The buzzword has followed Barbie, possibly the summer’s buzziest movie, ever since Ryan Gosling coined the term when asked about the role while promoting his 2022 action film The Gray Man. “I have that Ken-ergy,” proclaimed Gosling, whose Gray Man character is coincidentally called “a Ken doll” by rival Chris Evans, in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.
Gosling, who plays the most visible of the male dolls in the life of Margot Robbie’s lead Barbie, and who looks like he’s having about a thousand times more fun promoting the Mattel-inspired comedy than he has with any of his previous projects, has doubled down on the concept ever since.
“Up until this point, I only knew Ken from afar. I didn’t know Ken from within,” deadpanned Gosling at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, stealing the Warner Bros. panel. “I doubted my Ken-ergy. I didn’t see it. … I was living my life and the next thing I knew, I was bleaching my hair and shaving my legs and rollerblading on Venice Beach.”
So what in the world is Ken-ergy?
While he brims with joy every time he drops the catchy phrase, Gosling offered no easy explanation or definition, when asked about it during a new interview with Yahoo Entertainment. Instead, he pivoting to Robbie for the assist.
“I don’t know how to articulate it, really,” Robbie says (watch above). “I think it’s definitely a play on BDE [“big d**k energy], that was a real acronym commonly used not that long ago. And you hear that and you’re kind of like, ‘Yeah, we all just know. … We know what you’re getting at.’”
Gosling’s other famous co-stars offered conflicting takes. “I think it’s a whole lot of nothing,” Issa Rae said bluntly. Michael Cera described it as more of a vibe, believing it was reflected in the intense on-set ping-pong competition among all the actors playing various Kens. And Kate McKinnon got psychoanalytical: “I think it’s a recognition of the ways in which masculinity under patriarchy is limiting,” the ex-SNL star said before cracking: “And their outfits proved it cause they looked really stupid.”
Even director and co-writer Greta Gerwig struggled with the concept, ultimately bringing it back to Gosling. “He’s said, and I think it’s true, ‘You know it when you see some Ken-ergy, but to put words around it, it's really to diminish the Ken-ergy.’”
When pressed, Gosling eventually weighed in with a surprisingly geeky comparison that he immediately had to translate to a bewildered Robbie: It’s like Highlander, the film and television series about a centuries-spanning war between immortal warriors.
Like Highlanders “know when they’re in the room with each other,” Gosling maintained, you know Ken-ergy when you see it.
Barbie opens July 18.
Watch the trailer: