- The original plan for Ken’s song in the Barbie movie would have weakened Ryan Gosling’s character and the overall film. The song’s inclusion in a bigger role, complete with key changes and iconic guitar riffs, enhanced the character’s development and added depth to the story.
- Ken’s character arc and emotional growth wouldn’t have been as satisfying without the larger role of “I’m Just Ken.” The song provided the necessary momentum and climactic boost for Ken to confront his insecurities and ultimately find a healthier self-image.
- “I’m Just Ken” serves as Ryan Gosling’s standout moment in the film, showcasing his vocal abilities and emotive performance. The song’s inclusion was so important that the entire Ken battle scene was built around it, allowing for a more direct and impactful integration of the song into the film.
The original plan for Barbie‘s “I’m Just Ken” song would have hurt Ryan Gosling’s character, and in turn, the movie itself. Ken, played by Gosling, is initially painted as a nothing-but-looks sidekick to Barbie. Upon his exposure to the real world, he learns about patriarchy and brings what he thinks its ideology is back to the other Kens. Playing on the idea of the Kens as “accessories” to Barbies, the Kens end up feuding when they don’t each win the sole attention and affection of their respective Barbies.
Without this feud, “I’m Just Ken” would be just another song. Not to mention, producer Mark Ronson shared the song was originally going to have a smaller role. When he first pitched it to writer-director Greta Gerwig, it wasn’t finished. It didn’t have the iconic key change, Slash’s guitar riffs, or the Foo Fighter’s Josh Freese on drums. Additionally, Ronson didn’t intend it to be a huge, choreographed fight-dance number in the movie, but perhaps just a song that plays on the soundtrack. However, this plan didn’t stick – and the movie was better for it.
“I’m Just Ken” Being Smaller Would’ve Hurt Barbie’s Story
When first meeting Gosling’s Ken, he’s evidently only focused on one thing—Stereotypical Barbie’s attention. Despite thinking patriarchy revolves around horses, Ken instigates an antagonistic story in the movie whereby the Kens take over the Barbies’ dreamhouses, brainwash the Barbies into submission, and drink “brewskies.” During Ken’s power-driven anger toward Barbie, he hints to his insecurities about his unrequited love and his feelings of inferiority, something spurred on by his comparison to men in the real world versus in Barbieland. “I’m Just Ken” amplifies his motivations for starting the Kendom and his other villainous actions.
If the movie had gone with the original idea for “I’m Just Ken,” Ken may not have had the momentum and climactic boost his character needed to develop past this arc in a satisfying way. Without the spectacle and fun of the Kens’ performance, Ken’s eventual breakdown to Barbie where he confesses his feelings of inadequacy and identity crisis struggles wouldn’t have felt as earned. Additionally, Barbie’s advice that he can be Ken without her wouldn’t have struck as much of an emotional chord. He needed to have an elaborate catharsis that mirrored the tongue-in-cheek humor throughout the film so he could get to a healthier self-image and realization of his worth.
“I’m Just Ken” Is Ryan Gosling’s Ultimate Showcase Moment In Barbie
Although Gosling’s Ken portrayal is effortless, from embracing the Kenergy on the Barbie press tour to the moment audiences first see his performance as Ken on the beach, “I’m Just Ken” is his true showstopping moment in the film. Not only does Gosling get to show off his vocal chops, his dramatized dance-like fighting and emotional performance beautifully articulate his struggles, such as questioning his destiny and pain over Barbie not reciprocating his romantic feelings. Plus, it crescendos the epic Ken battle to brotherly reconciliation and support.
To further highlight how integral this song is to the film, Ronson shared in a behind-the-scenes featurette that the Ken battle scene was built around the song so that it could be included in a more direct way (via Vudu). By marrying dynamic ballad vocals and unique tempo shifts with striking visuals and movement, “I’m Just Ken” acts as the ideal showcase for Gosling’s Ken to work through his self-discovery and insecurities. Playing into Ken’s vulnerable side juxtaposes his attempts at stereotypical, patriarchal masculinity, therefore helping bring Barbie‘s story to a positive conclusion that echoes the film’s message of self-acceptance.