The awards season rush is upon us with nominations for the 2024 Golden Globes announced earlier today. To absolutely no one's surprise, Greta Gerwig's Barbie is leading the pack with a staggering nine nominations including for Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling's performances, the film itself and several of its iconic musical numbers, including "I'm Just Ken", of course.
Film and television always has an opportunity to spark conversations about our place in the world. Barbie was undeniably a monumental moment in culture this year and not just because it sparked the viral Barbenheimer trend, inspired us to unashamedly don pink in all its glory, or because it featured one of the most star-studded casts in recent times, but also for the space it gave so many people around the world to non-judgementally explore their relationships with the idea of gender stereotypes, and unpack the roles these played both deliberately and unconsciously.
While it would have been almost impossible for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) not to recognise arguably the biggest film of the year, and Warner Bros' top-performing film EVER, we still feel the need to celebrate loudly what this kind of acknowledgement means for women's storytelling. Historically, films that anchor female storytelling - and are often seen as being skewed towards a female audience - have been underrepresented in the awards conversations and contention To see that dial shift in forward momentum is always going to be a good thing.
Hopefully, it will prove to studios that what we need are not more films based on the intellectual property of beloved and also hotly debated toys, but films with women at the helm where the complexity of our experiences are allowed to exist without caveat or the inherent sexualisation of the male gaze.
Thankfully, Barbie wasn't the only place where women were celebrated. The legendary Meryl Streep broke her own record for the most Golden Globe nominations by a single actor, earning the 33rd of her career for her hilarious and unexpectedly whimsical but also messy turn as 'Loretta' in Season 3 of Only Murders In The Building. There's no one doing it like Meryl. Except maybe Viola Davis. But one of those women never quite gets the credit she deserves. We'll leave you to ponder why that is.
But back to Barbie for a second, I promise you'll see where I'm going with this. For a film that nailed the messaging around the reality of being a woman, highlighting the double standards we constantly face in a patriarchal society, and furthermore, the intersectional challenges faced by women in different communities, we feel that America Fererra not getting a nomination for 'Best Supporting Actress' is a glaring omission by the Globes and yet more proof that women of colour really do have to work twice as hard for even half as much.
Her iconic monologue (see below) on the impossible standards faced, and often contradictory narratives internalised by women everywhere, was a moment of true revelation, connection and articulation for audiences. To us, it's the very heart and the whole point of the film Gerwig and Robbie set out to make. Without it, the film simply doesn't work and it seems they agree. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Ferrera said Gerwig shared the monologue with her before the actor had even read the script. “She said, ‘I wrote this monologue for Gloria, and I've always imagined you saying this," Ferrera told the publication.
Alicia Vrajlal, our Editorial & Partnerships Lead here at Missing Perspectives recognises that compliments like that one come with a lot of extra weight when you exist in a marginalised community. She says, "The significance of Gerwig choosing a strong woman of colour to deliver the important lines is certainly not lost on me as a brown woman. We deserve the spotlight and the opportunity to be portrayed as nuanced, multi-dimensional characters."
"On the other hand, there's a huge responsibility to not only represent women who look like you, but in this situation, somewhat carry the message of what this whole movie was meant to be about."
Ferrera seems to have felt similarly about the situation, going on to tell Vanity Fair that “while that was flattering, it also felt like pressure in the nicest way. I read the monologue and it hit me as powerful and meaningful. It also felt like, wow, what a gift as an actor to get to deliver something that feels so cathartic and truthful.
"But it also felt like this pivotal moment that I obviously didn't want to mess up," Ferrera continued.
Believe us, America, you didn't. In fact, you nailed it and it scares but doesn't surprise us that the Globes couldn't see that.
I asked Alicia in a team meeting this morning about the snub, both of us struggling to process how such a grounding and important performance had been overlooked. Without recognising America Ferrera, were the Golden Globes missing the whole point of Barbie? Had we seen the same movie? Ever eloquent and composed in the face of relentless erasure of women of colour, Alicia was gracious saying, "While I’m thrilled that Gerwig, Robbie and the film itself have landed several nominations, seeing the Golden Globes’ snub of Ferrera reminds me that women of colour are often held to higher standards, or expected to do the emotional labour, which in this case, was driving home the key point of the film – yet don’t necessarily receive the accolades that should go with it. This is of no fault of Gerwig's, but a flaw of Hollywood at large."
Now, thankfully the nominations for this award are not all white women, unlike their television counterparts. The inclusion of Danielle Brooks from The Colour Purple and Da'Vine Joy Randolph from The Holdovers are not to be sneezed at. In fact, they need to be joyously shouted about from the rooftops. So too does Lily Gladstone's historic and rare nomination in the 'Best Actress' category on behalf of Indigenous Americans for her performance in Flowers of The Killer Moon. However, Alicia believes, the exclusion of Ferrera and Davis (for her commanding role as Deloris Jordan in Air) from this category speaks to a larger issue, "Seeing women who look like us on screen is only the first part of true and meaningful representation. The film and television industry is a juggernaut, and it’s hard to not feel disheartened when so much fanfare, buzz and industry value is attached to awards show recognition."
I couldn't agree more – but as Hollywood only just seems to be wrapping its head around the first step and even then doing so with a still alarming hit-and-miss rate, I think the transformation of awards shows is, unfortunately, off in the distance. A shimmering mirage. That doesn't mean it's not worth fighting for though, something I will always be passionate about. And, given the Globes are the precursor to an often #OscarsSoWhite night of glittering glory, we can only hope the fact that the boulder has moved, even if only by inches, is a sign of more change to come.
The representation revolution is underway and we're not going back.