Not your Ken? Not Gosling's concern
Life in plastic isn't always fantastic. Just ask 42-year-old Ryan Gosling, who, after landing the role of Ken in the new Barbie movie, has faced claims he is too “ancient” to play the doll.
The internet is already obsessed with the first live-action Barbie movie, thanks to trailers released ahead of the Warner Bros. film's debut next month. But the promotional material has already prompted some critics to use the hashtag #Notmyken to express their disappointment in Gosling's casting, writing on social media that he is too old to play the part of the chiselled doll with perfect hair.
“I can't be the only one that thinks Ryan gosling looks old to play Ken,” read one of many tweets about his age. “Ryan Gosling looks old and washed out in this to me. I think it'd have made more sense with someone younger at this point,” read another, while a third said: “that's so sad that man is ancient.”
Gosling responded to the criticism Wednesday in an interview with GQ magazine, saying: “If people don't want to play with my Ken, there are many other Kens to play with.” He also joked that for decades nobody has ever particularly cared about Ken, who is really known only as Barbie's boyfriend and the guy who works at the beach. “It is funny ... this kind of clutching-your-pearls idea of, like, #notmyken. Like you ever thought about Ken before this?”
Technically, Ken has no official age (he is a doll, after all) although he was first introduced as Barbie's boyfriend on March 11, 1961, which means he has been around for 62 years. (Barbie was created in 1959, which would make her 64.)
But experts say the backlash Gosling faced also shows that ageism, which female actors frequently face, impacts men in the industry, too — and that stars playing Barbie characters may have tough expectations to live up to.
“It's interesting to see this conversation happening” over Ryan Gosling, Dennis Olsen, associate professor of advertising and branding at London School of Film, Media and Design, said in an interview. The issue of age has been an “ongoing conversation” centred around women for a long time, and “fresh faces are regularly required by some studios and producers in order to, what they assume, ensure desirability,” he said.
“Age impacts both men and women in different ways. Men have more opportunities but the roles they are allowed to play narrow down,” Olsen added, with older men in the film industry often cast as “mentors or experts” while older women no longer play “sexy” roles but “quirky” or “evil” type characters.
Audiences may have had expectations of what Ken would look like given their association of the doll with childhood, as Barbie and Ken are a couple who represent “eternal youth” and “embody childhood” to many, Olsen said, though he added that some backlash has also focused on the fact that there is a 10-year age gap between the two actors playing Barbie and Ken.
The fact that Barbie and Ken show up in 2023 played by Gosling, 42, and Margot Robbie, 32, could be a wake-up call for some viewers who may be feeling a little old themselves. Experts say the film isn't actually geared at children, but nostalgic adults who see the film in a nod to their childhood.