There are so many goofy sequences in the Barbie movie. From the Kens firting with the Barbies while they sing a Matchbox Twenty song to a commercial for a depressed doll that watches Pride and Prejudice all day, there's truly something for everyone. One of the most memorable moments from the movie is the “I’m Just Ken” sequence, in which Ryan Gosling’s eponymous doll belts out an outlandish ballad about his perceived plight of existence while he goes to war with his counterparts in Barbieland. The results are absolutely hysterical but, apparently, the original idea for the song was very different.
In a recent behind-the scenes featurette released by Vudu, the crew and cast of Barbie talk about what it was like filming and writing the climactic “I’m Just Ken” sequence in the film. Mark Ronson, who produced the soundtrack for the summer blockbuster, revealed that director Greta Gerwig originally just planned for the song to be placed somewhere in the film, but not highlighted during a major sequence. But over time, the tune evolved into something more significant and became a huge movie set piece in the process. The music producer said:
It went from being this song that was maybe gonna be played somewhere in the film, to this song that they built this sort of epic battle around. ... I instantly knew what The Ken Song should be. Greta’s like, ‘We love that song. Actually could you make it longer?’ So we were essentially scoring like 11 minutes just around the Ken song.
The track is just so catchy, and it's used to great effect. The result is an epic battle in which all the Kens in BarbieLand fight each other. The catalyst for the scuffle is the Barbies pitting their male egos against each other as a distraction so they can reclaim the fictional utopia as their own. The Kens in the scene have a limited worldview of the “patriarchy” so the sequences infuses a childlike element to the fight. With that, the guys use toy horse heads on a stick and foam balls for transportation and weapons. As for Gerwig’s inspiration for the big scene, the filmmaker explained:
Growing up, I loved The Nutcracker. The battle between the toy soldiers and the rats, the absurdity of it. That’s something I was thinking about when we created this battle.
The absurdity of the big moment absolutely comes through in true comedic fashion. It's so incredibly over-the-top, letting the movie fully embrace the ridiculousness of its premise and style. Such a bold choice like this from an auteur aiming to appeal to mass audiences is so surprising. The movie fully goes for it, becoming as wonderfully campy and bombastic as possible. Ultimately, it works well and is a blast to watch. This can be accredited to an immense amount of commitment from the Ken actors, especially Ryan Gosling, who gives an Oscar-worthy comedic performance, and the wonderful story Greta Gerwig and co-writer Noah Baumbach crafted.
Even though the scene is so far into the realm of silliness, it still finds a way to be so profound. The Kens are fighting for the sake of fighting, not realizing that the entire ordeal is about their own insecurities. They're all trying to be something they aren’t, attempting to emulate an idea of masculinity that they have seen in the media. The scene is played for laughs but still fits perfectly within the earnestness and message of the movie.
Making the battle so long and drawn out imitates the exhausting length of many male-dominated war scenes in movies, especially westerns. It’s clever and a great choice for the film. Also, of course, the now-iconic tune that plays over it all is just the icing on the cake, and I'm so glad it was featured prominently. Needless to say, Greta Gerwig and co. made the right choice when deciding on the final vision that ultimately ended up in the film.
You can see the “I’m Just Ken” scene in the box office-dominant Barbie by seeing the film in theaters now or buying the movie with VOD from Amazon. For information on other flicks heading to the big screen this year, consult our schedule of 2023 new movie releases.