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To the un-Barbied eye, pairs comprising only 12% of Americans, Ryan Gosling’s “I’m Just Ken” Oscar performance might’ve stood to produce unsubstantiated conclusions that the film — a furtive ode to White, liberal feminism — is, actually, a biopic on Ken. If, say, “Barbie” had been recognized by the Academy’s 66% male voting body to a degree nominally relative to that of the film’s cultural prestige, Gosling’s ballad might’ve been easier swallowed. 

 “Barbie,” co-written and directed by Greta Gerwig, was, in all of its plastic’d glory, the highest-grossing film last year. More than even its blockbuster status, “Barbie” was a cultural phenomenon—a temporal exercise in commercial feminism that, for a time, made doll cosplay cool and the widespread outer use of the color pink ubiquitous.

It held the zeitgeist captive with an embrace unmatched even by the nuclear, Christopher Nolan-directed, Best Picture winner.

According to YouGov polling taken in August of last year, 88% of Americans knew of the movie’s existence a month after its meteoric debut. “Barbie” sits beside “Oppenheimer” as a reigning, 2023 megahit – perched on some proverbial throne for pop-culture royalty. 

The Strategic Management Journal recently released the findings of a 26-year study that examined the IMDb ratings of over 4,000 films, about a quarter of which starred women. Researchers concluded that, on average, films with female leads received poorer ratings. You’d be hard-pressed to find a woman shocked at this verdict. It won’t look out of line with the all-pervasive, omnipresent second-to-men positioning. 

Returning to the familiar contempt of women: The 96th Academy Awards unwittingly bestowed upon Barbie-devout, pop-culture-consuming subjects the responsibility to assume the role of scribe. Academy Libraries and slideshow YouTube clips entitled “Every Oscar Winner in (insert applicable category) in Oscar History” will be largely devoid of Barbie mentions. It is the obligation of our shared cultural consciousness to remember the end-of-summer epoch that was Barbie.

“Barbie” is the McDonald’s Happy Meal of liberal feminism. As is present in the consumption of any overtly commodified cultural object, there is a level of resentment to accompany it, the kind of self-directed grievance that manifests in questioning the subsistence of the product. But, goddamn it, it’s a Happy Meal. One is justified in buying a Happy Meal in times – shitty, rights-revoking times – that require a false, rudimentary fix: a heavily processed and finely packaged reason for women to share in mutual admiration and patriarchal interrogation. And pink.

The worst part? Gosling’s outlandishly solid performance was, admittedly, enough to turn a bona fide feminist and certified lesbian into an Academy apologist and Gosling groupie. Why did he have to be so excellent on the night presumed to belong to the women of Barbie? Because of course he was – he’s just Ken. 

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