The internet is ablaze with vitriol for the Academy not nominating Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig for Best Actress and Best Director for ‘Barbie’. One recurring argument is that the motivation behind the omission is sexist. Euronews Culture debunks… Because enough is Kenough.
The Oscar nominations were announced this week, with the critically acclaimed billion-dollar sensation Barbie scoring a total of eight nods including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Ryan Gosling and Best Supporting Actress for America Ferrera.
One of the biggest talking points, however, were Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie being snubbed for Best Director and Best Actress respectively.
Fans wasted no time in taking to social media to share their disbelief and anger. The meltdown mode was galvanized by Barbie stars Gosling and Ferrera, who did not hold back.
In a statement, Gosling said he that “no recognition would be possible for anyone on the film without their (Robbie and Gerwig’s) talent, grit and genius. To say that I’m disappointed that they are not nominated in their respective categories would be an understatement.”
As for Ferrara, she succinctly told Variety: “I was incredibly disappointed that they weren’t nominated.”
For many, snubbing Gerwig and Robbie revealed that the Academy didn’t understand the film at all, highlighting the irony of nominating Ken rather than Barbie, and stressing that the film’s message about the difficulties of women to be recognized for their contributions to a misogynistic society fell on deaf ears.
“It’s still so easy for Hollywood to overlook and discount artistic contributions of women – EVEN WHEN ITS THE POINT OF THE YEAR’S BIGGEST MOVIE!” lamented political strategist Jennifer Palmieri, who served as director of communications in the Obama White House.
Speaking of which, then came Hillary Clinton, whose tweet praising Robbie and Gerwig was roundly mocked online.
Clinton wrote: “Greta & Margot, While it can sting to win the box office but not take home the gold, your millions of fans love you. You’re both so much more than Kenough. #HillaryBarbie.”
Cue comments on how Clinton’s message was “cringy”, that she should be “tried at the Hague”, and that the message had “the stink of loser all over it.” One X user even lamented: “It’s like the whole world is conspiring to make me hate a movie that i saw and ENJOYED.”
Thankfully, there was also some light-hearted support, with the Australian police announcing on Facebook that they’d be “investigating” after Robbie (who is originally from Queensland) was “robbed” at the Oscars.
Granted, because Gerwig and Robbie had been nominated for Best Director and Best Actress at the majority of award ceremonies prior to the Oscars, including the Golden Globes, many assumed that their Oscar nominations would be a done deal.
When the forgone conclusion never materializes, it can be galling. However, does that make their snubs sexist, like many have decried?
Let’s get one thing out of the way.
Barbie is a good film.
It wasn’t the greatest film of 2023 (nor was it Gerwig’s best film – that honour goes to Little Women), but we here at Euronews Culture enjoyed it, and even included it in our end of year list for the Best Movies of 2023. Against all odds, it was not the lazy mash-up of Enchanted and The Lego Movie that it seemed initially, and what could have been a committee-commissioned corporate trap to sell toys under the guise of self-awareness was actually far weirder than anyone could have expected. As such, hats off to Gerwig, who took a figure that remains a weak vessel for empowerment (and even less a feminist icon), subverted assumptions, and managed to lovingly craft an entertaining blockbuster that used a problematic figure to say something – at times in a clunky but fun way – about gender roles in today’s society.
Barbie ’s rollicking success, both critically and at the box office, was deserved and can’t be taken away. Nor can its undeniable cultural impact, which will be remembered – snubs or not.
That said, Barbie ’s two Oscar snubs are not sexist.
To unpack that statement, let’s start with the word ‘snub’.
It was not snubbed. The movie landed 8 nominations, including the coveted Best Film – meaning that Robbie, as a producer, did get a nom. It stands as the fourth most nominated film, behind Oppenheimer (13), Poor Things (11) and Killers of the Flower Moon (10).
Not Kenough? Try this: Despite her directing snub, Gerwig became the first woman to have directed three Best Picture nominated films (Lady Bird, Little Women, Barbie).
Maybe focus on that impressive achievement.
Now comes the sexist part.
It is very easy to call out the Academy, which has faced much merited criticism in recent years over issues related to diversity, and there is empirical evidence that shows women continue to be overlooked.
For example, a 2020 study from Emerson College, written by Kenneth Grout and Owen Eagan, titled “Oscar is a Man: Sexism and the Academy Awards,” found that the winners of the Best Picture category are nearly twice as likely to feature male lead actors.
There is a lot of ground to cover and to make up for, and the patriarchal status quo is still very much a thing. However, it’s plain to see that the 2024 nominations are showing (slow) progress.
For instance, this year marks the first time three films nominated for Best Picture were directed by women: Anatomy of a Fall (Justine Triet), Past Lives (Celine Song) and Barbie.
Baby steps on NyQuil, granted, but it’s the first time it has happened.
Other positive signs include the diverse nature of the nominees in general. For instance, Killers of the Flower Moon star Gladstone made history as the first Indigenous woman to be nominated for Best Actress, and Rustin actor Colman Domingo is the first Afro-Latino to be nominated for Best Actor – and the first openly gay nominee in the category since Ian McKellen for Gods and Monsters 25 years ago.
Yes, the Academy needs to understand that more than one female filmmaker can be recognized at a time, and it remains frustrating that only one (Justine Triet) made the cut this year. But out of the four other nominees, can you argue against Yorgos Lanthimos (Poor Things), Jonathan Glazer (The Zone of Interest), Christopher Nolan (Oppenheimer) and Martin Scorsese (Killers of the Flower Moon) getting picked? No – their direction deserved it, and maybe Academy voters just decided that Gerwig’s paled in comparison. Which is fair.
There are also other directorially snubbed female filmmakers who all arguably deserved a look-in more than Gerwig in terms of craft. Take Celine Song (Past Lives – our top film of 2023); AV Rockwell (A Thousand and One – not a single nomination); Sofia Coppola (Priscilla – not a single nomination); Nida Manzoor (Polite Society – not a single nomination); Raven Jackson (All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt – not a single nomination); Emma Seligman (Bottoms – not a single nomination).
That isn’t saying that Gerwig didn’t direct the absolute plastic out of Barbie. It just means she’s not the only female filmmaker out there who deserved a Best Director slot. And just because her film was highest-grossing film of 2023, taking $1.44 billion worldwide, doesn’t mean she’s automatically owed a nod.
Same goes for Robbie, as there were a lot of great performances this past year. Hers was one of them, but when you look at the shortlisted actresses, it’s hard to argue that she was outshone. Maybe, when it comes down to it, Emma Stone (Poor Things), Sandra Hüller (Anatomy of a Fall), Lily Gladstone (Killers of the Flower Moon), Carey Mulligan (Maestro) and Annette Bening (Nyad) all gave stronger performances…
And to establish a direct Director / Actress 2024 omission parallel, Celine Song and her star Greta Lee are not in the running for Best Director or Best Actress, despite Past Lives, like Barbie, landing a Best Picture nod. Where are their indignant posts on X with the appropriate outraged hashtag?
When it comes down to it, Barbie not getting a Best Director or Best Actress nod is not sexism. It may superficially look like it, but it’s just that the film didn’t make the cut. Simple as that.
“Wait Ryan Gosling got nominated for his role as Ken, but Margot Robbie didn’t get nominated for Barbie?! And Greta got snubbed for Best Director?!?! Way to justify the literal plot of the movie @TheAcademy” wrote one X user.
Yes, the parallel is amusing, but it doesn’t mean that the Academy voters didn’t get it. They just chose differently. And whilst disappointment is understandable, fuelling this outrage takes attention away from the other deserving nominees and their significant accomplishments. It also has the side effect of seeming like a lot of die-hard Barbie fans feel entitled for what isn’t a low-budget indie that deserved more bums in seats but a massive production bankrolled by Warner Bros. and Mattel, one of the largest toy companies in the world. Pick your battles.
“Ken getting nominated and not Barbie is honestly so fitting for a film about a man discovering the power of patriarchy in the Real World” wrote another.
Again, an amusing optic, but no one was complaining about the song ‘I’m Just Ken’, sung in the film by Ken (Gosling), becoming the most viral clip from the film and borderline eclipsing the rest of the soundtrack. Barbie is about fighting the patriarchy, but no one raised a red flag when audiences celebrated the film by embracing the accidental representation of the patriarchy with his theme song and those beloved jumpers.
“Greta Gerwig made a film that was critically acclaimed, culturally impactful, hilarious, unique, visually exceptional, perfectly cast and acted, left people laughing, crying and thinking AND made a billion dollars at the box office. But no Best Director nom?!”
It’s a fun film and has impacted many. More power to it. But it’s just tough luck that Barbie didn’t exist in a release schedule vacuum; other films marked 2023 too. Also, box office numbers shouldn’t be a factor. Awards should be based on merit, not intake. And certainly not messaging. When that happens, Crash and Green Book win awards. And we don’t want that again. Just because a film rightly takes a few swings at the patriarchy, doesn’t automatically make it an awards contender. (Although we’re really hoping that Poor Things wins as many Golden Baldies as possible – as we wrote in our review, “If Barbie gently poked the patriarchal bear last year, Bella makes the imperious ursine her bitch.”)
People are just upset because Gerwig and Robbie weren’t nominated in the categories that they wanted. It’s awards nominations – therefore sometimes random and harsh by their eliminatory nature.
As Whoopi Goldberg said, commenting on the backlash against the Academy after the nominations: “Everybody doesn’t win – you don’t get everything you want to get,” adding: “Not everybody gets a prize, and it is subjective. Movies are subjective. The movies you love may not be loved by the people who are voting.”
The Oscars have shown in the past that they are capable of some very baffling and downright awful decisions, but the 2024 nominations are broadly irreproachable. It’s a shame the categories couldn’t include more names, but in the five-names-per-section limit, they’ve done rather well this year.
So, let’s not make these two trending omissions something they’re not. Let’s attempt to be normal about Barbie – once and for all. It has had its glorious, frenzied moment. Can we please be civilized now? Best to save our energy for celebrating the talent that was nominated this year – in front of and behind the camera – and stock up on our righteous outrage for actual unjust snubs, which may reveal the film industry’s lingering sexism.
All that said, we hope Barbie doesn’t go home empty-handed when Oscar night comes around. It won’t. We’re betting it’ll nab Best Song, Best Production Design, Best Costume, and potentially Best Adapted Screenplay.
But when it comes to the nominations, was its exclusion from two top categories sexist? No. Don’t be Barbie-lieving all the comments you read online.
The 96th Academy Awards take place on 10 March, with talk show host Jimmy Kimmel presenting the awards. And yes, Barbie ’s Barbenheimer portmanteau pal Oppenheimer will doubtlessly run away with it. We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for Poor Things nonetheless.