Barbie’s Oscar snub has received such intense backlash that even divisive feminist icon Hillary Clinton has weighed in.
Barbie, the surprise blockbuster hit of last year, raked in $1.4 billion in global ticket sales, becoming the highest-grossing film of 2023 and the first movie directed solely by a woman to earn over $1 billion in the box office. Despite the film’s commercial success and favorable reviews, though, director Greta Gerwig did not receive a best director nomination, and Margot Robbie, Barbie’s titular lead, was not nominated for best actress. But Ryan Gosling, who played Ken, received a nod for best supporting actor.
Clinton, the former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, joined the Barbie Oscar snub discourse on Wednesday, posting on X, “While it can sting to win the box office but not take home the gold, your millions of fans love you. You’re both so much more than Kenough.”
Clinton’s comments follow those of Gosling and Barbie fans who have expressed disappointment in the snub.
Los Angeles Times culture columnist and critic Mary McNamara argued that the Mattel-backed film’s shortage of nominations reinforced its message that women have to go to extreme lengths to receive validation and respect, and took aim at works of art that limit roles for women.
“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,” McNamara wrote. “Certainly millions of ‘Barbie’ fans are currently wishing they could push someone—perhaps a member or two of the film academy—out of a very high window.”
Although Barbie was snubbed in the Oscars’ more visible categories, it secured eight nominations, including for best picture, best adapted screenplay by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, and best supporting actress for America Ferrera. Oppenheimer, Barbie’s meme-making box office companion, took 13 nominations, including those for best actor for Cillian Murphy and best director for Christopher Nolan.
The Oscar nominations celebrated women elsewhere, with Lily Gladstone getting a best actress nomination for Killers of the Flower Moon, and Celine Song’s Past Lives receiving nods for best picture and best original screenplay.
But even those nods serve to highlight the Academy’s historically patriarchal leanings: Justine Triet, a Best Director pick for Anatomy of a Fall, is only the eighth woman to be nominated for the category, which only three women have won.
Barbie’s box office boom could help the sinking Oscars
Barbie has had a quiet award season so far, which doesn’t reflect the film’s hold on the cultural zeitgeist, recalling the struggles of superhero films in general, and Marvel Studios films in particular, to be taken seriously by the Academy. In fact, one of Barbie’s two Golden Globes was for the inaugural Cinematic and Box Office Achievement award created to honor “how movie theaters are kept alive,” according to Golden Globes president Helen Hoehne.
Barbie’s contribution to keeping the film industry kicking could also breathe some life into Oscar ratings, as the award show has failed to recover from years of declining viewership.
Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian told Fortune that blockbuster films can help attract audiences to award shows, and that the success of “Barbenheimer”—which made up 88% of the best picture nominees’ domestic box office haul—has the potential to bolster Oscar support.
“We would think that if there is a bigger box office total for the grouping of films, that then in turn means more people saw them, and therefore, more people would have the vested interest in watching the telecast,” he said. “Certainly Barbie and Oppenheimer may be the epitome of that.”
Dergarabedian warned the Academy’s Barbie snubs could also work in their favor by generating social media buzz.
“That just adds to the intrigue and the drama,” he said.