OK, Fine: I Did Barbenheimer

I went to see the most anticipated double feature in years to see if it was worth the emotional damage.
A photo of the film Oppenheimer - a man's siloutte in front of a huge explosion, next to an image of Barbie waving to Barbieland.
Photos: Courtesy of IMDB, via Warner Bros and Universal:

If you’ve been even vaguely online over the last few months, you’ve surely encountered Barbenheimer, the long-awaited simultaneous theatrical release of Barbie and Oppenheimer, a cultural event that’s bigger than both. The films have star directors—Greta Gerwig and Christopher Nolan—and huge casts, but they’re on wildly different ends of the entertainment spectrum. Oppenheimer, a biographical thriller, depicts the man who spearheaded the creation of the atomic bomb; Barbie is a feminist comedy about a doll. 


Still, they’re united in one cause: to fuck up our brains.

Would they live up to the hype? Would the double-header be worth the emotional damage? I booked my tickets, joined the parade of indie pop boyfriends and Barbie pixie girlfriends lined up for the best counter-programming since The Dark Knight and Mamma Mia! went head-to-head at the box office 15 years ago, and decided to find out.

Obviously, I watched the nuke movie first. I’m not insane. In the toilet beforehand, a fellow Barbenheimer-er told me she was going home to do a rapid change out of her black-suited Oppenheimer fit before the Barbie screening. But as I emerged in the lobby, I saw, to my delight, that nearly everyone else in the cinema was wearing Barbenheimer in a single outfit. It was 2000s Paris Hilton meets an e-girl convention, with tasteful black/pink remixes accented by the occasional Barbie accessories: solid 10/10 fashion. 

During the adverts, a Barbie preview played, and the Oppenheimer audience gasped and giggled. That mood didn’t last. Within 30 seconds of the film starting, the room was so loud that my seat was shaking. I was strapped in for the next three hours, whether I liked it or not. Cillian Murphy stared through me for what felt like 30 seconds, and my gut turned with that familiar feeling of christening an all-day bender.

The film was a long yet painfully insightful look at the life of its star scientist and a haunting reminder of humanity's power to annihilate itself. When the credits rolled, I could’ve happily taken some Ibuprofen, gotten into bed, and processed what I’d just seen. But I ran to pee and went straight into Barbieland instead.


I wondered: Could Barbie heal my inner child? Was this a movie for millennials or kids? Would Ryan Gosling really be Kenough? Inside the theatre, the atmosphere was light, fun, and, to my surprise, bursting with even more pink. A little girl whispered “slayyyyy” as I passed by. I knew I was safe here. I was ready for the relief. 

As it turns out, Greta Gerwig did make this film for the girlies. Barbie balances the perfect amount of comedy with heartfelt messaging for the OG Barbie fans that are now adulting. It felt very needed—not only in this climate but also personally, to cleanse the weapon-of-mass destruction plot rattling around my brain. I loved the ridiculous, yet profound message of the Ken song, “I’m Just Ken”; I think that scene alone could cure bro culture as we know it.

When Barbie ended, there were cheers and screams from across the room. Everyone was laughing and seemed happy to be there—a sharp contrast to a few hours earlier, when the couple next to me jumped and comforted each other after every bomb. As for myself, I felt psychologically drained. I kind of had a headache. After seeing someone choose to massacre half a million people, I could only feel so empowered about Barbie becoming human and getting a vulva.

Would I recommend Barbenheimer? Maybe, if you’re emotionally stable enough. But I can say one thing for sure, I do not recommend doing it the other way around. Back-to-back, with no break in between, made me feel like I had just taken shrooms with my separated parents. Of course, it was silly. Of course, it was torture.