While Second and Third Wave feminists argue over whether Margot Robbie was too damn beautiful to be a standard bearer, consider Ken. That's what Megan Garber did brilliantly in The Atlantic. It turns out that Greta Gerwig's weirdly sympathetic yet unsparing look at the American boy man is the most pointed satire of all. Garber's opening left us smacking our foreheads and thinking "Of course!"
"Earlier this week, Elon Musk announced that he would be rebranding his social-media platform: Twitter is now, simply, X. Speculation abounded as to why Musk would trade a well-known brand for a letter typically associated with rejection and porn: spite, maybe. Or maybe—the most absurd theory, and therefore the most likely—the man who had named his car models “S,” “3,” “X,” and “Y” was doing it, once again, for the lols. Soon after Twitter became X, employees reported, the conference rooms of its headquarters were rechristened. The staffers Musk hasn’t yet fired can now plan the future of democratized conversation from a meeting room named 's3Xy.'"
Sounds like the newly emboldened Ken to us. If you haven't seen Barbie yet (and why not?) stop here. Because we're having a Eureka moment reading Garber's piece, which shows Ken to be as archetypal as Barbie, but even more a man of our time than she is a woman. Ken, as brilliantly played by Ryan Gosling, is the tantrum-throwing manchild we have come to know and hate in our disappointing era of tech bros and Trump, the Arch Bad Dad of this generation's crop of the worst American males.
"Ken, in Gosling’s rendering, lives in a stew of emotions that are always just beyond his control. He is by turns petulant and teeming with possibility, impulsive and self-conscious. Which is also to say that this chisel-jawed doll is, in many ways, a very typical adolescent. Barbie, newly beset by human-borne feeling, shocks herself by crying—first a single tear, and then a flood of them. Gosling’s Ken cries too. But his discord has a stereotypically masculine edge. He erupts into anger. He feels entitled to sex, despite and because of his ignorance of it. He cares, deeply, what the other guys think of him. 'You can’t make me look uncool in front of Ken!' he wails at Barbie, panic flashing in his eyes."
Barbie's coming of age is straight outta the 70s, just like America Ferrera's well-intentioned but been there done that speech about the impossible expectations placed on women, the only trite bit in an otherwise fresh and clever film.
But Ken? He hasn't even started.