I hope the team behind the Barbie market campaign this past summer, ahead of the release of the movie and also now, during award season, is getting a holiday bonus. Because the work they produced delivered measurable results (a massive box office) and made a huge cultural impact.
Barbie was monoculture in 2023, at a time when very few pop culture pieces become so ubiquitous – and I’m not talking about the doll, I’m talking about the film, its messages, its references, its cast. And it’s Ken. Especially Ken, because for me, the conceit about Barbie, the movie, is that it’s not actually a movie about Barbie, but a movie about Ken, and what Ken represents or doesn’t represent. Which, of course, is why a Serious Actor like Ryan Gosling would have signed to the project.
What’s amazing through is how UNSERIOUS Ryan has been during the Ken era of his career. As he has said during the Barbie press tour, that the was the key to unlocking the character for him, going back to his Mickey Mouse Club roots, appreciating the work he was doing during the early part of his professional development, and the work that appealed to him in that time. In other words, he stopped taking himself so seriously – and in the process, gave a seriously great performance, among his very best performances, maybe even his best performance, as Ken… a f-cking doll. (I wonder if Jacob Elordi is paying attention.)
That performance is up for a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Oscars. And it looks like Ryan is going for it with a campaign strategy that hits on two fronts – because he’s not just campaigning for himself but also for Best Original Song, “I’m Just Ken”. He is both intimately connected to both the character AND the song. Because when he was playing the character, he heard Mark Ronson’s demo for the track (after Mark sent it to Greta Gerwig) and lobbied Greta to let him sing it in the film, which required her to write a new song to include it.
As you probably know, “I’m Just Ken” went viral…it’s a hit on social media, it’s the second post popular song on the Barbie soundtrack after Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night” but is generating more Oscar buzz and that will certainly be helped by the release of the “I’m Just Ken” Kristmas remix that just dropped yesterday, LOL forever.
“The world can have Ken’s voice but only Barbie can have his eyes” – I screamed. I cried. I screamed and cried again when he ripped off his jacket and snatched the mic. And then when he started playing to the window, pure 80s music video vibes, I lost consciousness.
Ryan Gosling is letting himself be UNSERIOUS. That does not mean he doesn’t take his work seriously, because obviously he does. But he’s also realised that if the work is serious, he doesn’t have to be so serious. He can play, he can have fun…and that’s a way to serve the audience too.
But now the next question – since they are clearly going for it with this song, and getting it in front of Oscar voters before the holiday break, if “I’m Just Ken” really is nominated for Best Original Song at the Oscars, has Ryan just made it inevitable that he will have to perform it? That’s your ratings boost, right there. Come on, Ken. Just say yes.
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Attached: Ryan and America Ferrera attend 'In Conversation with the Barbie cast' at BFI Southbank on December 08, 2023 in London, England.