There aren’t many movies released in the last few years that have resonated with audiences quite as much as Barbie. A veritable cultural phenomenon that’s likely going to set the standard for marketing summer blockbusters for the next decade or so, by far the standout star of the pre-release hype for Barbie has been Ryan Gosling. Something the man himself credits to, of all things, a lemon.
Considered by many critics to be the best part of the whole film, with many openly admitting that he steals every scene he is in, Gosling’s take on Ken has fast become one of the most endearingly committed performances seen in recent cinematic history. In particular many have praised Gosling for the frankly heroic levels of effort he’s gone to while portraying a character that he himself admits, isn’t really even a character.
In Gosling’s own words –
Nobody plays with Ken, man. He’s an accessory and not even one of the cool ones.
A quote which was (at least partially) in response to criticisms from insecure men that Ken is treated like an object. Which well, is the point. As Gosling himself has pointed out in multiple interviews, Ken is and was always intended to be an accessory to Barbie that’s as disposable and interchangeable as her outfit. Which is kind of the point the film is trying to make and informs the character’s arc from a pathetic lost puppy of a man who literally defines his sense of self worth by his proximity to Barbie –
To an utter bellend who thinks acting like a total shithead is what will make women like him –
And finally, to a more well-rounded individual who is able to define himself not by what is expected of him, but by what makes him happy. Which in the movie just so happens to be hanging with the homies and kissing them goodnight.
Hell, the film even notes that Ken’s have their own Ken’s in the form of Allan, a character that only exists to be Ken’s friend, who is even more maligned and lost than he is. A character many have read to be representative of men who don’t conform to the masculine ideal and that similarly has a character arc that culminates in them realising that, that’s okay.
Anyway, none of this was exactly clear when the film was in pre-production with many, including a lot of it’s stars, assuming it’d be a shitty low-effort cash grab like Transformers or something. Which is presumably what was going through Gosling head when he got a call asking him to be Ken.
However, the actor was reportedly convinced to take the role after taking a stroll through his garden and noticing a Ken doll belonging to his daughter face down in the mud next to a discarded lemon.
This image spoke to Gosling who realised that this story had to be told, texting Greta Gerwig –
“I will be your Ken.”
After that he began channeling as much, as he woulc later put it, ken-ergy as he could to fully embody the character and everything he stood for. Mainly being a symbol of the fragility of masculinity that is defined by outside sources rather than the Ken within.