With a number of Barbie supporters tweeting lyrics of Taylor Swift’s The Man, nominated supporting actress and actor America Ferrera and Ryan Gosling posting about their disappointment, and tabloids publishing their think pieces about the snubbing “proving the movie’s point”, it is apparent that the non-nomination of both Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig won’t be let go of without a fight.
Barbie (2023) was one of the most highly anticipated films since the general public heard of its production. Barbie itself has been the most popular doll since time immemorial, and without a doubt, a live-action film of a lot of girls’ and boys’ favorite toy would be flocked around by everyone, longing to know what Greta Gerwig has to say about it and how she’s going to say it. With a star-studded ensemble cast and Gerwig’s known excellence in her filmography particularly covering feminist narratives, Barbie (2023) ended up being the most successful film of the year, grossing over $1.3 billion in tickets globally.
Because of the highly positive reception of the film, everyone was already expecting its domination in the Oscars. And in a shocking turn of events, Miss Barbie herself, Margot Robbie, was not nominated for Best Actress, and neither was Greta Gerwig for Best Director.
A lot of people dubbed Robbie’s and Gerwig’s lack of nomination as unfeminist. After all, a movie that was literally about introducing and deconstructing the patriarchy in a world full of pink really resonated with a lot of women and men living in a world where the conflict of the film is the default. While it received criticism for Mattel perpetuating harmful standards to women since the first Barbie doll was released in 1959 and for the movie only scratching the surface of feminism, it did give Feminism 101 to a lot, and especially to children. Even if the movie was underwhelming for me, I do know that America Ferrera’s speech made some of my friends cry, and a film can only go as far as how it touches people.
But enough about Barbie’s marriage to capitalism and the film both working and not working for individuals. Was the snubbing of the two most important women in the film a disservice to feminism?
It’s not. If anything, the discourse around it averts the attention to the actual wins of women in the lineup of nominees at the 96th Academy Awards. For the first time ever, we’re very close to the possibility of getting the first Native American win at the Oscars with Lily Gladstone’s nomination for best actress. And instead of this milestone for indigenous women being covered by multiple headlines, the talk of the town is the complaint about white women who have long been globally recognized. Lily Gladstone’s Oscar nomination is landscape-defining, just as Michelle Yeoh’s win as the first Asian Best Actress last year was.
The cast of Barbie are also giving their two cents on their social media platforms regarding the issue, including America Ferrera herself who just received her first Oscar nomination despite being in the industry for two decades. It’s a sad sight to see how her success as a woman of color in a supporting role in the movie is ultimately overlooked to discuss the unnecessary justice the general public is asking for Robbie and Gerwig.
There are 10 nominees for Best Picture, and only 5 for Best Actress and Best Director. It is clear how both women poured their hearts out in what they did for Barbie, but their absence in the lineup was not a loss, but a gain for other women to get their chance to be under the spotlight. Recognition for women who aren’t that established in the industry yet will bring them wonders, as Twitter user @awards_watch said, “Paraphrasing Viola Davis, an award or a nomination is almost meaningless if it doesn’t turn into opportunities.”
No award show or critic can define what a meaningful film should be to you. Even if Barbie or its cast don’t end up winning these awards (or aren’t nominated), this doesn’t take away the subjective value of media and its personal relationship with each of its audience. Regardless, the movement continues to progress with the new faces of the women in marginalized communities the Academy is amplifying, further grounding the fact that feminism is non-negotiably intersectional.