Climbing Mount Barbenheimer

In which I do the thing!

The last weekend of July, what feels like an actual lifetime ago, two friends and I embarked on the double feature to top them all: Barbie and Oppenheimer. In that order. The only way to do it, really. You can’t watch three hours of devastation (mostly emotional, it should be noted) and then dive headfirst into a Lizzo/Kate McKinnon/fantastically nonbinary Michael Cera world. It’s just not healthy.

One movie paints a picture of an ordered utopia where everyone knows their part to play and believes their playing it perfectly will preserve the perfection of the world. The other movie is Barbie.

The association between Oppenheimer and its ‘girlie’ following—indeed, the audience for whom it may always have been intended—is by now well established by the cultural bastions. My two companions had, let’s say, rather a more visceral reaction to Cillian Murphy than I did (I like ‘em looking a little less malnourished), but I can’t say I minded a male-driven vehicle. In the sense of gender balance, it recalled the Golden Age Hollywood movies I’d grown up seeing. And his performance was no doubt worthy of one.

Barbie, meanwhile, was not the escapist fantasy I, and I think many others, expected. It’s got its share of thoughts of death, arguably more than Oppie does. It finds villains in unexpected places and continues to surprise us with their twists and turns. Whatever Ken’s redemption arc was going to be, I didn’t anticipate the seminal power ballad “I’m Just Ken” to occur before that arc had well and truly run its course; but he is for all intents and purposes still the Big Bad at the time of the fateful, impeccably choreographed beach fight.

That being said, the song, like “Shallow” before it, outlasts all contexts, and I patiently await next spring when Ryan Gosling brings the house down with it at the Oscars. I think it’s time for him to face that he’s a proper singer now. Just like it’s time for Daniel Craig to face that he may go down in history first as Benoit Blanc, and then as the secret agent guy.

Anyway, these films pair quite appropriately. “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds” wouldn’t be out of place in Barbie, and it would have gotten an *intended* laugh out of me. And Margot Robbie’s line about how she would never wear heels if her feet were shaped “like this” (human, flat) is straight out of Florence Pugh’s Jean Tatlock’s playbook. If at any point I rewatch one, I may have to rewatch the other in close succession on principle. Something would feel missing otherwise.

Dedicated to Bernie, from whom I affectionately stole this post’s title—the kind of role model, in writing and in life, that I can’t believe I ever lived without.

Image: Warner Bros via SkyNews

Published by Cecilia Gigliotti

Cecilia Gigliotti (she/her) lives in Berlin with a beloved ukulele named Uke Skywalker. She co-hosts and produces the music commentary podcast POD SOUNDS. Her free time goes toward dancing, reading books new and old, drawing cartoons, taking city walks, and devoting too much thought to the foibles of her heroes. Connect with her on Instagram (@c_m_giglio, @ceciliagphotography, @pod_sounds_podcast) and see what else she's up to (

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