Opinion: Why Ryan Gosling’s Ken doll is giving us life
Bleach blonde, six-packed and spray tanned – Greta Gerwig’s ‘Barbie’ heartthrob is not for kids
Thursday 16 June 2022 By Hanna Flint
Ryan Gosling: in the immortal words of Emma Stone in Crazy, Stupid, Love, ‘Seriously, it looks like you’re Photoshopped.’ Yes, the first image of the Canadian actor as Ken in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie has been released and I don’t think any of us were quite ready for its plastic majesticness.
The icy blonde hair, the Tango tan, the acid-wash jean jacket and pants combo, the branded underwear, the washboard abs, the slight lean to his pose. Gosling looks like he’s about to stir up some trouble in Love Island’s Casa Amor. Like he’s seconds away from receiving a text from Laura Whitmore. He looks like he’s the new face for the Boohoo men’s campaign. He’s giving me, ‘my Instagram is full of #spon content for a protein supplement, so just click the link and use my discount code.’
Whatever Gosling is selling, I am buying. I don’t care that some people are complaining that at 41 he is supposedly too old to play Ken opposite 31-year-old Margot Robbie’s Barbie. First of all, they are dolls and if we wanted to be historically accurate both would be played by actors in their sixties. Yet, I also have a sneaking suspicion ageism could be a part of the plot.
What we know so far is that director Gerwig co-wrote with her partner Noah Baumbach, which is utter madness considering their indie sensibilities, but also maybe the best creative pairing a Barbie live-action story could come from. I want it to be kooky, funny and irreverent, and these guys have a knack for all three. Plus, its cast is stacked. Will Ferrell, Michael Cera, Nicola Coughlan, America Ferrera, Hari Nef, Issa Rae, Alexandra Shipp, Rhea Perlman, Ncuti Gatwa, Emerald Fennell and Ritu Arya are currently shooting the film in the UK. Simu Liu and Kate McKinnon are also starring and have said it’s one of the best scripts they’ve ever read.
Throw in the casting of Emma Mackey, a Robbie lookalike, and I wonder if the film is going to hinge on the ageism of the modelling industry, or unrealistic beauty standards, where Barbie deals with getting replaced by a younger model. If that’s the case, I’m going to need Jaime Pressly to make an appearance, too.
Gosling’s ‘older’ Ken would fit with this narrative, as we all know how men in Hollywood and the modelling industry have a longer shelf life than women do. But I can also imagine it might play on a tragic midlife crisis character element for Ken still trying to chase his youth one beach party at a time.
Personally, as a long-time Gosling fan, I’m just happy that he’s back in his fun phase. He is the type of actor who can handle comedy as well as he can handle drama, but his last three films – Song To Song, Blade Runner 2049 and First Man – left little room for levity. Now we’ve got Barbie, monster movie Wolfman, and his super-spy battle royale against Chris Evans’s mustachioed rival in The Gray Man to look forward to.
Four years I’ve been waiting for him to return to our screens, and his choices might not be as cerebral as, say, Only God Forgives, but I’m glad he’s reminding the world why he’s a bona fide movie star unwilling to be boxed in by what he’s done before. Gosling has the range – and these upcoming roles prove just that. Plus, he’s giving us some new thirsting opportunities, which we’re always very grateful for. Life in plastic, it’s *truly* fantastic.