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Why America Ferrera’s jaw dropped during Simu Liu’s monologue at 2024 People's Choice Awards

During Liu's speech, he made a joke that sparked Ferrera's priceless reaction.
/ Source: TODAY

While Simu Liu was up for a 2024 People's Choice Award, he also presided over the evening as host for the Feb. 18 event. During his opening monologue, he naturally made mention of "Barbie."

Greta Gerwig's doll-centric movie was up for nine awards, the most of any movie at the event. Liu poked fun at the second most-nominated movie, "Oppenheimer," in his monologue.

"Oppenheimer showed us that a three-hour drama about the moral complexities of creating the atom bomb could be a massive financial success — as long sit came out as the same day as 'Barbie,'" he said.

The camera panned to America Ferrera in the audience. Ferrera won movie performance of the year at the PCAs for "Barbie," and she's also up for an Oscar for her work in the film, where she plays Barbie's human companion who teaches her about the human world. Her monologue in the movie was praised and quoted (and debated, too).

Ferrera seemed to be amused by the joke, dropping her jaw and putting her hand over her mouth. Her shock slowly gave way to a cheeky grin.

It wasn't the first awards season joke that poked fun at "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer." At the Golden Globes back in January, host Jo Koy approached the joke differently.

“‘Oppenheimer’ is based on a 721-page Pulitzer Prize-winning book based on the Manhattan Project. And ‘Barbie’ is about a plastic doll with big boobies,” he said, sparking half-hearted laughter and online backlash. (Director Greta Gerwig took the joke in stride, saying, “Well, he’s not wrong,” when asked about her reaction.)

After both films came out in theaters on July 21, it became the pop culture phenomenon "Barbenheimer," which encouraged viewers to see both films back-to-back and embrace the chaos behind the opposite films. The juxtaposition sparked memes, merchandise and costumes connected to the summer blockbuster occasion, and it's only gained steam as both films find success during awards season.

But the stars of the two films don't see "Barbenheimer" as a competition. Cillian Murphy and Margot Robbie sat down in conversation for Variety's "Actors on Actors" series and spoke about the cultural moment.

“I think it happened because both movies were good, that’s the thing,” Murphy said. “There was a sort of a diversity offered by both movies.”