In “Barbie,” Ryan Gosling’s Ken is patently ridiculous throughout the whole runtime. He goes from a guy whose job is just “beach” to a guy who embraces the patriarchy and tries to take over Barbie Land from within. It’s a character that could’ve been pure comic relief, or he could’ve come across as too unlikeable during his second act heel-turn, but Gosling still makes Ken’s pain feel real and sympathetic even as the world around him is clearly made of plastic. It’s not a surprise that when Gerwig was asked in a recent WGA Q&A (via Variety) why she picked Gosling, she pointed to his work on “SNL”:
“He’s hosted like seven times and he’s great at it… We watch ‘SNL’ like every week when it’s on. He’s funny on ‘SNL’ in the same way he’s moving in a dramatic role: he’s always kind of doing it from inside, even when it’s the most ridiculous sketch. He commits 100%. As soon as we said his name, we were like, ‘Yeah, it’s the person.'”
Sure enough, Gosling gave it his all for Ken, just as he gave it his all for that guy who was obsessed with “Avatar” for using the papyrus font in its marketing, or for that poor guy who was tricked into eating Pizza Hut instead of the classy Terrezano’s. His best “SNL” roles involve an insecure, childlike man attempting a gruff, tough-guy persona, which fits perfectly for the character arc Ken goes through. Ken tries to adhere to the ideals of masculinity as he understands them, but ultimately he just wants to ride horses and have Barbie’s attention. “Barbie” co-writer Noah Baumbach confirmed that he and Gerwig literally had Ken written into the script as “Ken Ryan Gosling” before he was cast, and we have no trouble believing him.