Barbie’s Ken tramples all over Andrew Tate’s toxic masculinity

Barbie’s Ken tramples all over Andrew Tate’s toxic masculinity. By Alice Thomson.

Last summer it was all about Andrew Tate. The influencer dominated social media with his slap, grab, choke language about women knowing their place in the patriarchy. Panic set in, toxic masculinity appeared to have taken over. The former kickboxer stacked up millions of young followers and 12 billion views with his advice to young men to stop feeling downtrodden, fight back against the “feminazis” and control their “bitches”. Boys deserve fast cars, girls shouldn’t drive, he said. Women may snivel, real men don’t show emotion.


A year later, no one much cares about Tate. Last week he was released from house arrest in Romania while a court decides whether he will face trial for alleged rape and human-trafficking centring on his online sex-cam business. He seems a lonely figure. It’s clear his childhood on an estate in Luton was desperate; he was bullied at school until he retaliated.

Jordan Peterson, custodian of the patriarchy, has fizzled out too, the psychology professor’s rants on the collapse of male hegemony are increasingly ignored by all but the most entrenched online incels.

Now it’s all about Ken. The actor Ryan Gosling appears to be having a ball even though he isn’t allowed to sit in the front of Barbie’s Cadillac, and men of all ages seem to relate to him. The inadequate would-be surfer who only does “beach” has stolen the show with the funniest, most poignant part. He fails in his half-hearted coup, carried out in a faux fur coat, to recreate the patriarchy. He’s kept at arms-length, in the “friend zone”, by Margot Robbie. But the male sex don’t appear to feel emasculated. Tie-dye hoodies emblazoned with “I am Kenough” have sold out in every size. …

According to YouGov figures, in the US the male/female breakdown of Barbie watchers is 46/54; in the UK it’s nearer 50/50. My three sons have all seen the film, as has my husband. In Paris, my daughter said the men were laughing more than the women. …

This doesn’t appear to just be virtue signalling. Men don’t mind looking vulnerable. “He’s just Ken” — an acknowledgment you can feel comfortable without being exceptional — has gone viral. The film feels less about female emancipation and girl-power than a meditation on the state of masculinity. Ken has stolen the first billion-dollar feminist film — typical man — and yet you can see why.

Men have increasingly been vilified. The latest posters on the London Underground encouraging people to dissuade their fellow passengers from sexual assault with the entreaty to “Say Maaate to a mate” suggest that all they want to do is ogle women on trains. There are horrifying stories about the abusive behaviour of male Met officers, hedge fund titans and MPs but the majority of men don’t behave or feel this way. As Ken says: “When I found out that the patriarchy wasn’t about horses, I kind of lost interest.” …

Most men I know actually like women and respect them. They don’t want to be a beach bum with no penis but they would like to be buff and ironic, like Gosling, able to show their emotions while hanging out with the girls.

That way they get to be friends with Margot Robbie rather than pumping iron in a sweaty gym with Andrew Tate. They’re not trying to dominate the universe, they just want to be decent at their job, supportive to their partner and a good dad if they have children. …

YouGov polling found that only 8 per cent of people had positive views of white men in their teens and twenties, the lowest of any ethnicity or age group.

Our family went and saw Barbie on the weekend. Despite what certain right wing attention seekers proclaimed (here’s looking at you Ben Shapiro), it wasn’t unfairly ideological. It was written by a woman and her husband, btw.

The movie plays everything for laughs. It poked fun at everybody. Every character and ideology was both treated sympathetically and ridiculed at different times. It was fun, light, and not too teachy. The fundamental power dynamic — which most commentators omit because it’s too obvious — is simply that Ken loves Barbie, but Barbie only wants to be friends with Ken.