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Oscars 2024: Awards season is no Dreamhouse for women of color repeatedly snubbed by Academy

Emily Hu/Daily Bruin

By Sanjana Chadive

March 7, 2024 6:23 p.m.

The grandest performance of 2023 goes to those who love Greta Gerwig but dismiss the accomplishments of underrepresented women in film.

When the nominees for the 96th Academy Awards were announced, fans of the summer blockbuster “Barbie” were particularly displeased when they noticed that neither Gerwig nor leading star Margot Robbie were nominated in the categories of Best Director and Best Actress, respectively. However, the consequent uproar over the two not being selected has overshadowed the Academy’s historical lack of recognition of women of color. With the Oscars ceremony being held this Sunday, the outrageous reactions over the nominees will remind audiences of the overall absence of intersectionality within the themes of “Barbie.”

To begin with, Gerwig and Robbie were not completely shunned from the Oscars this year. For conceptualizing the storyline of “Barbie,” the former nabbed a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. The latter, who also served as a co-producer for the film, can potentially go home with the golden statue for Best Picture.

[Related: Second Take: Audiences deserve an intermission from formulaic and overdone biopics]

Both women have also expressed similar sentiments about not being totally left out of the race for the gold. In an interview with TIME magazine, Gerwig said she felt content with her nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Similarly, Robbie told SAG-AFTRA, “There’s no way to feel sad when you know you’re this blessed,” when asked about her Best Actress snub.

Moreover, there is much to be celebrated about this year’s Oscar nominations – particularly for women of color. Robbie’s own co-star America Ferrera earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for playing Gloria, the Mattel employee who helps Barbie acclimate to the real world.

Additionally, Lily Gladstone became the first Native American woman nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of Mollie Kyle, a survivor of the Osage murders, in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Although cinephiles should be talking more about Ferrara and Gladstone’s noteworthy accomplishments, they are still oddly fixated on Gerwig and Robbie being snubbed in major categories.

Ever since the nominations for the 96th Academy Awards were announced in late January, the reactions toward Gerwig and Robbie’s lack of recognition in certain categories have proven to be extremely tone deaf. Shortly after the snubs were brought to light, Los Angeles Times columnist Mary McNamara penned an article criticizing the Academy for this choice. The lede of the story was, “If only Barbie had done a little time as a sex worker. Or barely survived becoming the next victim in a mass murder plot. Or stood accused of shoving Ken out of the Dream House’s top window.”

Those familiar with this year’s most prestigious films will quickly recognize that McNamara is referencing “Poor Things,” “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Anatomy of a Fall.” These female-led narratives, like “Barbie,” comment on navigating a patriarchal society – and arguably do a better job of doing so than the box office darling. Through poorly executing the beginning of her article, McNamara rejects the multifaceted experiences of being a woman. One can contend that her piece being published exemplifies how many people who watched “Barbie” do not have an intersectional perspective of feminism.

[Related: Film review: With slow burn, ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ meticulously confronts American greed]

Furthermore, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – and the film industry as a whole – still needs to improve upon how it spotlights women from underrepresented communities. For example, Carey Mulligan received a Best Actress nomination for playing Felicia Montealegre, Leonard Bernstein’s wife, in “Maestro.” Although Mulligan’s performance was nothing short of outstanding, she is a white woman who portrayed an individual of Latina heritage. By nominating Mulligan, the Academy is wrongly affirming that there is nothing wrong in having white actors portray people of color.

In a similar vein, other exemplary performances by women from underrepresented communities were overlooked by the Academy in favor of white actresses who are regularly nominated. The most notable example is Greta Lee, whose nuanced performance in the romantic drama “Past Lives” was snubbed for Best Actress.

Instead, five-time Oscar nominee Annette Bening was given a nod for her role in the biopic “Nyad” – much to the chagrin of many. Most film enthusiasts argued that Benning only found herself in the pool for Best Actress because she is a favorite of the Academy. Evidently, those who select the nominees need to start putting their biases aside and prioritizing the recognition of strong performances – no matter how unfamiliar they are with the performer.

With the outrage toward Gerwig and Robbie’s snubs and the Academy’s lackluster recognition of women of color, one can’t help but remember the most glaring flaw of “Barbie” – its failure to adeptly highlight the experiences of women of different backgrounds. When the movie was released in July 2023, several film scholars pointed out how the film only provided a surface-level commentary of feminism that dismissed the perspectives of members from underrepresented communities. Almost eight months later, the most ardent fans of “Barbie” are only proving these critics correct.

Needless to say, they are made of more plastic than the eponymous character.

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Sanjana Chadive | Lifestyle editor
Chadive is the 2023-2024 lifestyle editor. She was previously an Arts staff writer from 2022-2023. She is a third-year comparative literature student from Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania.
Chadive is the 2023-2024 lifestyle editor. She was previously an Arts staff writer from 2022-2023. She is a third-year comparative literature student from Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania.
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