Apparently, Barbie Can Be President and an Astronaut — But Not Best Director

Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie were snubbed out of Best Director and Best Actress nominations at the 2024 Oscars. Do you guys ever think about dying?

<p>Getty Images/ InStyle</p>

Getty Images/ InStyle

Awards season traditionally honors prestigious, critically-acclaimed films from revered men like Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese. So the prospect of Barbie—a runway fan-favorite marketed toward anyone who once identified as a Barbie girl in a Barbie world—earning serious accolades was a tough sell to begin with. That's why the film's paltry two award wins at the Golden Globes was disappointing, but not shocking. However, the latest snub—this time from the Oscars—cuts much deeper.

On Jan. 23, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released its list of nominees for the 2024 Oscars. For Barbie fans, the results were bittersweet: The film received a respectable eight nominations, including the highest honor, a Best Picture nod. However, the two women at the helm of Barbie, director Greta Gerwig and lead actress Margot Robbie, were shut out of their respective nomination categories.

Of course, good directors and actors get overlooked all the time. (Yes, even when the film itself is recognized.) But never have snubs been so simultaneously antithetical to, and, ironically, illustrative of, the point of the film being snubbed. Barbie poignantly portrayed how women are chronically sidelined and neglected due to the deeply ingrained patriarchal structures that hold up our world—no matter how smart, talented, or capable they are.

<p>Warner Bros.</p>

Warner Bros.

America Ferrera all but spelled this message out in her impassioned monologue about womanhood near the climax of the film. And while Ferrera is rightfully nominated as a Best Supporting Actress for her performance, the exclusion of Gerwig and Robbie—the two main women who brought this film’s message to life—feels like an out of touch oversight at best, and a statement about how the Oscars views women-led films at worst.

The irony that Ryan Gosling earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination amid these snubs wasn’t lost on fans. Gosling undeniably crushed as Ken, but the fact that the Academy recognized his work while passing over Gerwig’s and Robbie’s hit a little too close to (Mojo Dojo Casa) home. As soon as the categories were announced, memes of Gosling looking confused and Barbie having an existential crisis flooded X (formerly Twitter). “They really just snubbed Greta Gerwig and Margot Robie for Barbie while nominating Ryan Gosling for playing Ken. Patriarchy in a nutshell,” one fan posted. Another wrote, “Nominating Ken but not Barbie is so utterly on the nose that it feels like the Academy is helping them set up the opening jokes of the bigger budget sequel.”

<p>Courtesy Warner Bros.</p>

Courtesy Warner Bros.

As Barbie’s director, Gerwig transformed a larger-than-life concept into a film that was both whimsical and grounded, transporting viewers into a world that was surreal yet so real. Her distinct choices made Barbie the cultural phenomenon it is today. Under Gerwig’s guidance, Barbie inspired audiences to laugh, sob, question their existence, and break up with their low-key misogynistic partners. If that doesn’t make for an outstanding achievement in directing, what does?

Maybe it was all just too pink for voters. The Oscars have a long, messy history of not recognizing women directors. The Academy has only ever nominated eight women in the Best Director category; of them, only three have won. Gerwig is among this year’s record-breaking three women directors who have films nominated in the Best Picture category… but only one of them, Anatomy of a Fall’s Justine Triet, is nominated for directing. (Past Lives director Celine Song rounds out this trio.)

Contrary to Gerwig, Robbie didn’t have quite the gender hurdle to face, since her would-be category is reserved just for women. However, this only makes her snub more perplexing! Robbie wasn’t just the face of Barbie; she was the heart of it. She started the film dazzling and delightful as one of the world’s most ubiquitous symbols of femininity, taking audiences along on her journey to discovering the joys and horrors of the real world, and culminated with a stunning and surprisingly subtle portrayal of what it means not just to be a woman, but a human.

As a small consolation, both Robbie and Gerwig are nominated in other categories—Best Picture for Robbie, alongside the other producers on the film, and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) for Gerwig, alongside her partner, Noah Baumbach—so they still have the chance to take the stage on Oscars night. But the snubs for each woman in the categories where they made their most visible contributions to the film, and in the categories where they would have stood alone as sole nominees, feels especially egregious. In a post-Barbie movie world, it’s not enough for women to only get some of what they’re worth.

Just 17 days after its July 2023 release, Barbie surpassed $1 billion at the box office. While Gerwig and Robbie may not get the recognition they deserve, at least they’re getting their bag.

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