The 96th Academy Awards Ceremony premieres on March 10. As always, the nominees for the Oscar Awards have left us in a tizzy. There were unexpected surprises—both pleasant and unpleasant. The most notable of these snubs was Margot Robbie’s absence from the Best Actress in a Leading Role category and Greta Gerwing’s from the Best Directing category.

Image of a student reading an article about Margot Robbie & Greta Gerwig. Photo credit: Ahnaf Labib.

Most audiences have seen the “Barbie” movie. With its captivating scenery, amazing soundtrack and a powerful theme, “Barbie” was not only one of the biggest movies of 2023– it was a cultural phenomenon. It accumulated over a billion dollars worldwide, and most viewers were sure that the movie and the team behind it would be considered for various Oscars. 

We were partly right. “Barbie” received eight Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. However, the absence of recognition for Margot Robbie’s role as the titular figure and Greta Gerwig’s masterful direction left a sour taste in the mouth. Do their absences from the nominee list translate to a relegation of women in film? I would argue otherwise.

In my view, basing the acknowledgement or lack thereof of women in film solely on the lack of nominations for the “Barbie” movie is harmful. The rhetoric surrounding the “Barbie” movie appears to have unintentionally dimmed the light on other great steps taken in gaining recognition for women in the film industry. 

Lily Gladstone made history with her role in ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ by becoming the first Native American woman to win a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress and to receive a nomination for Best Actress at the Academy Awards. Sofia Coppola gave us “Priscilla”, a refreshing perspective on the dynamic between Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley. Cailee Spaeny, who portrayed the titular character in the film, won Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival and was nominated for Best Actress in a Drama Motion Picture. Justine Triet’s work on “Anatomy of a Fall” also earned her a nomination for Best Directing. Meanwhile, America Ferrera’s role in “Barbie” received a nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. All these accomplishments seem to have flown under the radar in the wake of this “Barbie” news.

I fear the discourse on the “Barbie” movie nominations has taken the spotlight away from other women who received nominations. Moreover, the rhetoric that Margot deserved a nomination implies that one of the five women who are currently in the running is undeserving of their nomination, which isn’t a kind notion. I find that most people who believe that any of the other nominated actresses aren’t as worthy as those omitted haven’t taken the time to see their performances in their respective movies. Desiring to uplift two women by diminishing the efforts of other talented actresses and directors isn’t the way to go.

The conversations surrounding “Barbie” also fail to consider that both Robbie and Gerwig received nominations, perhaps not in preferred categories (Gerwig is nominated under Best Adapted Screenplay and Robbie under Best Picture, as she’s a producer for the film), but they did receive recognition in some way. Other talented persons such as Greta Lee, who had a brilliant performance in “Past Lives,” weren’t as fortunate. The cultural impact Barbie made and the profit it received are enough proof that the movie made a difference. Two things can be true at once, that Robbie and Gerwig deserve appreciation for their efforts and that the women who did receive appreciation in their said categories are not any less deserving.

We must remember that 2023 was not a bad year for women in film. Our perception of the achievements of women as a whole in the film industry should not be shaped by shortcomings in two singular categories. Empowerment or recognition for women in a notoriously patriarchal industry won’t happen overnight. In our haste to point out the faults we see, let’s not forget to highlight the areas where progress has been made!