racism still exists. Ableism, discrimination, and so much more, remain prevalent.

But beyond the discrepancy in pay, the issue lies more with valuing ourselves. Campbell was offended by the offer, not because of greed, but because she knew the value she brings to the franchise. Like Curtis pointed out, many view women who ask for more money as greedy. However, in reality, they’re simply asking for what they believe they deserve. Campbell feels that her pay should reflect the 25 years she spent as the star of the Scream franchise. The fact that Campbell will be missed in Scream 6 is testament to how much she brought to the series.

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While fans are disappointed by Campbell’s absence, there’s something to be said for acknowledging what we bring to the table, and not allowing others to dictate our worth. Campbell refused to sell herself short, and stood by her talent and experience. That helps to teach everyone a lesson about not settling for anything less than we deserve. Campbell is showing young women to not only be aware of gender pay gaps, but to also be active participants in the change we want to see.

“It’s been a very difficult decision to move on,” Campbell said. “To all my Scream fans, I love you. You’ve always been so incredibly supportive to me. I’m forever grateful to you and to what this franchise has given me over the past 25 years.”

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