Oscars 2024: Ryan Gosling is More Than “Kenough”

The actor has been nominated for the Supporting Actor category for his role in ‘Barbie’.
Oscars 2024: Ryan Gosling is More Than “Kenough”
Oscars 2024: Ryan Gosling is More Than “Kenough”

There was never any doubt in writer-director Greta Gerwig that Ryan Gosling was Ken. You may think it’s because he’s blond and buff, but the superficial resemblance is actually the last reason for this inspired casting. It truly is  “sublime!” to watch Ryan Gosling not condescend to a character, and reverently adopt his insecurities as his own. In Gerwig’s Barbie (2023), Gosling plays Ken, the sidekick/love-interest of stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie). Ken is an incessantly vain buffoon, and he yearns for Barbie’s attentiveness, and spars with the other beautiful Ken (Simu Liu) to be her romantic interest. In a neat switch in the second half, he is a vindictive patriarchal oppressor who is miffed with Barbie because she did not want to be his “long-term long-distance low-commitment casual girlfriend”, and in a twist joins forces with the other Kens. Gerwig said that she wanted Gosling for the role because even though the actor tilts towards being hilarious, he never stands outside his character to pronounce judgement on him. “He doesn’t try and make you know that Ryan Gosling thinks that this is silly,” said Gerwig in an interview. 

While the film is about how stereotypical Barbie learns about girlhood and what it means to be a woman, it is Gosling’s Ken who often steals the spotlight with an arc that includes a heartbreak, a nemesis, traversing to the evil side and then a redemption at the end. Gosling with his platinum beach blonde hair, blue denim vest that showcases his moisturised abs, is not just goofy as he tries to woo Barbie. He is campy camp in a film that, at times,  tries too hard with its punchlines. 

Gosling’s performance is made even more remarkable when you consider that Ken, in Gerwig’s film, is essentially a punchline and an ornament to pronounce the goodness of Barbie. He doesn’t just enact Ken, he slips into the role. While Gosling takes Ken being ridiculed on the chin, he also dignifies his arc by never distancing himself from it. During the promotions of the film, one of his clips, where he is talking about his daughters playing with Barbie and Ken went viral.  “I did see him (Ken), like, face down in the mud outside one day, next to a squished lemon,” Gosling said, “and it was like, This guy’s story does need to be told, you know?”

Gosling’s pouty Kenergy has already turned “I am Just Ken” — which the actor himself sang, and where Ken seethes how difficult it is to be sidelined — into a blockbuster. How could it not resonate with lyrics that are as earnest as “All my life, I’ve been so polite. But I will sleep alone tonight” and  “Is it my destiny to live a life of blond fragility?”

Earnest, and funny. For the love of our hormones, Kenough!

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