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It Wasn’t Just Casual Sexism at the Golden Globes, Jo Koy’s Remarks Hijacked Barbie’s Positive Impact

by Jess Clark 

The 81st Golden Globes took place on Sunday, January 7th, with the awards ceremony honouring film and television productions from 2023.

The ceremony was hosted by stand up comedian and actor Jo Koy, who received negative reactions, and his opening jokes were described by Richard Lawson from Vanity Fair as a “mishmash of lazy jokes”.

One of the most controversial parts of the ceremony was the joke Koy made about Oppenheimer and Barbie, two of the biggest films of 2023. 

Greta Gerwig’s Reaction to Jo Koy

With both nominated for various awards, Koy ignorantly commented, “Oppenheimer is based on a 721 page Pulitzer-Prize winning book about the Manhattan Project, and Barbie is on a plastic doll with big boobies.”

He continued, “The key moment in Barbie is when she goes from perfect beauty to bad breath, cellulite and flat feet. Or what casting directors call character actors!”

Instantly, there was a huge backlash against the comments online, with attendees in the crowds clearly unimpressed, especially Barbie co-writer and director Greta Gerwig, and supporting actor, Ryan Gosling, who played Ken.

Koy then got incredibly defensive after the negative response to the jokes.

Many took to social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, to express the ways in which the joke directly dealt with the issues of misogyny and patriarchy that are handled so well throughout the Barbie movie.

It must have been especially disheartening for director Greta Gerwig to have her work be broken down in such a callous and misogynistic manner, especially with the central message of the movie clearly being lost upon Koy.

To further this, the night saw Barbie win only two of the nine awards for which it was nominated, with Billie Eilish and Finneas’ song “What Was I Made for?”, and an award for Cinematic and Box Office Achievement, a new category which rewards mainstream films which are more likely to have been seen by most audiences.

There was also an idea surrounding the ceremony that this year was ‘for the girls.’ 

Despite the room being full of powerhouse women from writers to actors to musicians, the results of the night prove otherwise. 

Girlhood may be trending on our curated social media feeds, but the jokes made by Koy paired with the fact that Oppenheimer reigned over Barbie - walking away with 5 of their 8 nominations - may mean we’re in our own feminist bubbles.

Most gut-wrenchingly, Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer’s director, was triumphant over Gerwig in winning the award for Director in a Motion picture.

Unfortunately, compared to last year’s nominees for this category, which contained no women, for both Gerwig and Past Lives director, Celine Song, to even be nominated would be considered a win. 

Dismissing women is a theme that has long lingered around the Golden Globes, casting a shadow on the prestigious awards ceremony. The incident with Koy's comments not only magnified existing gender inequalities but also diverted attention from the crucial societal discussions initiated by movies like Barbie, emphasising the ongoing need to address sexism in the entertainment industry, regardless of how successful both Gerwig and Song were in 2023.

Whilst Barbie had huge commercial and critical success, Sunday’s ceremony clearly demonstrates that female directors still have a long way to go until they are celebrated in the same manner as male directors and what they produce.

Jo Koy's contentious remarks extended beyond the film industry, too. With many sexist examples throughout the night, notably he also targeted Taylor Swift. 

Koy's jokes, specifically aimed at Swift attending Travis Kelce's games, perpetuated criticism that Swift has experienced throughout her career in the spotlight, which began as a teenager, especially in relation to who she is or isn’t dating. 

The comments not only added to the night's controversial atmosphere but fuel concerns about the objectification of women in the entertainment industry. Swift, a prominent figure in both music and activism, became a focal point, not for her musical contributions, but rather for her already highly discussed relationship.

Even the Golden Globes press conference saw successful women being asked redundant questions. Emma Stone, winner of ‘Actress in a Musical or Comedy Motion Picture’, was asked how she felt about “sharing her win” with Swift after she gave Stone a “huge applause.” What even is that question?

Nothing will change until cheap and badly delivered jokes, such as those recited by Koy on the night of the ceremony, are eliminated, alongside the widespread misogyny and sexism women experience on a daily basis.

It is also frustrating that the backlash surrounding Koy’s jokes have completely taken the spotlight away from the wonder of the Barbie movie, and the discussions it started throughout society. Instead, we need to focus on the point that the movie presented; Barbie is so much more than a doll with “big boobies”.

This is what Barbie was trying to challenge in a satirical, emotional and, most importantly, accessible manner. 

America Ferrera’s beautiful dialogue towards the end of the film, where she discusses the standards that society expects all women to upheld, a monologue which Koy would do well to have heard, especially the line “You have to answer for men’s bad behaviour, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining.”

Edited by Emily Duff

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