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2024 oscar nominations

So the Oscars Snubbed Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig…now what?

Guess what, besties? The 2024 Oscar nominations are upon us! Before we dive in, I am much more of a music person than a film person. I enjoy a jaunt to the cinema as much as the next person, but typically you’ll catch me following album releases much more closely than films. An exception to that rule was 2023’s defining picture, the Barbie movie. I think it’s safe to say that in our decidedly fractured media landscape, few films have been able to impact the zeitgeist as Barbie did profoundly. Barbie had us all reaching for the first pink thing we could find in our wardrobes and saw us excitedly share our thoughts and feelings about the landmark film. It is for this reason I expected it to sweep nominations at the 2024 Academy Awards. While it did garner a Best Film nomination and Best Supporting Actor nominations for America Ferrera and Ryan Gosling, there are two glaring omissions that we need to talk about. Margot Robbie was snubbed for a Best Actress nomination, and even more astoundingly, Greta Gerwig was snubbed of a Best Direction nomination.

Photo by Bret Hartman / TED, Flickr

These decisions from the Academy are part of a long history of overlooking popular films that centre the stories of women and minorities. Leaps have been made in recent years, but these dismissals of Robbie and Gerwig show that the Oscars are just not there yet. Other awarding bodies such as the BAFTAs, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards have all recognised Margot Robbie’s performance and Gerwig’s direction, so why haven’t the Oscars? There is a degree of frustration that comes with all awards ceremonies, especially ones that are helmed by an academy of industry insiders who decide on nominations and award winners. The same is true for the Grammys where long-standing issues around representation and the dismissal of certain genres or artists have led to the forming of the Latin Grammys and regional awards ceremonies that recognise more specific and discounted genres. 

The Academy is made up of roughly 10,000 members who are eligible to vote on which films and which people are nominated for awards. They are also responsible for deciding which films and people go on to win. It is important to note that only about a third of the academy are women, meaning that a film about and for women is being judged by men. It is also significant that amidst years of criticism that the Oscars are overtly white, the academy is composed of only 19% of people of colour. It demonstrates the importance of representation at all levels of the creative field.

It doesn’t escape me that there is a cruel irony to the fact that Ryan Gosling (who portrayed Ken) has received a nomination for his performance. That’s right, a film about Barbie and it’s Ken who’s up for the Oscar. This isn’t to say that Gosling doesn’t deserve a nomination or even an award; he certainly does. But to applaud his contribution to the film and pass over Robbie’s is a slap in the face to the whole ethos of the film. Barbie is a film that centred the importance of women and their stories, exploring the tightly woven web of patriarchy and how it hurts women. It spoke of the pain and frustration women experience as they are overlooked and cast aside by male-dominated culture. It feels like this nomination snub is peppered with a blatant misunderstanding of the point of the film.

We also have to ask the question of does Margot’s performance actually deserves an Oscar. I think it’s fair to say that it does. In Barbie, she expertly emotes her way through an emotionally complex and turbulent journey as her character grapples with the real world and gender imbalance. When I watched the film, I felt her feelings, I related to her, and I saw my own experiences mirrored to me on the screen. Her portrayal of Barbie made millions of women around the world feel seen, and that, to me, defines a stellar performance. While the same is true for America Ferrera, who did receive a nomination for her performance, it feels like an insult to the work Robbie did to drive one of the most feminist narratives shown in popular film. 

Photo by Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Beyond this, we need to talk about the true outrage that is Greta Gerwig’s nomination snub. As the Barbie movie’s screenwriter, she has received an award nomination from the Academy but nothing for her abilities as a director. It is no secret that the world of film direction is still very much a boy’s club. While there are more women directing films now than ever before, there are still not enough. Greta Gerwig’s work on films like Ladybird, Little Women, and of course, Barbie are a defiant rejection of the idea that men direct and women follow. 

Again, to ask the question, does she deserve an Oscar for her work, the answer is a resounding yes. She has managed to expertly guide her actors through the emotional arc of the film and, once again, made us feel seen. Films have the power to move us, to shape our thoughts, to inspire us. Gerwig was able to harness the power of her medium and create a dialogue with her audience that is unmatched by any of the films nominated this year. While other films appeal more to the traditional sensibilities of the Oscars, the Barbie movie resonated with an entire generation of women and girls who saw their experience on the big screen. Greta Gerwig was the driving force behind that, and the cultural dialogue that is has since generated. 

So where do we go from here? The nominations are out, and the snubs have been noticed. On one hand, this only continues to further the criticisms of the Oscars, that they’re growing more and more out of touch with the general public and that they pick and choose when to acknowledge women and minorities. This isn’t helped by the fact that only last year did we see the second woman of colour (Michelle Yeoh) in Oscars history win the award for Best Actress. While Margot and Greta are white, it is not too surprising that the creative forces behind the most woman-centric film of the year (and the largest film of the year culturally, critically, and commercially) were overlooked. Barbie is one of only a small handful of female-dominated films to reach the coveted spot of being in the highest-grossing films of all time. In a world of streaming and home releases, it was a stand-out for getting people to go to a physical cinema. These achievements were even acknowledged at the Golden Globes, with it winning the Golden Globe for Cinematic and Box Office Achievement.

While the other big dogs in the film award circuit are on the same page that Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig are deserving of some acclaim, the Oscars once again prove to be the slowest horse in the race. While they are probably always going to be considered the apex of cinematic achievement, the Oscars are only as relevant as we give them the power to be. Their viewership continues to dwindle, and as they hardline their nominations away from commercially popular films, they single themselves out as a relic of a time when they were more in touch with the general public. Regardless of whether those nominated on the Barbie cast win Oscars or not, or even if the film itself takes Best Picture (which is unlikely), the film will remain the true victor of 2023’s cinema. 

Robbie and Gerwig have already won. Their film has proven that women and their stories fill cinemas and break records. Barbie has inspired us and educated us, and that is a greater win for Margot and Greta than any gold statue.