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When I first watched Ryan Gosling in Drive, I sighed so loudly in the cinema that everyone laughed at me.
I’m sorry, I know it’s pathetic – but that white T-shirt he wears that gets covered in oil and dirt? Swooooooon. I’ve adored him since, soaking up everything he’s been in, from Blue Valentine (the most poignant take on the breakdown of a relationship I’ve seen in modern cinema) to Lars and the Real Girl (sad but sweet) and La La Land (which I take as a sign of whether I am kindred spirits with someone – if you don’t love La La Land, we are not the same). I rewatched Blade Runner 2049 a couple of weeks ago and swooned again, all the way through – and it’s hardly romantic.
I adored him in Crazy, Stupid, Love, was moved by his portrayal of a drug-addicted high school teacher in Half Nelson and captivated on a trip to the cinema to see The Place Beyond The Pines – yes, even at its two-hour, 20-minute run-time. In fact, I think the only way my Gosling fandom could possibly be improved would be if he starred in a vampire movie, something (preferably) set in the 1800s, in which he could wear some kind of frilled open shirt – or a ruff (call him “Ryan Gothling” and be done with it). But that’s by the by.
So it’s fair to say I felt a bit excited by the news that Gosling was playing Ken to Margot Robbie’s Barbie in the new Warner Bros movie, which is slated for release on 21 July 2023 (sigh – do we really have to wait that long?). Still, to tease and tantalise those of us who care – if you don’t, feel free to turn away now – the film producers decided yesterday to release the first images of Gosling as Ken... and I am here for it.
Part of Gosling’s appeal is that he doesn’t seem to take himself all that seriously and, while the abs on display in the Barbie promo shot are certainly serious, what I’m sure of is that his character will be every bit as self-referential, self-deprecating and achingly self-aware as we’d all hope for.
Gosling will do justice to Ken’s reputation for being perfectly plastic and fantastically vacuous – just like the animated character version of Ken in the Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse TV show on Netflix that I watch with my kids. It’s one of those programmes that works for grown-ups, too – it’s sarcastic and full of double entendres, acerbic and entertaining. Gosling is the perfect choice to take that on.
Except... not everyone is excited by the choice of actor for the part, even though Gosling reportedly plays just one “version” of Ken, with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings star Simu Liu portraying another (something that’s giving me Inception or Matrix vibes – anyone else?). Some fans are so outraged by the premise that Ken would be played by someone at the – shock – ripe old age of 41 that they’ve jumped onto Twitter to express their consternation.
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“I love Ryan Gosling, but 40-year-old Ken is insane. I’m sorry,” one person wrote. Another added: “Extremely moved that ‘Ken’ (Ryan Gosling) in the Barbie movie is 41 years old.” (That one made me LOL... but wait, do the young people still say that?) And it is here that I must declare an interest: for I turn 41 next week, the same age as Gosling (I knew we were perfect for each other!) and I am overjoyed that people will now realise that old people can be hot too.
Come on, we’re not dead or redundant as soon as we pass our thirties (something the Love Island producers would do well to remember), and Gosling’s “dad bod” (he – sniff – has two daughters with his – sob – wife, Eva Mendes) is a work of art. It’s time to do away with ageism and recognise that you don’t have to be below 25 to be beautiful, or have a starring role in a film or TV show that riffs cleverly on what it means to be attractive (and judged entirely for the way you look).
At 41, the actor has lived, has refined his acting talent and his killer looks and has that smouldering, toothpick-between-the-teeth broodiness down pat. He’s proved that dads can be hot too and you never know who you might meet on the school run (I would definitely join the PTA if Gosling was on it). He knows what works for him by now, and he works it well.
And if you can gaze at someone like Gosling (OK, the super-bleached hair isn’t his best look, but I still stan) and say he doesn’t fit the image of Ken doll perfection because he’s too old, then I’m sorry – but you should take another look. And another. And another.
I just swooned out loud in the newsroom, and everybody laughed at me. Is there a theme here?