Vote for the Best of STL!

Margot Robbie’s Oscar snub isn’t a blow to feminism

| Staff Writer

“Greta & Margot,

While it can sting to win the box office but not take home the gold, your millions of fans love you.  

You’re both so much more than Kenough.”

On Jan. 24, 2024, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton posted this on X (formerly known as Twitter) to her more than 31 million followers. The post was in support of director Greta Gerwig and actress Margot Robbie for their work on the 2023 blockbuster movie “Barbie.” The tweet came in light of the release of the 2024 Oscar nominations. While “Barbie” earned eight nominations, Gerwig didn’t get the nod for best director, and Robbie didn’t get the nod for performance by an actress in a leading role — which people were expecting them to receive. Instead, we saw nominations for Robbie’s co-stars, with America Ferrera nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as Gloria and Ryan Gosling nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance as Ken.

Clinton wasn’t the only person who came to the defense of Gerwig and Robbie; Gosling did too. In a letter to the public, the man who brought us Ken wrote, “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 what has now become a major controversy in the entertainment world, the snubs seem to be something straight out of the film’s male-dominated dystopia. But I couldn’t disagree more. 

There’s power in the fact that one of the many people who called attention to Gerwig’s and Robbie’s Oscar snub is a woman who lost the 2016 presidential election. It was an election that she lost to the ashiest presidential winner in American history, because in 2016, America said it wasn’t ready for an overqualified woman who won the popular vote to become its president (side note, America: how do you trust someone that ashy to be your president?). I can’t help but write about Clinton’s critics, who attributed her 2016 loss to a badly-run campaign, and not recall one powerful line from Gloria’s monologue in the movie where she states: “[Women] have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong.”

That being said, I find it unbelievable that in the year 2024, the news blowing up on my TikTok “For You” Page is not that the Oscars nominated Lily Gladstone: their first-ever nomination of a Native American actress.

Gerwig and Robbie are two of the most talented people in the entertainment industry. Gerwig was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Barbie.” With her first projects as a solo filmmaker — “Lady Bird” and “Little Women” — she was nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for the former and Best Adapted Screenplay for the latter. As for Robbie, she has been here before. Despite this Oscar snub, she has been nominated for this award in the past, along with many others. She’s an amazing actress, and with or without this nomination, she’s still the GOAT — and that is not up for debate. 

It is wrong to present these snubs as evidence for the attack on feminism. It is wrong because you cannot talk about feminism without talking about its decades-long exclusion of women of color. For example, in its fight for the 20th Amendment and women’s rights, the suffrage movement rejected Black women from fully participating in the cause. In its fight for equality, the suffrage movement was anti-Black and anti-women-of-color. So why, when those same women, who fought twice as hard for their suffrage rights, are succeeding, are we as a society not showing up for them in the same way we are showing up for white womanhood? 

We have forgotten about the 2015 #OscarsSoWhite movement, when all 20 actors nominated that year were white people. For so long, people of color have fought so hard to be recognized for their hard work in the entertainment industry. When that fight is starting to bear fruit, are we not going to acknowledge and celebrate it? This is yet another reminder that feminism has historically been a white women’s movement, but it shouldn’t — and does not have to — be that way.

This year’s Oscar nominations are among the most diverse ever for people of color, including Best Actress in a Supporting Role nominations for Danielle Brooks in “The Color Purple” and Da’Vine Joy Randolph for “The Holdovers.” Overall, people of color were recognized in every single acting category. At the same time, Celine Song was the first Asian woman to be recognized for an original screenplay, and Jodie Foster, an openly LGBTQ+ actress, received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role in “Nyad.”

The backlash against Gerwig’s and Robbie’s snubs doesn’t end at just the nominations; they extend to Gosling himself, who received a nomination for his role as Ken (a male character). As I previously mentioned, people believe that the snubs are something straight out of the patriarchal playbook. Specifically, they wonder why Gosling, an actor who they claim to be the movie’s main villain, received a nomination. I don’t know how The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences conducted its business, but I can guess why it nominated Gosling. 

Yes, “Barbie” was a feminist movie critiquing the patriarchy and its oppression of women. But in another important way, “Barbie” was a movie that argued that while women suffer from the patriarchy, men do too.

According to Choosing Therapy, “Nearly 1 in 10 men experience anxiety or depression daily, but less than half of those men will ever seek treatment. 60% of men will experience a traumatic event in their lives, compared to 50% of women.” According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate among males in 2021 was approximately four times higher than the rate among females. In the United States, males make up 50% of the population but nearly 80% of suicides. 

There are a lot of causes for these disturbing statistics. Research shows that male mental health stigma is at the center of this. Driven by traditional, old-school ideas about masculinity, most men don’t talk about their struggles with mental health for fear of being seen as feminine. And of course, this type of mentality is a product of the patriarchy that the “Barbie” movie was critiquing through its female characters, but just as importantly, through its presentation of “Kenergy.” In tackling male mental health, the movie was fighting the patriarchy on two fronts, and in doing so, it sent the message that in the fight against this oppressive system, men and women are allies.

Do I think the two women deserved to be nominated? Yes. Barbenheimer was one of the greatest things I have ever experienced because of them. But to say that their snubs are a blow to feminism is wrong. It is wrong because in their absence, the Academy elevated women of color, who have long been denied an opportunity like this. It is wrong because in elevating those women, the Academy paid respect to women of color of the past who fought so hard for their daughters to be in this position. It is wrong because in my view, an institution like the Academy should always recognize men’s mental health as an issue for men’s health and a danger to feminism if not properly treated.

Yes, Ryan Gosling, there’s no Ken without Barbie. But there’s no “Barbie” without Gloria’s bad*ss support in Barbie’s hours of need. Because in more ways than one, “Barbie” was a movie about women of all backgrounds being there for each other, and that is not, and will never be, a snub.

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening at Washington University and beyond.

Subscribe