Back in April, at CinemaCon 23, actor Ryan Gosling made a confession: “I didn't know Ken from within and if I'm being really honest, I doubted my Kenergy. I didn't see it, but Margot [Robbie] and Greta [Gerwig], they conjured this out of me somehow.” Kenergy has since become something of a buzzword. Best known for being Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken perpetually lives in the shadow of his cooler and more accomplished girlfriend — and he’s totally fine with that — as is Gosling. And if the popularity of the song ‘I’m Just Ken’ is any indication, then the actor’s Kenergy is ready for the spotlight.
So what exactly is Kenergy? No one seems to be clear on its definition, but after rigorous research into Gosling’s appearances during Barbie’s promotional campaign and rewatching his previous films, we’ve concluded that the actor has been Kenning long before director Greta Gerwig wrote him into her Barbie retelling. So we’ve compiled quotes that explain Kenergy, along with a list of roles that tapped into Gosling’s Kenergy long before the world knew of this cultural force. Kenjoy.
“Ken's got no money, he's got no job, he's got no car, he's got no house. He's going through some stuff.” - Ryan Gosling
Set in Forties’ South Carolina, Noah Calhoun in The Notebook is a down-on-his-luck lumber mill worker who’s got his eyes set on Allie (Rachel McAdams), an heiress who is way out of his league and whose parents go to great lengths to separate the two. Noah has big plans to restore an abandoned plantation, but his unfortunate circumstances make it difficult. He ends up serving in World War II and eventually fulfils his dream of renovating the house. He reunites with Allie, who by now is engaged to another man, and the couple get together at last. However, Allie suffers from dementia in her old age, and an elderly Noah spends his time reminding her of their love. The film ends with the two of them curled up in bed, lost in eternal slumber.
“Doesn’t seem to matter what I do, I’m always number two / Is it my destiny to live and die a life of blond fragility?” - From ‘I’m Just Ken’, Barbie: The Album
Few can match the himbo vibes of Gosling as Jacob Palmer in Crazy, Stupid, Love. The actor plays second fiddle to Steve Carell here, taking on the role of a wingman who teaches the older man how to talk to women. Gosling’s character in the film is something of a player who sleeps with a different woman each night, but struggles to form meaningful connections with any of them. (‘Blond fragility’, anyone?) Also, if you didn’t think of Ken when Jacob takes his shirt off to reveal those wash-board abs, then you should definitely rewatch the scene. Jacob reveals that his “big move” to seduce women is inspired by the infamous lift from Dirty Dancing (1987), which feels like a quintessential Ken gesture.
“[Ken] carries sunglasses so [he] can reflect Barbie's greatness. Because that's really [his] job. And she can use them to put on lipstick, while [he hides] his sadness.” - Ryan Gosling
Sebastian Wilder in La La Land is a struggling jazz musician who dreams of one day opening a club of his own. At the heart of the film is his whirlwind romance with Mia (Emma Stone), during which the two connect over their shared love of the arts. He encourages her to explore her passion for acting, while she pushes him to realise his own dreams. After their eventual break-up, Seb convinces her to attend an audition that would give Mia her biggest break. What could be more Ken than endless loyalty and support for your loved one? Even though the two don't end up together, Sebastian continues to persevere and ultimately opens a successful jazz club, thus fulfilling his own dreams. Barbie director Greta Gerwig’s take on her lead character’s Kenergy — “I think the Kenergy he gets to at the end, it’s like self-actualized Kenergy” — holds true for Sebastian’s fate at the end of La La Land.
“I think [Kenergy] is a recognition of the ways in which masculinity under patriarchy is limiting.” - Katie McKinnon
The protagonist in this film is a police officer who uncovers a chilling secret that could throw the entire world off-balance. While this reality may not seem to have much in common with Barbie, we can’t help but note that of all the alphabets that Gosling’s character could have had as his name, it turns out his name is K. Blade Runner was heavily criticised for its misogynistic portrayal of women. However, others have suggested that comparisons can be drawn between the replicants — who are considered second-class citizens in the film — and the treatment of women in our world, especially given that reproduction is one of the film's central themes. According to director Denis Villeneuve, the stereotypical and dehumanising portrayal of the film’s female characters is a reflection of our own society: “it’s a dystopian version of today.” Regardless of his intentions, the film speaks to the pitfalls of toxic masculinity and unequal power structures.
“No one knows how hard I tried, oh, I have feelings I can’t explain / And I’m great at doing stuff” - From ‘I’m Just Ken’, Barbie: The Album
Ryan Gosling is a convict-turned-badass spy in this action flick by the Russo Brothers. His character, who goes by the pseudonym Sierra Six, finds himself embroiled in a mission beset with betrayals and kidnappings. Six is a resourceful and highly-skilled assassin who, despite his dark past, is bent on doing the right thing. Hard as it is to believe, Ryan Gosling’s Ken-connection (Kennection?) predates his involvement in the Barbie universe. There is a moment in the film when the antagonist Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans), who is desperate to capture Six, declares to his team of mercenaries, “Extra ten million to the first guy to put a bullet in this Ken Doll’s brain.” Gosling had, in fact, not yet been cast in Barbie when this line was written. “It was great timing,” said co-director Joe Russo in an interview. “But we’d like to say that we encouraged Ryan to embrace his Kenergy. We’re expecting a real Kennaisance.”