Ryan Gosling's Ken Calls Back To Barbie's Bonkers '90s Controversy
Continuing Hollywood's quest to turn every toy and inanimate object in existence into a movie, 2023 will see the release of the long-gestating Barbie film by Academy Award-nominated director Greta Gerwig, who is no stranger to movies about little women. We'd already gotten our first look at Margot Robbie as the presumably smooth-groined protagonist, and this week it was the turn for Ryan Gosling as her beau Ken, who turned out to look like the Joker if he fell into a vat of orange juice.
But Gosling's look isn't completely without precedent in the Barbie canon. It didn't take long for the internet to point out that his wardrobe suspiciously resembles that of the most controversial Barbie figure to date: "Earring Magic Ken," also known as the only Ken who came (no pun intended) with his own, uhhh, something that rhymes with "rock king."
"Earring Magic Ken" came (sigh) out in 1993, as the result of a survey performed by Mattel that concluded little girls wanted the character to be "cooler." Apparently, Mattel's designers headed to the nearest hip club to find out what the cool kids were wearing these days and took copious notes, never realizing they were in a gay bar. Hence the earring, mesh shirt, purple leather vest, tight pants, and the peculiar object around his neck that Mattel insisted was a "necklace," but which those familiar with the rave scene immediately identified as a sex toy used to "prolong or enhance erections" or simply for "genital adornment," as Wikipedia puts it. Even Playboy reported on this:
Meanwhile, the American Family Association accused Ken of being part of the "homosexual agenda." According to contemporary reports, Accidentally Gay Ken was frequently sold out and was particularly hard to find in San Francisco, for whatever reason. Internet lore has it that it's still the best-selling Ken figure ever but there's no firm evidence of that, since Mattel still refuses to comment on the matter. It's also been claimed that Mattel discontinued him after only six months out of embarrassment, but that's not an unusual sales window for a doll like this one. What we do know for sure is that Mattel wasn't too happy about the toy being re-christened "C*** Ring Ken," based on the increasingly exasperated statements from an official representative: "C'mon, this is a doll designed for little girls, something like that would be entirely inappropriate."
Here's hoping the upcoming movie finally makes sense of Barbie continuity by revealing the details of Ken's transition from vanilla boyfriend to Gulf War propaganda tool to queer fashion icon. As for why Gosling isn't wearing the ring in the promotional photo: we're betting he is, just nowhere visible. So there you go, clear confirmation that the characters won't be smooth down there after all. Anyway, happy pride month!
Top image: Warner Bros. Pictures, Mattel