Arts & Culture

Was ‘Barbie’ Snubbed…By the Patriarchy?

Neither Greta Gerwig nor Margot Robbie got nominated in their respective Oscar categories.

Oscar nominations were announced yesterday and the Academy sent what can best be described as mixed messages when it came to the smash hit Barbie.

On the one hand, the film was nominated for Best Picture (yay!). Additionally, Ryan Gosling was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his funny (and oddly touching) depiction of Ken and, in a bit of a surprise, America Ferrera, who gave that memorable speech about the double standards women must navigate in this life, was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. All told, Barbie managed eight nominations, including two for Best Song and one for Production Design.

But there were two rather glaring omissions. Greta Gerwig, the woman who directed and co-wrote the film (with her husband, Noah Baumbach), was not nominated for Best Director. And Margot Robbie, who gave a pitch-perfect turn as Barbie, was snubbed in the Best Actress category.

Reaction on X (formerly Twitter) was fast and furious—as reactions on X tend to be.

“Ryan getting a nomination but Margot [not getting one] just proves the plot of Barbie,” wrote user @phobicgay, echoing the sentiment of many online.

“So the plot of Barbie 2 is going to start with today?” quipped Elie Mystal, justice reporter at The Nation.

“Greta Gerwig being snubbed at the Oscars despite Barbie being the only $1 billion movie solely directed by a woman feels very sus to me…” said user @zacidk.

Even Gosling himself weighed in, releasing a statement in which he expressed his gratitude for the nomination, but added how sad he was that his colleagues weren’t similarly honored. “To say I’m disappointed…would be an understatement,” Gosling wrote.

So what gives? Were Gerwig and Robbie snubbed? And is the patriarchy to blame?

The answer, unsurprisingly, is that it’s complicated.

Let’s start with Robbie’s “snub” first. One thing you have to know about the Oscars is that it’s very hard for a comedic performance to land in one of those two “Best Lead” categories. This has to do with a flawed belief that dramatic acting is the only true form of acting and comedic performances are somehow unworthy of Oscar’s highest honors.

It’s a ridiculous notion, one that should be lambasted as much as possible, but it’s pretty entrenched in Oscar’s DNA. Supporting acting awards are where comedy performances can occasionally (albeit rarely) sneak in—see Melissa McCarthy’s nod for Bridesmaids or Robert Downey Jr.’s for Tropic Thunder. Which might explain why Gosling and Ferrera got nominated, but not Robbie. (Also, tellingly, Ferrera gives a pretty straight performance in that film. She’s giving us emotional realism, not broad, physical comedy.)

Gerwig’s “snub” is a little more complicated. Many have noted that Justine Triet—a woman—was nominated for Best Director for Anatomy of a Fall (my second favorite film of the year)—and since she got the nod it proves that THE ACADEMY CAN’T BE SEXIST!

I think that’s a bit facile. Here’s my take on Gerwig’s omission: I think if she were a man, say Gary Gerwig, who had taken a completely amorphous concept—a film about G.I. Joe acknowledging his own role in the patriarchy, for example—and turned it into the cinematic event of the year, a certain mythology would’ve formed around him. The Great Man Theory would’ve taken root and Gary Gerwig would be seen as an auteur of the highest order, a mastermind, a colossus. Obviously, I can’t say for sure that Gary Gerwig would’ve gotten nominated for G.I. Joe, but I have a hunch he might have.

On the other hand, directors of comedic films have often fallen into the same trap that actors have. Their work, no matter how masterful, is seen as trivial compared to those who make films about atomic bombs and the Holocaust.

So, in short, I’d say that those who believe Gerwig and crew were wrongly snubbed and those who say “jeez, not everything is about the patriarchy!” are both right.

Long live nuance.