Think of a film about women and it won’t take long for Barbie to spring to mind. In fact, think of any film and I suspect Greta Gerwig’s homage to the Mattel doll will come up fairly quickly. For a while, it was all anyone could talk about, think about, or, frankly, see. Barbie’s entire fuchsia universe practically took over ours for a period of time. The cast. The soundtrack. The pink. All of it was everywhere, as was its primary message: the patriarchy is closing in on us all, and we must do whatever we can to stop it.
Well, that ethos seems to have fallen on deaf ears. At least, that’s what the internet seems to think. Take one look at Twitter/X, Instagram, or indeed any other social media platform, and you’ll see people talking about the Barbie Oscars snub. Neither Margot Robbie, who plays Barbie, nor Gerwig received Oscar nominations for their respective roles as actress and director for the film. However, Ryan Gosling, who plays Ken, earned a Best Actor nomination.
In total, the film landed eight nominations, which seems staggering considering the whole thing is essentially a glorified toy advert – but that’s another article entirely. The point is that a film about feminism is being celebrated by the Academy because of a man rather than the two women that made it happen. And people aren’t happy.
This brouhaha has dominated the digital discourse ever since it emerged. “Ryan Gosling, while deserving, got an Oscar nomination for Barbie while Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie didn’t? Completely proving the point of the movie. In 20 f***ing 24 you cannot make this up,” tweeted one person.
“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?!” added another. Even Hillary Clinton weighed in, tweeting: “While it can sting to win the box office but not take home the gold, your millions of fans love you.”
It wasn’t until Gosling himself entered the chat that things got a little murkier. “I am extremely honored to be nominated by my colleagues alongside such remarkable artists in a year of so many great films,” he began in a statement following Tuesday morning’s Oscar nominations announcement. “But there is no Ken without Barbie, and there is no Barbie movie without Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie, the two people most responsible for this history-making, globally-celebrated film.”
What happened next? Well, people just started talking about how brilliant Gosling is. And subsequently, they sort of missed the point they were trying to prove in the first place.
There’s a strange irony to all of this – though not necessarily in the way it might initially seem. Here we have a film about sexism. That film has been nominated for eight Oscars – including one for best writing (this includes Gerwig and her partner, Noah Baumbach) and one for America Ferrera – and yet, all anyone can talk about is Gosling.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that he spoke out. But I’m not sure how helpful it’s been. Yes, his nomination is a bit surprising. And yes, it would’ve been nice if Gerwig and Robbie were nominated alongside him. But how useful is it for us to lament the fact they weren’t, over and over again?
After all, to reiterate, Gerwig was nominated for best writing! And Ferrera for best supporting actress! It’s not like the Oscars snubbed the film altogether, as Gosling’s statement may suggest. And the fact that everyone is so focused on this means no one is talking about other women who’ve been snubbed. Like Past Lives’ Celine Song, who missed out on a Best Director nomination, and Greta Lee, who was also missed out in the Best Actress category.
People are also not talking about the big wins, like Lily Gladstone, whose nomination for Killers of the Flower Moon made Oscars history, making her the first-ever Native American to be included in the Best Actress category. Or the fact that Gerwig is now the first director to have their first three solo directorial films nominated for Best Picture.
However well-intentioned it may be, by reiterating his support for Gerwig and Robbie, all Gosling seems to have done is take up more space. Space that could – and should – be occupied by conversations about women.