Barbie and the Oscars

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 24, 2024, 7:29 PM | comments: 0

When I heard that a Barbie movie was going to be made, I fully expected it to be one of those things that came and went. But then I heard who was writing it, directing it, and in it, and I was pretty certain that my initial impressions were wrong. I was not surprised that it was as big of a deal as the prestige historical drama Oppenheimer. I haven't see that yet, but look forward to it, despite that fact that it appears to be emotionally taxing given its subject matter.

When it comes to the Oscars, I'm sure that Oppenheimer is justifiably recognized not just for best film, but also director and actors. I don't think anyone finds that controversial. In fact, it's kind of the point... if the movie itself is in the top tier, it stands to reason that the work of the people who made it are as well. Barbie did what I didn't think any movie could. It took one of the most commercial and economically staggering toys in all of history, if not the biggest ever, and used it as the subject of a well-crafted, deeply stylized art film that also addressed some of the very cultural negatives that the toy helped influence. If that's not a magic trick, I don't know what is. And with the blessing of the IP's owner, no less!

So it's reasonable then to ask how it's even possible that this best film nominee could not also recognize its female director and its lead female actor. Worse, that it could nominate its supporting male, who was great by the way, and not recognize the women, well, it's literally what the movie is about. It's as if it preemptively called out the academy.

Greta Gerwig is an extraordinary writer and director, even if I only previously base it on Ladybird. (Disclaimer: I love coming-of-age movies.) And Margot Robbie has been nailing everything she's in, whether it be characters like I,Tonya or straight roles like Bombshell. I don't think that Barbie is a one-off achievement for either woman, but it also shouldn't matter. If the work is recognized as elite, so too should be the people who made it.

I know that there's this bizarre "conservative" backlash to diversity, despite the fact that research shows that diversity makes everything better, more profitable, etc., but this isn't even about that. Women are slightly more than half of the population. Expecting them to be represented and recognized as equals is not a huge lift. I mean, Hollywood as an industry knows this, because its "girl power" movies sell very well. But it's still a white male dominated industry in a world where they represent only 30% of Americans and only 2% of the entire world. (White American males also include 7 of the 10 richest humans, so it's pretty dumb to suggest that the world is free of any kind of racism or sexism.)

It's getting better, there's no denying that. But as someone born in the 70's, with the civil rights movement fresh on minds and first in school, it's just staggering that we aren't "there" yet. If you're one of those people who "don't see color" or gender or sexuality, cool, high-five, be one of the people who calls it out when they see inequality.


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