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America Ferrera Was Nominated For An Oscar. That’s The Barbie Story That Matters

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.
It’s been a couple days since it was announced that America Ferrera was nominated for an Oscar for the first time in her more than two decade-long career for her performance as Gloria in Barbie, and Latines are still celebrating. For many of us, Ferrera’s characters were the first time we ever saw someone on the screen who reflected our realities without playing into gross, misguided stereotypes about our communities. While Latine actors are often limited to playing villainous gang members, dangerous drug dealers, untrustworthy maids, and mistresses who typically lack any sort of character development, Ferrera has portrayed a young woman wrestling with competing cultural ideals in Real Women Have Curves, the everyday Latina high schooler in Gotta Kick It Up!, a heroine in Cesar Chavez, and, more recently, an unfulfilled, insecure working mom who is retiring sexist ideas around femininity and self-sacrifice in Barbie. For 22 years, her roles have made us feel our stories as Latines, many of us children of migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean, are worthy of being told. 
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So imagine our shared frustration when we went to express our excitement on the Internet and realized that both mainstream media and social media weren’t celebrating Ferrera’s historic nomination for Best Supporting Actress, a category where only two other Latinas — Mercedes Ruehl for The Fisher King in 1991 and Afro-Latina Ariana DeBose in 2021 for West Side Story — have won, but rather were criticizing the Academy for so-called snubs around the film (Greta Gerwig did not receive a Best Director nomination, and lead Margot Robbie wasn’t nominated in the Best Actress category). Given the success of Barbie, which grossed more than $1 billion in the first three weeks of its theatrical release, making Gerwig the first female solo director in history to have a billion-dollar movie, I can understand the shock, but Barbie did receive eight Oscar nominations — including Gerwig's nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay and Robbie’s nomination for her role as a producer for Best Picture category. Yet despite scoring multiple nods, white feminists are still mad, with Hillary Clinton — now going by #HillaryBarbie — taking to Instagram to discuss the “sting” of not taking “home the gold” and ensuring both Gerwig and Robbie know that they are “so much more than Kenough.”
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"I’m not bothered that people are disappointed that their favorite girl power movie garnered eight nominations instead of 10, but I am vexed about their argument: that it’s misogynistic that these two beloved white women didn’t collect specific nominations, completely minimizing the nominations of women of color."

raquel reichard
I’m not bothered that people are disappointed that their favorite girl power movie garnered eight nominations instead of 10, but I am vexed about their argument: that it’s misogynistic that these two beloved white women didn’t collect specific nominations, completely minimizing the nominations of women of color like Ferrera, Danielle Brooks (The Color Purple), and Da’Vine Joy Randolph (The Holdovers) — all first-time Oscar nominees for Supporting Actress — as well as Lily Gladstone, who is the first Indigenous woman from the U.S. in the Academy Award's 96 years to be nominated for Best Actress. I’m also ticked off that these same women aren’t going as hard for Greta Lee, whose Oscar-worthy role in Past Lives didn’t lead to a single nomination. And I’m definitely irked that Ferrera herself has to continue putting aside her own elation over her much-deserved nomination to weigh in on the “disappointment” around Gerwig’s and Robbie’s so-called snubs. In nearly every interview since receiving her nomination, Ferrera has been asked to comment on Gerwig and Robbie, which takes away from what should be her career milestone. 
Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.
Ferrera, and the other women of color nominees, deserve to celebrate and be celebrated without guilt and in the spotlight, especially when their identities have made it so much more difficult for them to build careers in Hollywood while playing multi-dimensional characters. Ferrera has spent 20 years portraying empowered, strong, and complex Latina characters on both the silver screen and in sitcoms. She's been a pioneer for Latine visibility in Hollywood starting with her debut as Ana Garcia in the 2002 film Real Women Have Curves and her nostalgic role as Carmen in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants to her award-winning portrayal of Betty Suarez on Ugly Betty and, more recently, producing, directing, and acting in the leading role of Amy Sosa on Superstore. The nomination also comes at an exciting time as Ferrera is set to direct her first feature film — an adaptation of Erika Sánchez's young adult, New York Times bestseller, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter.
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"In nearly every interview since receiving her nomination, Ferrera has been asked to comment on Gerwig and Robbie, which takes away from what should be her career milestone."

Lola Méndez
In her recent acceptance speech for the “SeeHer” award at the Critics Choice Awards, Ferrera shared how she, as a first-generation Honduran American child, noticed how the characters who looked like her on screen were rarely portrayed as fully human. She went on to explain that when she started acting it “seemed impossible that anyone could make a career portraying fully dimensional Latina characters.” But Ferrera has managed to do exactly that by playing “deeply layered Latina characters.” During that same speech, Ferrera stressed that “the best and highest use of storytelling to affirm one another’s full humanity, [is] to uphold the truth that we are all worthy of being seen — Black, brown, Indigenous, Asian, trans, disabled, any body type, any gender.”
Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.
But the Academy, which has overwhelmingly nominated and awarded non-Latine white actors and directors, has rarely affirmed this truth. After several years of #OscarsSoWhite criticism, Ferrera’s deserved recognition for her standout moment in Barbie — an instantly iconic feminist monologue about how “it is literally impossible to be a woman” and adhere to society's impossible expectations of women — should have been headline-making news. Instead, her moment — our moment — was overshadowed by white feminists who, simply, wanted more from an Academy, industry, and culture that already gave them much more than many of us ever dream of. 
This Barbie wants women to go as hard for Ferrera, and all the other women of color nominees, as they do for Gerwig and Robbie — wasn’t that kind of the point of their movie?

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