If there are three constants in life we can count on, it’s death, taxes, and Oscar snubs. But this year’s snubs felt different—especially when it comes to Greta Gerwig and the Best Director race.
Now, look, women getting snubbed at the Oscars in the Best Director category is nothing new—sadly, it’s commonplace. Five directors are nominated each year for the prize. In the past 25 years of Academy Awards, only seven (yes, seven) women have been nominated for the award out of the 125 possible nominations; that’s a pathetic 5.6 percent of nominees.
Of those, only three have won—Kathryn Bigelow, who won Best Director for The Hurt Locker in 2010, the first female director to win the award (it took the Academy until the 82nd iteration of the awards to do even that). Chloé Zhao won for Nomadland in 2021, ending a decade-plus drought; Jane Campion won for The Power of the Dog the year after, in 2022. But even a category long established as a rampant boys’ club is being called to the carpet today—and for good reason.
Two words: Greta Gerwig.
In a case of art (unfortunately) meeting life, the Barbie director—who did nothing short of revolutionize the film industry last year, helming the No. 1 movie of the year that grossed a casual $1.4 billion at the box office—didn’t get the Best Director nod when Oscar nominations were announced today, in case you missed it somehow. This writer can’t say it much better than X (read: Twitter) user Charlotte Clymer, who aptly wrote “Let me see if I understand this: the Academy nominated Barbie for Best Picture (eight nominations total)—a film about women being sidelined and rendered invisible in patriarchal structures—but not the woman who directed the film. Okay then.”
Adding salt to the wound, Margot Robbie, who played the titular character, was snubbed for Best Actress, but her costar Ryan Gosling (who starred as Ken) was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. (Costar America Ferrera was, appropriately, also nominated, she for Best Supporting Actress, probably salvaging the world from total and complete chaos.)
In a roundup of pissed off people compiled by The Hollywood Reporter (hey, rightfully so), here are some of the standout opinions on the matter: “Both Gerwig and Robbie ignored…it’s still so easy for Hollywood to overlook and discount artistic contributions of women—EVEN WHEN IT’S THE POINT OF THE YEAR’S BIGGEST MOVIE!” MSNBC host Jennifer Palmieri wrote. “My God. It was nominated for best picture. Didn't direct itself, friends!”
Sports host Joey Wright apparently has ESP when it comes to chauvinism in Hollywood: “The joke I made to my wife walking out of BARBIE: ‘Watch Gosling get nominated and Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie get shut out’…just happened,” he wrote. “The Academy needs a REAL man in the mirror moment because the whole idea and premise of Barbie completely flew over their heads.”
“Did anyone even understand the plot of the highest grossing movie of all-time?” TV host Julie Stewart-Binks wrote, backed up by the comments of columnist Brandon Friedman: “After Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie made a film about patriarchy that generated a billion dollars for Hollywood, the man in the film got nominated for a major award and I’m honestly not sure what I expected,” he wrote.
As our roundtable of incensed media voices have driven home, it’s the fact that Barbie spoke out against such ills and still the problem persisted that is borderline laughably asinine. “Kenergy claims its final victory over Feminism,” British podcaster Connor Tomlinson chimed in. Yep.
If Barbie should win Best Picture, both Gerwig and Robbie—who were producers of the film—would take home Oscars. Gerwig was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay with her co-writer (and husband) Noah Baumbach, which is generating criticism of its own, as many felt the movie should be categorized as an original screenplay. But that’s a whole other story.
Gerwig’s bigtime snub comes after a year where women were totally shut out of the Best Director category. (Gerwig herself, by the way, is one of the pathetically low club of seven women that have been nominated for a Best Director Oscar in the past 25 years; she got the nod in 2018 for Lady Bird, but didn’t win.) Only one female director got an Oscar nod this year—Justine Triet, who helmed Anatomy of a Fall. In a sad statistic, it’s exciting that, for the first time in Academy history, a whopping three of the 10 movies nominated for Best Picture were directed by a woman (Barbie, Anatomy of a Fall, and Past Lives). Getting excited about 30 percent is a problem.
“The director’s branch has long been among the Academy’s oldest and most male, which could have been a contributing factor regarding the omission of Gerwig,” The Hollywood Reporter writes. Progress is being made in some aspects in regards to the Oscars—this year’s Academy Awards are the first in which films must meet two of four representation and inclusion standards in order to be eligible for Best Picture, the night’s top prize—but as far as optics are concerned, the Gerwig snub is...well, it’s pretty bad.
“Though Gerwig and Robbie are nominated in other categories (for writing and producing), and though Barbie did receive eight nominations (including Best Picture), the optics of excluding the women most responsible for a critically acclaimed film that became the biggest blockbuster of 2023 from the directing and lead actress categories are not good,” The Hollywood Reporter continues.
It’s not just Barbie: female-directed films like Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn, Ava DuVernay’s Origin, and Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla were also overlooked.
If we’re taking one problem at a time when it comes to the Oscars, we'd be wise to pay attention to the Best Director category. Nominations for awards (the Oscars and others) have long been rife with inclusion issues, but ne’er do the Oscars, well, Oscar so much as in this category. And it needs to change. It’s the 96th Academy Awards—you’d think we have learned by now. And if Barbie can’t teach us that lesson, then what film can?