Bringing that ‘Kenergy’: A conversation with men about the Barbie blockbuster movie | CBC News

Barbie has taken the world by storm.

The highly anticipated Barbie movie was officially released in theatres Friday after a months-long media tour filled with Barbie looks, an incredible marketing campaign, and the “Kenergy” of Canadian actors Ryan Gosling and Simu Liu on full display. The term has been used on the red carpet and elsewhere to describe their performances as the Ken doll, as well as men embracing their love of all things pink and positive. 

While plenty of women are excited to watch this nostalgic childhood figure come to life, plenty of men are also hitting Barbieland this summer.

CBC News spoke to men across Ontario about Barbie, Greta Gerwig’s filmmaking and how something like toxic masculinity won’t stop them from seeing the film.

Andrew Paulsen, Thunder Bay 

A man stands for a photo in front of a green bush, wearing a light brown jacket, a blue shirt, and a bag
Andrew Paulsen of Thunder Bay, Ont., is a fan of Barbie filmmaker Greta Gerwig and is looking forward to seeing how she brings the concept to life. (Marc Doucette/CBC)

Paulsen, 38, is a playwright and film lover from Thunder Bay, Ont.

He’s a fan of Barbie director Gerwig and husband Noah Baumbach, who co-wrote the script with her. 

“Immediately seeing the trailer, it was clear that they clued into a specific tone and idea, and it was just going to sing. It was going to be something I wanted to see,” Paulsen said.

For him, it’s all about watching a director like Gerwig at work, and the fact the movie is about Barbie won’t stop him from seeing it.

“The idea of putting a limit … or preventing yourself from seeing something that might be of interest to you is insane to me,” he said. “I mean, I want to watch as many movies as I can. Why would I say no to this one?” 

WATCH | Simu Liu brings ‘Kenergy’ to the red carpet: 

‘The Kenergy is strong’ on Barbie pink carpet, says actor Simu Liu

Canadian actor Simu Liu spoke with CBC’s Eli Glasner about what it was like to play the iconic Ken doll and work with Greta Gerwig on the upcoming Barbie movie. 

Paulsen also remembers when Brokeback Mountain — a 2005 Western love story about two men — was in theatres and his male friends were hesitant to see it as a group. 

“I’m like, I don’t care. Seeing this isn’t going to make me gay, you know? It’s like, it’s a movie – I can handle watching a film,” said Paulsen.

“If you’re afraid Barbie’s going to change you in some fundamental way, or that your reputation might be ruined, I worry more about when you have to do something significant in your life and make a choice, rather than what you’re going to see on a Friday night.”

Griff Bordignon, Mississauga

A man poses for a photo holding a trophy, wearing a burgundy shirt and khaki shorts
Griff Bordignon of Mississauga, Ont., is excited for the Barbie movie and to see Greta Gerwig’s latest production. (Submitted by Griff Bordignon)

Bordignon, 29, is excited for the Barbie movie and also a fan of Gerwig’s work.

“At first I wasn’t sure where they were going to be going with it,” Bordignon said. “But then once I saw Greta Gerwig was directing it, more than anything that really caught my attention.” 

Bordignon remembers growing up when Barbie was especially popular and his sister had a collection of the dolls, so he understands the impact a movie could have.

He said he had no issues expressing interest in the movie and was looking forward to watching it.

“I say if I feel like doing something, I’m going to do it. I don’t really care what other people think,” said Bordignon.

“It’s not like I’m out here basically like screaming into the heavens or anything. But yeah, if someone says to me, ‘Will you see this movie?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah,”” he said, “The one person I actually talked about going to the movie with was a guy friend of mine, because my fiancé, she’s still on the fence about wanting to actually go see the movie.”

Bordignon believes “toxic masculinity,” basically pressures men may face to behave a certain way, may prevent some men from seeing Barbie. He relates it to expectations when it comes to music — men feeling uncomfortable listening to artists who primarily appeal to women.

Anyone who wants to see Barbie should do so and not feel they’re being judged, he said.

“It’s going to be like an hour and 50 minutes. Buy your overpriced popcorn and drink, and just sit back and relax and watch the film.”

Graeme Hurtubise, Toronto

A man wearing a blue sweater and blue sunglasses poses for a photo by the lake on a sunny day
Graeme Hurtubise of Toronto has Barbie on his list of films to watch. They also include Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and the new Mission: Impossible starring Tom Cruise. (Submitted by Graeme Hurtubise)

Hurtubise, 25, works in the film industry in Toronto and has Barbie on his watch list this summer, along with Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One.

He isn’t sure yet which order to watch them — he just knows he’s looking forward to seeing each, especially Gerwig’s Barbie as she brings that world to life. 

“Everything I’ve seen has just kind of confirmed my suspicion that they were just really going for it with the production design, like the set design of the Dream House,” said Hurtubise. “It  looks incredible. I will be pretty disappointed if it doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for production design.”

When he was a child, Hurtubise played with Barbie dolls at friends’ houses and even had some dolls of his own. He said his parents didn’t separate toys by gender, but remembers the Barbies looking like the character portrayed by Kate McKinnon in Barbie — with crazy chopped hair and scribbles on her face.

Hurtubise can understand some men may feel shy or anxious about going to the film. But he added he didn’t have to hide his excitement for Barbie, and if anyone tries to make fun of him for expressing his excitement in something “girly,” they wouldn’t be “someone who I’m going to spend a lot of time around.” 

Hurtubise plans to see the film with some friends who are women, and they’re all dressing up for the occasion.

“I wasn’t really planning on it. Then my friends [who are] going were like, ‘We’ve got our outfits for the Barbie movie. What are you wearing?’ I was like, ‘OK, now I have to put together an outfit.'”

Brandon Belisle, Thunder Bay

A man poses in a yellow t-shirt and hat.
Brandon Belisle of Thunder Bay says he’s looking forward to seeing a movie that’s upbeat and fun. (Submitted by Brandon Belisle)

Belisle, 29, a supervisor at the Salvation Army in Thunder Bay, is excited to see a movie that’s upbeat and fun, and looks forward to seeing how it takes the plastic doll into a fully realized world.

Belisle remembers that as a kid, Barbie dolls were among the toys in his playroom and he saw other Barbie movies.

He too wants to see the Barbie world Gerwig has created, filled with bright colours, but also sees why men might be shy about expressing excitement.

“Barbie, I find, is very stereotypically a feminine interest. A very cool girly toy. I know myself as a kid, if I wanted to play with Barbie, it’s not something I would ever bring up on the playground,” said Belisle

“I would always imagine if I brought up, ‘Oh, I play with Barbie at home,’ I’d get teased for it because it’s a very stereotypically feminine thing and it’s not exactly a ‘boy’s toy.'”

WATCH | Take a look at some of the Barbie nostalgia at the Thunder Bay Museum:

Barbie’s everywhere this summer, even at the Thunder Bay Museum

The highly anticipated Barbie movie comes to theaters this month and Barbie-mania is everywhere, even the Thunder Bay Museum has a small collection of Barbie in their toy archives. The CBC’s Jasmine Kabatay paid the museum a visit to check it out.

Even though he was more reserved about Barbie with his friends as a child, as an adult, Belisle is more open with what he’s interested in.

“I do believe if, say, 20 years ago it came out, when I was 9 or 10 — I don’t really think I’d be as open or as excited about it as I would be now,” said Belisle.

“And not only that, I feel like if I was excited for it, then I feel like people would make, I guess, the stereotype of a gay joke. I think that’s a big thing as well.”

Belisle believes 2023’s big-budget Barbie will allow people to laugh and just enjoy themselves.

“I also believe that it’s more accepting now than it was then. Take myself, say, 20 years ago. I don’t think it would have been the same excitement for me or the same outward excitement for it. I guess it’s just that times have changed. Why not be excited about it?”

Jesse Collier, Brampton

A bearded man with a hat takes a selfie of himself drinking from a pineapple
Jesse Collier of Brampton, Ont., says it wasn’t until he became a father that he started to experience the world of Barbie, through her eyes. (Submitted by Jesse Collier)

Like most film buffs this summer, Collier, 39, plans to see both Barbie and Oppenheimer, making it a double feature and a cinematic weekend experience.

He became interested after hearing Margot Robbie was cast as the Barbie lead, but seeing the first trailer convinced him it was something he wanted to watch. 

“I was like, ‘Oh wait a minute, this looks like a really funny script, and it’s kind of a lot of like a meta-comedy and stuff.’ So that kind of peaked my interest and now I’ve been following it ever since.”

Barbie was never really one of his childhood toys. But everything changed when he became a father. Now, he gets to experience the Barbie universe through his daughter’s eyes.

“It’s great,” said Collier. “Her very first Barbie was an astrophysicist Barbie, which came with a telescope. So that kind of got her interested in the planets and looking at stars and stuff like that. So definitely very positive.”

WATCH | Ryan Gosling tells GQ magazine what ‘Kenergy’ is all about:

Collier believes men have been influenced by messages they’ve heard their entire lives — such as they’re “not supposed to like stuff like that.”

“That’s still kind of ingrained in them that some stuff is for men and some stuff is for women. So, you know, you shouldn’t be excited for it. And it’s still prevalent in our society, people that think that way.

“But I think it’s definitely changing for the better. I think a lot of men kind of put that toxic masculinity to the side and say, ‘You know what, this looks like a good movie.'”

Collier said he had planned to see Barbie with his wife, but she’s going with other friends, so he may watch the film alone — well, sort of.

“[It’s] going to be interesting, a grown man going to see Barbie all by himself. But you know what? I don’t care. I’ll just go and see it, catch a matinee … maybe I’ll bring all my daughter’s Barbies.”

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