Mon. Apr 15th, 2024

Image: Ryan Gosling Performing ‘I’m Just Ken.’ Photo via Kevin Winter/Getty Images

On March 10, 2024, Ryan Gosling was more than just “Kenough” while performing “I’m Just Ken” at the 96th Annual Academy Awards. The number is filled with numerous surprises and references from beginning to end, and Gosling made sure to put everything he had into the entire three minutes and 30 seconds he had. From references of female icons to a guitar legend cameo, Ryan Gosling’s Academy Award performance of “I’m Just Ken” overwhelmed fans with a grand finale of what “Barbie” was truly made for. 

Gosling began his performance hidden amongst the audience with his costars. As the lights faded to pink and the piano began to play, he emerged from the crowd towards the stage in his fully “pinked out” suit. As soon as Gosling joined his 62 singing and dancing Kens on stage, the reference to Marilyn Monroe’s “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” became clear. Gosling’s glamorous pink suit and the many striped ties of the other Kens were chosen specifically as a tribute to Marilyn Monroe. “Barbie,” directed by Greta Gerwig, was made to be more than just a movie — it was a movement embedded in a film about female empowerment. The reference to Marilyn Monroe was a crucial and genius detail that continued to portray the film’s intent beyond the film itself.

But that wasn’t all — with the help of over 24 giant cutouts of Barbie heads, the performance also made a clever reference to film director Busby Berkeley. Berkeley was known for his complex choreography in the 1930s and 1940s. As Gosling was lifted off the ground, the camera got a bird’s eye view of a sea of Barbie heads surrounding him, resembling Berkeley’s work. To someone who may be familiar with Busby Berkely, it is easy to spot the references, as it’s a common occurrence in modern choreography. When Mandy Moore, the choreographer for Gosling’s performance, was asked to incorporate Berkeley-inspired choreography, she told interviewers she wasn’t surprised. She also expressed that many performers ask for similar choreography in their performances.  

Immediately afterwards, the many Barbie heads began to disappear from the stage. As they ran  off one by one, they revealed Gosling at center stage, standing next to none other than lead guitarist of Guns and Roses, Slash, to play guitar for the remainder of the song. The audience erupted in song as the lyrics of the final chorus were displayed on the screens surrounding the stage. Suddenly, the performance became a giant karaoke party as the microphone got passed along to Gosling’s costars. He likely did this to make sure that everyone who worked on the movie had a chance to perform for “Barbie” one last time. As the song ended, the fireworks erupted, and “Barbie” was given the finale it truly deserved.  

Ryan Gosling truly gave his performance of “I’m Just Ken” his all. All he needed was an orchestra, an army of kens, giant Barbie-head cutouts and Guns and Roses’ Slash. In an interview with Ryan Gosling conducted by E! News, Ryan Gosling responded to a question regarding his performance, saying, “They’d already asked me to come razzle, so I happened to have a little dazzle on me, and I thought I’ll throw it in. On the house.” Ryan Gosling certainly did have all the razzle and dazzle to make “I’m Just Ken” at the Academy Awards the performance it deserved.


Payton Vogt is a first-year English major.

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