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Did Greta Gerwig get snubbed at the Oscars because Barbie is the year’s Dark Knight?

Or maybe there was just too much good direction this year

A still from the Barbie movie that shows Barbie taking a mugshot. Barbie is played by Margot Robbie and she looks distressed as she holds up a sign that says Barbie LAPD Venice. Image: Warner Bros.

The Oscar nominations are in, and there’s something missing from the Best Director and Best Picture nominees — or is there? None of us at Polygon quite expected Barbie to make it, nor Greta Gerwig to snag a Best Director nom, but... should she have? And why not?

We got into a debate about it in our newsroom. Here’s how it went down.

Matt Patches: Greta Gerwig missing out for director in Barbie... this is an actual snub.

Maddy Myers: Stupid question: Barbie is a comedy and I always feel like the Oscars don’t really do comedies, so the snub isn’t that weird to me. Is that wildly off?

Austen Goslin: I think that nails it pretty much.

Maddy Myers: Nice. I’m very smart.

Matt Patches: I think this explains some of it but not all of it, and maybe has more to do with the expanded voting body. Barbie transcended! America Ferrera got a nom! American Fiction is a comedy that got tons of noms. The Greta snub is about global embrace of two Euro favorites: Anatomy of a Fall and The Zone of Interest. They said at the top that they received ballots from 93 countries this year. The Oscars is Cannes-y now.

Maddy Myers: American Fiction is a comedy... in a way... but NOT in the same way that Barbie is.

Matt Patches: Oh, of course not. But Barbie also has prestige pedigree — the guy who shot Killers of the Flower Moon shot it!

Maddy Myers: I think if someone literally dies in the first act of your movie then you get to qualify for an Oscar nom.

Matt Patches: Barbie wants to die, does that count?

Maddy Myers: My wife said after we concluded American Fiction that it was “the best so far” out of all the Oscar contenders and I said “what about the Barbie movie?” and she just stared at me.

Matt Patches: Maybe the take this year is... there wasn’t room for all the good types of direction in movies. And austere “serious” direction once again boxed out the inventive. Poor Things and Barbie are too similar in Big Ideas and the complex, considered work in Barbie is not obvious enough (and too pink?). That said, if Barbie came out in the 1940s, Greta would have been nominated. Dance sequences! Battle scenes! Slapstick comedy!

Maddy Myers: I mean, I love how weird Barbie was considering that it’s about the most popular children’s toy in the world. And the movie is clearly trying to exceed its grasp, but it’s the Barbie movie and there’s only so much you can do (something the Barbie movie itself stares at the screen and says to you). My other problematic take is that Gosling deserved a nom and no one else did. But if that had happened, people probably would have been mad, I guess.

Austen Goslin: I don’t think the comedy thing is canceled out by America’s nomination. Supporting performance is the realm of “we’re tossing the comedy a bone here.”

Maddy Myers: She’s not who I would have picked, but you’re right. And doesn’t the big brand of it all weigh it down too for the average voter? It would be as shameful as voting for a Marvel Comics adaptation.

Austen Goslin: Weirdly, the best analogue to Barbie might be... The Dark Knight?

Maddy Myers: YES. Austen, exactly.

Austen Goslin: The best picture nom is the 10 nominations category doing its job but the rest feels right in line. Otherwise it’s a pop blockbuster made with impressive craft and skill by its director, someone the Academy has already recognized but not quite anointed just yet. Both movies got supporting performance noms, the place the Academy is most comfortable rewarding blockbusters and comedies. Meanwhile, each did well in technical categories and broke into slightly bigger categories, with adapted screenplay for Barbie and cinematography for The Dark Knight. It seems extra fitting that these comparisons line up so well in the same year that Christopher Nolan is the favorite for best director. Maybe it also means that Greta Gerwig will make her Inception next.

Matt Patches: OK fine I forgive them.

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