Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie being snubbed at the Oscars proves the whole point of 'Barbie'

It’s hard not to hope this is one final masterful ploy, a punking set to prove the pervasiveness of patriarchy, delivered with a wink and a nod to the audience that will soon be revealed to have all been a game. But nothing comes. 

At 6:51 a.m. this morning, my phone beeps three times in rapid succession. Through half-shut eyes, I register it’s Phoebe, Missing Perspectives founder and arguably the most texted person in my phone, beating out even my Mum, I think. It’s an all-caps situation. Something has gone down. As the sleep fog clears from my brain, I remember it’s Oscar nominations day. Oh shit. The words in front of me are suddenly thrown into sharp focus.


A shock goes through me. What? There’s no way. The entire year in cinema has been awash in the hot pink of Barbie. Surely, Phoebe must’ve read them wrong or missed them somehow. So I Googled, the phone inches from my face. No, there it is in black-and-white. Margot Robbie misses out on a nomination for Best Actress and Greta Gerwig doesn’t get nominated for Best Director. And yet there’s Ryan Gosling’s nomination for Best Supporting Actor, also in black-and-white.    

I’d anticipated finding his nomination hilarious if it happened because the possibility of winning an Oscar for Ken, a role so camp and unserious it’s an actor’s dream, seemed ludicrous yet important. But now, reading the tweets as they roll in, and that nominating Ryan, not Margot or Greta, is a mirror to the whole plot of Barbie itself, it feels hollow. It’s hard not to hope this is one final masterful ploy, a punking set to prove the pervasiveness of patriarchy, delivered with a wink and a nod to the audience that will soon be revealed to have all been a game. But nothing comes. 

The Academy just pulled off this spectacular feat of blind misogyny all on its own and they meant it. What makes that cut even deeper is the fact they managed to recognise the incredible America Ferrera for Best Supporting Actress, something the Golden Globes, for example, did not. There’s a deep irony to me about America’s nomination, not because it is by any means undeserved (quite the opposite in fact) but because the weight of her performance lies in a phenomenal monologue about the conflicting narratives and double standards women experience. That's the entire point of the film, something the Academy clearly recognises and yet…

Now, of course, all of the women in the Best Actress category deserve their nominations. They’ve all given spectacular performances. Lily Gladstone made history today as the first ever Indigenous American to receive a nomination for her performance in Killers of The Flower Moon. It should be celebrated loudly. Representation matters and this will mean so much for generations of people who have been silenced, erased and ridiculed by cinema and society at large.

It just feels interesting that Margot Robbie, the dazzling centrepiece of a film so unapologetic in its femininity and celebration of womanhood, has been left out. Especially in the context of her crucial role as a producer in getting this film off the ground and convincing the powers that be to back it.  From that point of view, it’s hard not to interpret her absence (and Greta’s) as a warning from the establishment. From the status quo. From the old guard of men in power who have gatekept storytelling and representation from the moment it was figured that moving pictures on camera could mean something to people. No matter how hard you try, you will always be locked out. You can cause all the conversation and social change you want, we won’t reward you. Twice as hard for half as much.

Sure, women have been nominated for Best Director a grand total of 8 times in 96 years (including Justine Triel this year for the dark horse of a film that is Anatomy of a Fall, again something that should be celebrated loudly) and they’ve even won 3 of them, but this feels glaring in a whole new way. As someone with albeit a tiny patch of experience in the film industry, I know and have worked with incredible female directors. Women who have delivered beautiful, hilarious, poignant and powerful pieces. But all of them have done so under a cloud of hardbaked pressure, so entrenched that you could almost miss the extra weight they carry.

That is, unless you too are used to being an ahem missing perspective. Used to looking around a room and knowing intuitively that you are the only one or maybe one of a handful. That subtle yet burning awareness deep in your core that tells you that your opportunities come with conditions. Conditions of success. Of high performance. Of proving your worth in someone else's investment.

And not just for you as an individual. Oh, no. But for your community. For all the people who look like you. If you fail to meet the impossibly high bar, your fall hurts everyone. It means less chances. It means the door you’ve kicked open will waver. They’ll take any chance to lock you and us out again. With all of that on their shoulders, female directors still make things. Because of course they do. Our stories matter. Always have, always will.

Greta Gerwig is the first female director to bring in a billion dollars at the box office. She’s also responsible for the highest grossing film Warner Brothers has ever produced. To put that in perspective, Warner Brothers are the studios that gave us Harry Potter. And yet, Barbie wears the crown. What hoops did Greta miss jumping through? What did she not do that Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan did? What mistake did she make? Using pink instead of black? Poking holes in beauty standards instead of quantum physics? Giving us a story about a woman learning to be free instead of a high stakes ‘be on the right side of history’ epic?

No, instead she gave us a world so immersive and important that women everywhere felt seen. Some for the first time in their lives. There are teenage boys who now know what a gynaecologist is because of her. Conversations around dinner tables about gender roles and patriarchy. Men turning to their wives/daughters/sisters/friends and finally getting it.

I know all that glitter isn’t gold and none of the team behind Barbie made that film purely for an Oscar, but goddamn.

Today, the boulder rolled backwards a little. Good thing, women with stories aren’t going anywhere. In fact, thanks Academy. You’ve just waved a red flag at a bull.

Game on.