In a world that claims to embrace diversity and inclusion, the glaring lack of representation in traditional award shows continues to raise eyebrows and question the relevance of these glitzy affairs. The 2023 film Barbie being snubbed by the Oscars is just the latest reminder that the entertainment industry is struggling to recognize and celebrate diverse talent.

A cinematic triumph that transcended expectations, Barbie not only showcased the iconic doll in a fresh light but also shattered preconceived notions about storytelling and representation. Yet, one can’t help but wonder if the significance of traditional award shows is keeping up with the evolving landscape of cinema. January was a disappointing month for the Barbie cast; Jo Koy’s tone-deaf speech at the Golden Globes belittled and sexualised Barbie, reducing it to a film about  “a plastic doll with big boobies”. The Oscar nominations’ snubbing of Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig further rubbed salt in the wound. In light of his third nomination, Ryan Gosling (Ken) roused public discontent with the Oscars’ voting panels, stating that “There is no Ken without Barbie, and there is no Barbie movie without Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie”. Both award shows completely missed Barbie’s feminist message by failing to give these talented women the recognition they deserve. This begs the question, is the red carpet truly rolled out for everyone?

Another glaring issue that Barbie highlights is the persistent need for more women of colour to be recognized on these grand stages. It’s as if the dazzling lights of the red carpet can’t quite illuminate the accomplishments of these talented individuals. Award shows have often been criticised for failing to acknowledge the full spectrum of talent that exists. Barbie’s diverse cast and crew hold in esteem the brilliance that women of colour bring to the industry. The problem in awards shows extends beyond mere oversight. The composition of voting panels plays a pivotal role in determining who takes home these coveted trophies. The uncomfortable truth is that many of these panels are majority white men, resulting in a skewed perspective that perpetuates the same narratives and reinforces existing power structures. How can we expect a varied range of voices to be heard when the decision-makers themselves lack diversity? While they may pat themselves on the back for handing out a token nomination or two, the reality is that these shows are often dominated by familiar faces. Leonardo DiCaprio’s amassing a total of 37 nominations is just one example of white men pushing other talents to the wings.

It’s not that traditional award shows are entirely irrelevant; rather, they are at a crossroads. The world is changing, and the entertainment industry must continue to evolve with it. Embracing diversity is not just a moral imperative; it’s a business necessity. As the success of the 2023 Barbie film demonstrates, audiences are hungry for fresh perspectives and stories that resonate with their lived experiences. Social media has shown that the public has become increasingly vocal about demanding change. Digital public forums, like X and Instagram, are powerful devices for mobilising communities and calling out instances of injustice. As audiences become more discerning, the disconnect between traditional award shows and the real world becomes even more pronounced.

Award shows need to reevaluate their selection processes and ensure that voting panels are representative of the diverse talent pool that exists. Recognizing and celebrating underrepresented voices should not be an afterthought; it should be at the forefront of the industry’s priorities. The empowering message of the 2023 Barbie film is a wake-up call for an industry that often seems stuck in its ways. As of this moment, there is still progress to be made before we can confidently assert that traditional awards shows are truly relevant to the 21st century. But, in the wise words of Ken, will this be “kenough”?

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