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'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

In defense of Ken

Some of the criticism around the ‘Barbie’ Oscar snubs are unjustified
Ryan Gosling delivered a humorous performance as “Ken” in the “Barbie” movie. (Courtesy of Business Insider)

The summer of 2023 was undeniably the summer of “Barbenheimer,” and immediately upon release, many eagerly awaited to see how the films would stack up come award season. However, the arrival of the 2024 Oscar nominations has people buzzing about something entirely different: while “Barbie” was nominated for a total of eight Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Ryan Gosling’s portrayal of Ken, there was notably no Best Leading Actress nomination for Margot Robbie, or Best Director nomination for Greta Gerwig.

Many outraged fans remarked online that this exclusion of the women surrounding the film coupled with the praise of a male performance only proves its assertion of the high expectations held for women. However — and this is coming from a full fledged “Barbie” fan — I don’t think this outrage is entirely justified. 

Gerwig was snubbed of a Best Director nomination once again

Let me start off by saying Gerwig’s exclusion from the Best Director category is highway robbery, and one that seems all too familiar. Gerwig’s last film, the 2019 adaptation of “Little Women,” was nominated for Best Picture; however, she did not receive a Best Director nomination — being nominated instead for Best Adapted Screenplay. 

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As Taylor Swift would say, “I think I’ve seen this film before,” since history repeated itself this year.

While the screenplay for “Barbie” is spectacular, the artistic direction does hold an incredible amount of weight for this film specifically. Gerwig took a brand with countless products and media, and boiled it down to a film with a clear narrative that still captured the essence of “Barbie.” Everything, from the visual look, to the distinction between Barbies and people, was so well thought-out and meticulous. These details and palpable care is what made the film so watchable, and I think these aspects definitely extend beyond the realm of what a screenplay award would encompass. 

I’m not suggesting Gerwig should have earned the Best Director award definitively, as there are many amazing directors nominated. However, although “it’s an honor just to be nominated” is a cliche we hear enough during award season, it does ring true. Gerwig deserved a nomination. 

Ryan Gosling deserved the nomination more than Margot Robbie

As far as the acting awards go, I get it. It’s hard to understand how, in a movie whose tagline was “she’s everything, he’s just Ken,” only Ken gets nominated for an award while Barbie does not. However, I don’t think the themes of the film itself should determine who receives an award based on acting. 

Gosling shined comedically in this role, once again proving that he can really do it all as an actor in a role many people predicted to be a flop before the film even came out. Despite this, I believe Gosling has a genuine chance at winning this Oscar, even though Robert Downey Jr. has dominated the award season so far for his role in “Oppenheimer.” 

As mentioned in the role of Ken, Gosling got to be incredibly comedic, portraying a downright parody of the patriarchy (and men in general). Robbie could not lean into this comedy as much, since throughout the film, her stereotypical Barbie starts to become more human-like. While this does mean the performance showed both Robbie’s comedic and dramatic talents, it also means her performance couldn’t go full-fledged into either. 

In terms of receiving an award for acting, I think this makes it hard for her to go up against actresses in roles where they can delve into these emotions more deeply. In other words, part of what makes Robbie’s performance so brilliant is the way she turns from a stereotype into a real person, but it also makes it hard for her to showcase the emotional highs and lows that are often looked for in an Oscar-nominated performance. 

Outside of Robbie’s performance, I think her lack of nomination could be a direct result of Emma Stone’s performance in “Poor Things.” Both roles feature female characters learning about the world of humanity for the first time. Stone’s odd, take-no-prisoners performance as Bella Baxter was shocking and provocative, achieving what Robbie’s performance did on a more extreme scale. 

While I don’t think this extremity is necessarily due to better acting as much as it is to the tones of the films themselves, this does make Stone a more obvious candidate for the nomination. Not to mention, Stone has been racking up awards this season for her role, including a Golden Globe and a Critic’s Choice.

However, in the shock of the exclusion of Robbie and Gerwig, I have seen very little buzz around the Best Supporting Actress nomination for America Ferrera, who played powerhouse mom Gloria in the film. 

America Ferrera’s monologue was a product of good writing

This nomination shocked me, because while Ferrera did deliver a moving monologue during “Barbie’s” emotional climax, I did not find the rest of her role incredibly memorable. 

Additionally, I find Ferrera’s shining moment, the monologue, to be strong on the basis of great writing, rather than performance itself. Don’t get me wrong, her delivery was amazing, but the words of the monologue were so powerful on their own that, to me, this moment struck me more as award-winning for the screenplay rather than the acting. 

In short, I am still yearning for justice for Gerwig, but in terms of the Best Supporting Actor award, I am all in on Gosling. He may be “just Ken,” but his performance is more than “Kenough” for me, even without a nomination for “Barbie” herself.

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    LambertFeb 21, 2024 at 11:16 am

    I love the piece!