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The Carletonian

Hollywood your sexism is showing: The treatment of Barbie in awards season

2023 was one of the strongest years for film and television that Hollywood has seen in a while. With monumental films like “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Oppenheimer,” “Barbie,” and “Poor Things” at the forefront of nominations. However, during awards season this year, there have been some not so incredible moments, specifically with sexism surrounding the Barbie movie — which is ironically about how sexism is integrated into society. 

During the Golden Globes, another awards show which primarily focuses on excellence within American and international film and television, host Jo Koy faced backlash surrounding his comments about “Barbie.” In one of his monologues he compared the movies “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie,” which are two films that over the summer were known as “Barbenheimer” due to their identical release dates. He described “Oppenheimer” as a film “based on a 721-page Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the Manhattan Project, and ‘Barbie’ is on a plastic doll with big boobies.” This comment was immediately criticized online for its grotesque take on what the Barbie movie is about. In one line, Koy not only let the entire plot of the movie go completely over his head but proved to the viewers that maybe “Barbie” wasn’t so far off in its perception of the patriarchy. Many audience members were shown having negative reactions to Koy’s comment, most notably singer and actress Selena Gomez, who was shown putting her head in her hands after the remark. The cast of “Barbie” was also shown with unamused looks as the camera panned over to their table. When asked about her thoughts on Jo Koy’s comments in an interview with BBC 4 Radio, Greta Gerwig decided to turn his misogynistic remarks into an educational moment about the history of Barbie. “Well, he’s not wrong,” Gerwig said “She’s the first doll that was mass-produced with breasts, so he was right on. And you know, I think that so much of the project, of the movie, was unlikely because it is about a plastic doll. Barbie, by her very construction, has no character, no story, she’s there to be projected upon.” 

Although Gerwig put a positive spin on Koy’s comments, it still does not excuse the way in which he boiled down a movie about the hardships of being a woman to it being about “a plastic doll with big boobies.” “Barbie” sparked discourse about feminism and what it is like to be a woman all over the globe, and Koy not only proved what the film was trying to say with his comment, but was another example of women not being taken seriously when speaking about their struggles.

Similarly to the Golden Globes, the Oscars nominations sparked tons of conversations about sexism within the film and television industry due to Greta Gerwig not being nominated as Best Director for “Barbie,” although “Barbie” was nominated for Best Picture. An important thing to note is that the Best Picture category has ten spots for nominations while the Best Director’s category only has five. Due to this, there are always going to be directors that have a Best Picture nominated film without being nominated themselves. However, Gerwig was a director that out of the ten films nominated was highly expected to also be put up for Best Director. Her film “Barbie” was incredibly successful, with a box office gross of $1.4 billion making it not only the highest grossing movie of 2023, but the highest grossing movie EVER directed by a woman. Barbie was also a film that was constantly discussed in the media, aiding the creation of the “Barbenheimer” phenomenon and sparking discussions all over about the movie’s content. To think that Greta Gerwig wasn’t nominated as the creator of this global hit is a bit obscene. 

However, Barbie wasn’t completely ignored by the Academy Awards: in total it got eight nominations, putting it in third place for most nominations. Actors like Ryan Gosling and America Ferrara were recognized for their roles, with America Ferrara being nominated for Best Supporting Actress in her role as Gloria and Ryan Gosling for Best Supporting Actor as Ken. In the wake of the Oscar nominations, Ryan Gosling went to social media saying “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.” In his comment he also acknowledges the fact that Margot Robbie was not recognized for her lead actress performance as Barbie, a decision that similar to Greta Gerwig’s snub was disliked among many. 

Although Greta Gerwig not being nominated for Best Director was incredibly disappointing, the Oscars did have some incredibly significant, history-making nominations with Lily Gladstone being nominated for Best Actress in the film “Killers of the Flower Moon,” making her the first Indigenous actress to be nominated for an Oscar. In addition, three out of the ten Best Picture nominated films were directed by women, something that has not been seen before. And while it is good that there is seemingly more recognition for female directors, only eight have ever been nominated for Best Director, which begs the question: why is that so? As author Esther Zuckerman asked in her “Rolling Stone” article called “Greta Gerwig’s Oscar Snub for Barbie is Classic Academy BS,” why does Hollywood still make us feel like “there can only be one woman in Best Director” category? And on an even broader scale, what does this say about how far we’ve really come?

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