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Barbie: What is Kenergy? We ask the experts

Ahead of Barbie's movie premiere, we examine Kenergy through the opinions of Ryan Gosling, Ken fans everywhere, and a practicing psychologist. Wait, what?

Ryan Gosling in Barbie (2023)
Image credit: Warner Bros.

The Greta Gerwig-directed, Margot Robbie-starring, Ryan Gosling-venerating Barbie movie is on track to have a significant cultural impact. It looks like it's going to be the biggest movie of the summer, it may begin a franchise, and it's already contributed a new word to the English language. That word is Kenergy.

Just what is Kenergy? Though the dictionary will almost certainly be forced to add it by the end of the year, there's no set definition as of this writing. But we here at Popverse just couldn't let the subject go, so we've turned to the experts to learn the possible meanings of the word, beginning with...

Kenergy, according to Ryan Gosling

Image credit: Warner Bros.

During the Barbie press tour, Ryan Gosling has had plenty of wisdom and anecdotes to share about playing Ken. Naturally, the subject of Kenergy has come up quite a bit in these interviews. Speaking to ExtraTV, Gosling hints that Kenergy is a distant concept, something difficult to pin down. "We don't have the funding for the research," he says, continuing, "We know that it's real [...] but hopefully if this film - if the conversation starts, we can start funding it and really finding out, 'What is Kenergy?'"

That's a bit modest, Ryan. Elsewhere during the press tour, the actor's proven he knows plenty about Kenergy, telling MTV News that it's "alive in me now" despite the fact the Blade Runner 2049 star once "doubted [his] Kenergy," according to a SiriusXM interview.

But where Gosling gets really specific isn't in the definition of Kenergy, rather, it's the force's origin. In his case, a great deal of Kenergy comes from his childhood, or at least, the person he was as a child actor. Speaking to the LA Times, Gosling said:

"It felt so organic, as this whole process has. We were talking a lot about just being kids and coming from that place in a lot of these scenes. And when I was a kid, I was working and I was dancing at the mall or singing at weddings.

And I thought, you know, that kid worked really hard and got me here. I owe everything to him, but I thought I had let him retire. Like, he’d worked enough and I could take it from here. But it was time to pull him out of retirement one more time for one last heist."

That's a pretty satisfying answer to where Gosling's Kenergy comes from, sure. But another indisputable fact about the phenomena, according to Ken himself, is that Kenergy is not just something he posseses. It is universal. A shared experience. Pertinet ad populum. So for a broader definition, let's turn to...

Kenergy, according to the fans

Image credit: Warner Bros.

Before the Barbie cast brought Kenergy to the discourse, another word existed in the popular lexicon that, now, many associate with Ken and his titular energy. That word is "himbo," defined in a Fandango interview with Will Poulter as "a beautiful idiot." Speaking to Poulter of his Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 character, the interviewer describes Adam Warlock as "like Ken from Barbie."

But is Kenergy simply himbo-ness? Merriam-Webster defines a himbo as an "attractive but vacuous man," a bill which Ken fits judging by the trailers alone. However, Ken's Twitter fans are not in accord on the subject, with some using the terms interchangably...

...some postulating Kenergy is a himbo variant...

...and still others that hold the two terms are separate.

Of course, Twitter isn't exactly a place to go for entirely reliable discussion, but what else do you expect? It's not like we could get someone with a doctorate, someone with actual, practical experience in a serious scientific field to define Kenergy for us, right?

Wrong. Of course we Ken.

Kenergy, according to a trained psychologist

Image credit: Warner Bros.

Dr. Mark Travers writes on a range of psychological topics, from breakups to misinformation to bad habits. But in a July 13 post, the very real psychologist took to Forbes to give his take on Kenergy, and more than that, to explain how we can find it in ourselves.

According to Dr. Travers, Kenergy is a positive framing of masculinity. To back this theory, Dr. Travers looks to Ken's supportive role in his relationship with Barbie and the pride he takes in curating his appearance, both traits that are often toxically portrayed as "weak" in a man. As to how we can harness Kenergy ourselves, well, I wouldn't want to steal the good doctor's thunder by telling you here.

You can read more on the psychology of Kenergy by clicking the link above, and you can go see Ryan Gosling's version of it in just a few days, when Barbie opens worldwide on July 21. Buy tickets for Barbie on Fandango or Atom Tickets.


Get your Kenergy out with our comprehensive guide to watching all the Barbie movies (Yes, there's many!).