The Barbie snub discourse proves we need to stop with #girlboss feminism

'Barbie' getting snubbed by the Oscars is rubbing some people the wrong way… But it really shouldn’t. 

According to a fair few people online, Barbie has been snubbed by the Academy awards. Though Greta Gerwig’s film did earn itself a whopping eight nominations – including prestigious ones like best picture and best supporting actor and actress – the absence of awards recognising Margot Robbie’s leading performance and Gerwig’s directing efforts was the source of anguish for many fans. Many were quick to point out that it’s rather ironic for the women-led Barbie to get nods for its decidedly male elements. The academy was branded as “sus” by one user, and the whole thing provoked another to say: “I am genuinely feeling depressed over the Barbie Oscar nomination snubs, especially Greta’s, like what do women have to do in this world to be simply recognized [sic]”. For them, it was all just a damning indictment of how patriarchy is still alive and well. Really, though, their outpourings of “support” for Robbie and Gerwig did nothing more than highlight the limitations of the #girlboss feminism that they so proudly wield.

First off, we should probably address the elephant in the room. And that’s that at the end of the day, the Academy awards just aren’t the indicator of cinematic worth that everyone makes them out to be. What they ordain to be the years’ “best films” are an amalgamation of cash, industry politics and a good ‘ol fashioned popularity contest. Look at the Oscar winners since the ceremony started back in 1929 and you’ll notice that they’ve repeatedly ignored beautiful filmmaking and forgone inclusivity for boring, white-washed narratives about war or whatever musician most recently died. We say this because when you’re talking about a film getting “snubbed”, you’re in the same breath deciding it has that elusive, impossible quality of being “Oscar worthy”. 

Anyway, is Barbie Oscar worthy? According to its eight nominations, yes it is. But it isn’t those noms that #girlboss feminists want. Is Barbie worthy of an Oscar nod for best actress and best director? Probably not. Though the celebratory, infectious feeling that came with going to Barbie in a pink outfit last summer was nice, it doesn’t really say anything about Gerwig’s directing efforts, nor Robbie’s performance. Gerwig created a fun film and Robbie cried with an old lady, but there’s only five spaces in these categories, and the Academy deemed that they weren’t quite as deserving as the other nominees. It really is that simple. Just because Barbie served up some entry-level feminism akin to the kind you could find in a Florence Given book or on a plaque from Homesense, the rules don’t magically change. 

Can’t we just let them get on with it? Have them pop on a Taylor Swift song and calm down? We probably could. But for many, this #girlbossery is a smiley face to something more insidious: the whole debacle has completely obscured all the ways in which the Oscars have been quite good this year. Though Robbie wasn’t nominated, Lily Gladstone (Killers of a Flower Moon) has made history as the first Native American woman in the category. And though Gerwig isn’t up for the best director accolade, Justine Triet (Anatomy of a Fall), is. So are a fair few other international directors. Given the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag that often accompanies chatter around the ceremony, we can’t ignore the significance of both Danielle Brooks (The Colour Purple) and Da’Vine Joy Randolph (The Holdovers) being nominated in the best supporting actress category.

If Barbie deserves an award for anything, it’s for getting its audiences hard pressed about things that we don’t need to get that hard pressed about. If the #girlbosses do want to stretch their angry-stroke-outraged muscles, it should probably be directed elsewhere. Hillary Clinton might be better off not spending her time making an Instagram post which tells two multi-millionaires they are “much more than Kenough”. And the hordes upon hordes of Barbie defenders should trade their tears for the highest grossing film of last year for all of those by women directors that didn’t get any recognition from major award bodies: Raine Allen Miller’s Rye Lane and Kelly Fremon Craig’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret are just some that come to mind. In short: Barbie fans need to pipe down. If they can’t do that, they should at least resist making their point via a Taylor Swift lyric.

WriterAmber Rawlings
Banner Image CreditBarbie / Heyday Films