The ‘Barbie’ movie may be months away, but the Ken-aissance is now.
Every now and again, an actor takes on a role that just feels right. Their connection to the character is undeniable, and their performance leaves an indelible mark on pop culture. Such is the case for Ryan Gosling as Ken in Barbie.
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The cast of Greta Gerwig’s upcoming movie descended upon CinemaCon on April 25, and Gosling was in fine Ken form. Margot Robbie, who plays Barbie, wore a preppy pink gingham two-piece set, which could have come straight from Mattel’s design book. Next to her, a spray-tanned Gosling appeared in a pair of dark wash jeans, a hot pink bomber jacket, and a white T-shirt with Gerwig’s name in Barbie bubble letters. With this, we can further understand a fundamental truth about the world: Gosling was made for this role.
In any given sneak peek of the viral film, Ryan Gosling can be seen wearing a chest-exposing top — his oiled-up abs contoured to cartoonish perfection — looking off into the distance at presumably nothing at all. Armed with bleach-blonde hair and a taste for eye-assaulting colours, Gosling looks at home as Ken. His on-screen trailer moments comprise a groan here, a wink there, and a general sense of befuddlement delivered with each line. Personality-wise, he gives nothing. And it’s sublime.
The thing is, Barbie is everything. She’s had over 200 careers, 20-plus dreamhouses, and a revolving door of wardrobe options that only gets more iconic with time. How does her boyfriend compete with that? Hint: he doesn’t. As the movie marketing states, he’s literally “just Ken.” He was created to be Barbie’s boyfriend; his raison d’être is to make her happy. Refreshingly, Ryan Gosling gets this. “Nobody plays with Ken [dolls],” Gosling said on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon back in July. He outlined Ken’s lack of prospects: no job, no money, no house. “He’s an accessory, and not even one of the cool ones.”
Even still, to be “just Ken,” one cannot be just good-looking. You must also understand the essence of Barbie’s beau, and Gosling does. He waxed his entire body for the role. He’s crafted a demeanour that is both hilarious and void of intentional humour. For months in interviews, he can’t stop bringing up an elusive “Kenergy.” Can it be taught? How is it measured? He never really says. But if the below video of him dancing circa 1992 is any indication, Gosling’s Kenergy is innate.
“This has been coming my whole life,” he told Variety. “I felt like I was seeing myself. I felt seen. I think a lot of Kens will feel seen when they see this.” Ken may be undeniably insignificant, but his big screen debut fills a void. Cinema doesn’t need another villain-fighting action hero or world-saving detective. Hollywood needs something much, much more important: Himbo representation. Defined as “an attractive but vacuous man,” the Himbo’s objective beauty may be initially intimidating, but his simple heart of gold always shines through. This archetype, in all his benign glory, has become an unlikely hero in recent years. Nobody fits that bill more than Ken, and Gosling embodies the side character with gravitas.
When he was first announced for the role, there was some online backlash. Critics said he wasn’t young enough to play the plastic boyfriend, lamenting that he lacked the Ken look. But with each new sneak peek, the 42-year-old has been proving that he not only understands the assignment, he was born for it.
“Up until this point, I only knew Ken from afar,” Gosling reportedly told the crowd at CinemaCon, discussing his approach to filming. “I didn’t know Ken from within. I doubted my Kenergy.” Lucky for us, he seems to have found it.
His CinemaCon get-up was not the first sign of his metamorphosis into the Mattel doll. Last summer, he donned an array of pastel suits when promoting his movie The Gray Man. More recently, on April 20, he sported highlighted grown-out hair and a pink dress shirt to an event in London, inevitably garnering Malibu Ken comparisons.
And, like Ken, Gosling’s Barbie reverence spills into each conversation. When asked about Margot Robbie’s cryptic clue that the movie is not what viewers expect, Gosling responded, “I would never correct Barbie…I would say whatever Barbie says is exactly right,” he told Entertainment Tonight. “Wait, what are we talking about?” he said moments later. Give this man an Oscar, stat!
We may still be months out from Barbie‘s anticipated release on July 21, 2023. But with Ryan Gosling as Ken, all is good in the world.