It is safe to say that the Barbie movie as we know it—global box office phenomenon and culturally relevant conversation-starter—would not exist without the contributions of Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig. In addition to starring in the film, Robbie produced the picture and was the person who originally approached Greta Gerwig and her creative partner Noah Baumbach about taking on the material. She also went to bat for them at the studio level when Gerwig revealed how ambitious her vision was… right down to finishing the movie with a gynecologist joke.
More than once, Robbie recalled how she told studio executives this material could be like pairing Steven Spielberg with dinosaurs. The way audiences embraced the finished film as an instant classic has proven her right. On some level, it would seem like much of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences agreed as well since Barbie picked up a Best Picture Oscar nomination in addition to a Best Adapted Screenplay nod for Gerwig and Baumbach. The film received a total of eight nominations, including in categories like Best Production Design and Best Costumes.
Yet it’s where the film was not nominated which has raised the most eyebrows over the last day: Gerwig and Robbie were both ignored in their most prominent contributions to the film in the Best Director and Best Actress categories, respectively. And even those who were nominated in their absence, including one of the biggest surprises of Oscar morning, America Ferrera, and Ryan Gosling, have been loudly vocal in stating their disappointment with the glaring omissions.
“I was incredibly disappointed that they weren’t nominated,” Ferrera told Variety yesterday after recalling her own excitement and elation over her Oscar nomination. “Greta has done just about everything that a director could do to deserve it. Creating this world, and taking something that didn’t have inherent value to most people and making it a global phenomenon. It feels disappointing to not see her on that list.”
She added about Robbie, “What Margot achieved as an actress is truly unbelievable. One of the things about Margot as an actress is how easy she makes everything look. And perhaps people got fooled into thinking that the work seems easy, but Margot is a magician as an actress in front of the screen, and it was one of the honors of my career to get to witness her pull off the amazing performance she did. She brings so much heart and humor and depth and joy and fun to the character. In my book, she’s a master.”
These were Ferrera’s off-the-cuff but earnest remarks to a question during an interview about her nomination. Yet her Ken co-star Gosling went a step further to publicly chide the AMPAS for ignoring Robbie and Gerwig’s contributions to a global phenomenon.
“I am extremely honored to be nominated by my colleagues alongside such remarkable artists in a year of so many great films,” Gosling wrote. “And I never thought I’d be saying this, but I’m also incredibly honored and proud that it’s for portraying a plastic doll named Ken. 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 the history-making, globally-celebrated film. To say that I’m disappointed that they are not nominated in their respective categories would be an understatement.”
He continued, “Against all odds with nothing but a couple of soulless, scantily clad, and thankfully crotchless dolls, they made us laugh, they broke our hearts, they pushed the culture and they made history. Their work should be recognized along with the other very deserving nominees.”
In terms of cultural impact, it is a difficult point to argue with. Some on social media, of course, have found a way, even by rather uncharitably debating which Barbie actor is more deserving than which. We would point out, however, that each of the three acting categories Barbie was competitive in—Actress, Supporting Actress, and Supporting Actor—had incredibly different dynamics. Best Actress was particularly tough this year with Emma Stone, Lily Gladstone, and Carey Mulligan all heavily favored to be nominated, and Sandra Hüller’s turn in Anatomy of a Fall being a powerhouse unto itself. Robbie had stiff competition just to get in the fifth slot, with Past Lives breakout Greta Lee likewise getting snubbed in favor of Annette Bening.
Gosling has meanwhile been a frontrunner for a long time in the Best Supporting Actor category where he was always viewed as a shoo-in alongside Robert Downey Jr. and Robert De Niro. Although the fact a male performance in a comedy about Barbie dolls is the “obvious” nominee brings to mind a line of dialogue in the movie after Ken asks a business executive if they don’t do patriarchy anymore at his company. “No, we’re doing it well!” the bearded exec laughs. “We just hide it better now.”
Ferrera had a much less competitive category. While Da’Vine Joy Randolph is more than likely going to take home that Oscar, the only other locked-in supporting actress performances have seemed to be Danielle Brooks for The Color Purple and Emily Blunt for Oppenheimer. So there was more room for Barbie to find support there. Nonetheless, Robbie’s omission appears all the more damning after Gerwig was likewise passed over for Best Director. More disquieting still is it following her infamous snub for Little Women, which was ignored for directing in 2020. Admittedly, Gerwig was nominated in 2018 for Lady Bird, but to date only one woman has been nominated for Best Director more than once: Jane Campion.
In other words, that bearded gentleman in Barbie might not have been whistling “I’m Just Ken” when he said they just hide it better now. Kind of.