So, here's why Barbie is up for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars instead of Original

So, here’s why Barbie is up for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars instead of Original

She’s a doll with a lotta lore!

Barbie was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars this week. The decision left many scratching their heads because the movie starring Margot Robbie in the title role wasn’t based on a book or similar.

Surely, you would think that the screenplay penned by its director Greta Gerwig and her long-term creative partner and now-husband Noah Baumbach would be in the Best Original Category. Well, according to Variety, Barbie’s studio, Warner Brothers, tried to appeal to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  However, the answer from that all-important Hollywood awarding body was a resounding “nope”, according to the same outlet.

Why, you ask? Because it’s based on source material! Yes, it being based on that famous doll has made it ineligible. Little girls worldwide have played with her since Mattel founder Ruth Handler debuted them in 1959. They know that Ken is Barbie’s boyfriend. They know she loves pink! This wasn’t a decision from Greta and Noah! It’s just existing Barbie lore! 

The Best Original Screenplay category is for scripts that have come from nothing but the inner workings of the writers’ brains. Yes, this includes sequels because they are a continuation of an existing story. Due to this, these films cannot be counted as fresh enough for the category. This year’s contenders for best Original Screenplays are The Holdovers, Maestro, May December, Past Lives and Anatomy of Fall.

Despite being perhaps less inventive, the Best Adapted Screenplay shortlist is another competitive list. It boasts the billion-dollar box office Barbie and American Fiction, The Zone of Interest, Poor Things and Oppenheimer. The last two, which are both based on books, are the most nominated titles for the March 10th ceremony. They got 13 and 11 nods, respectively.

When it was announced Barbie would be submitted for the Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars, the director Judd Apatow deemed it “insulting”.

“It’s insulting to the writers to say they were working off of existing material,” he wrote on X earlier this month. “There was no existing material or story. There was a clear box.”

However, this much-debated reaction was vindicated by the Writers Guild of America, who took a different stance to the Academy, dubbing it an original.

Despite getting a total of eight nods at this year’s Oscar, this week has seen a load of people causing a fuss about Margot Robbie and Greta not getting nominated for their solo efforts in Barbie – Best Actress and Best Director – and just for their producing efforts when the full list was made public. This backlash included accusing the Academy of sexism, and the nominated Barbie stars America Ferrera and Ryan Gosling speaking out to condemn the decision. 

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Photo credit via Barbie