Home » Barbie Biographer on What’s Really Behind the ‘Barbie’ Oscar Snubs (Guest Column)

Barbie Biographer on What’s Really Behind the ‘Barbie’ Oscar Snubs (Guest Column)

by UNN Feed

A mere 17 days after its July 2023 release, Barbie earned a billion dollars — not to mention positive reviews and a broad fan base that kept coming back and bringing friends. Mattel’s advertising may have initially lured viewers to the theater, but the film itself made them return and proselytize.

In a just world — even a not-especially-feminist world — the film’s guiding forces, director Greta Gerwig and star Margot Robbie, would have received Oscar nominations in their respective individual categories for conceiving, directing and acting in this phenomenon. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the Academy recognized Ryan Gosling’s performance as Ken—or as @yosomichael posted on X: “Ken getting nominated and not Barbie is honestly so fitting for a film about a man discovering the power of patriarchy in the Real World.”

Social media erupted in a Vesuvius of angry memes. The heated conversation — with slurs, accusations and conspiracy theories — continues, and we are now arguably at the backlash-to-the-backlash stage. I have been studying the doll, its accessories and the relationship of these objects to societal change for more than 30 years. What interests me is this: Why did this movie incite such passion? What is it about the Barbie doll that has made it a flashpoint for controversy since its introduction in 1959?

The answers I found seem complicated and sometimes contradictory—since the doll has never held a single meaning to observers. It is a Rorschach ink blot onto which people have projected their own beliefs and prejudices.

Barbie’s admirers were, I think, frustrated by the Academy’s decision to classify its script as “adapted” material. The Academy, they understood, had a precedent for applying that adjective to characters that had previously existed in other forms. But while Barbie’s categorization may have adhered to the letter of the law, many felt it violated the law’s…

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