This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
In times like the one we’re living in, I can’t stop my mind from racing. Three questions play on a loop in a heinous round, like the world’s most cursed version of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”: How did we let things get this way? Why is nobody with power doing anything about it? And what in the living hell is this Barbie movie anyway?
When confronted with a crisis, there are things that people turn to for distraction: hobbies, friends, family, booze. I turn to leaked photos of Ryan Gosling in a technicolor tie-dye vest on rollerblades from the set of Barbie. (Also booze.)
Since it was announced, people have been wondering, but really, what the hell is this Barbie movie? My esteemed colleague Jordan Julian wrote beautifully about this, in a piece titled: “But Really: What the Hell Is This Barbie Movie?”
That was just three months ago, which translates to roughly seven years in our news cycle. At the time, there was a scattershot of details, all on the spectrum of “intriguing” to “OK but honestly someone needs to tell us what’s going on.”
Originally, Amy Schumer had signed on to star in a Barbie movie about being exiled from Barbieland for not being perfect.
After she left, Margot Robbie replaced her in a film directed by Greta Gerwig from a script she co-wrote with her husband, Noah Baumbach. Gerwig is known for her movies Little Women and Lady Bird. A stab at the Barbie Cinematic Universe is unexpected, but we could see it. Baumbach most recently wrote and directed Marriage Story, a devastatingly honest film about the irreparable scars caused by divorce and, really, ever being brave enough to love someone in the first place. And what does that bleak assessment of the hopelessness of our existence conjure if not? Barbie.
While the approach or “take” on Barbie was still under wraps—welcome to 2022, where the default assumption is that there will be a “take” on Barbie—the casting of Robbie, and then Ryan Gosling as Ken, made sense. After all, as the story goes: God did get tired one day and couldn’t summon the effort to design more human beings, so he took a cab to Target, bought Barbie and Ken dolls, sent them down to Earth, and now we have the movies I, Tonya and La La Land.
But then news of that “take” was released. According to a tweet from New York Times reporter Kyle Buchanan, the film would be featuring multiple Barbies—including Issa Rae and Hari Nef alongside Robbie—as well as three Kens, with Simu Liu and Ncuti Gatwa joining Gosling. An incredible, provocative, inclusive idea! Also: huh?
All of that confusion was but an appetizer for the buffet of befuddlement that took over the last few weeks as countless images from the set of the film have started to appear online.
It is constant. I close my eyes. I open them. There is another photo of Ryan Gosling in costume as Ken that simultaneously sexually arouses and disturbs me.
The clock strikes another hour, and Will Ferrell is on rollerblades chasing Barbie and Ken down the sidewalk.
The only thing more frequent than a Barbie set leak is a Supreme Court decision that terrorizes the future of humanity.
The onslaught of content related to Barbie, a film that is still a year or more away from hitting the big screen, fuels me. It also destroys me. It is my sole reason for living right now. It is what will be the end of me. I can no longer complete basic tasks of survival because I am too busy thinking about Barbie. Yet I thrive. I thrive because of Barbie.
I lost days of my life to staring at the first photo of Gosling as Ken, yet also rediscovered my will to live. The bleached blond hair parted to create a flawless half-bang, the ideal and yet unattainable swoop, the perfect hairstyle from which to eyefuck people under. The acid-wash denim vest, sleeves torn, left unbuttoned to reveal exactly eight exquisitely toned abs (I have counted) and a glistening chest tanned to a hue that would be embarrassing unless you are Ryan Gosling, in which case it is suddenly the hottest thing that humanity has ever witnessed. The matching jeans with the waistband pulled down to reveal the label on his white underwear: “Ken,” cheekily in the font that is Calvin Klein’s signature.
The photo is magnificent. As tough as things are for our country right now, I am grateful that future generations will never know a time in which this image did not exist. Orgasming to this photo is a basic human right, one that even SCOTUS can never take away.
And yet, it provides no insight into what this project is. When, a short time later, Robbie was photographed in a bright pink cowgirl outfit, as if stepping out of a Kacey Musgraves fever dream, there were fewer answers. Ditto when Gosling was photographed in a fringed Western outfit that a five-year-old boy might be forced to wear by his mother to compete in a child beauty pageant in 1993. By the time they were photographed in exercise spandex that appeared to be stained by an explosion at a fluorescent highlighter factory while rollerblading and apparently chased by Will Ferrell, also on rollerblades, all hope was lost.
What is Barbie? What is meaning? What is intention? What is life? We don’t even crave clarity anymore. We surrender to the void. Give us nothing, but also, please God/Gerwig, give us more Barbie content.
A film that no one that has seen any actual footage from or even knows what it’s about has staged a cultural takeover. That’s powerful.
In a wonderful piece for the Beast, reporter Helen Holmes wrote about how “the Barbie-inspired aesthetic fever already seems to be trickling out into the real world—and even has a name, ‘Barbiecore.’”
Catch me this summer rollerblading in a hot pink visor.
And in the truest testament on its hold on the zeitgeist: It has divided Gay Twitter. You know you’ve made it when…
Is Barbie a commentary on the doll’s obsolescence in a modern, enlightened society? Is it a satire of influencer culture? Is it a shell production that exists solely to generate memes?
I need the answer, but I also never want to know the answer. I just want to cherish my time in this, our new era of directionless civilization: the Barbissic period.