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It’s no exaggeration when I say that the release of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie next summer is about the only thing giving me the strength to survive during an utterly cursed moment in American politics and global health—well, that and my COVID vaccine.
The same seems true for most of Film Twitter, who can’t help but gleefully share any and all photos (and now videos) they can get their hands on of the movie, which is currently shooting. The stills, without any sort of context about the film’s plot, have managed to become memes.
So far, Barbie’s distributor, Warner Bros., has released two promotional photos from the upcoming film—one of Margot Robbie, who plays the titular lead, in a hot-pink convertible, and the other of Ryan Gosling as a beach-blond Ken with washboard abs. Twitter, myself included, rejoiced. In particular, the latter reveal seemed to give Gosling skeptics some confirmation that the 41-year-old actor is an ideal fit for one of pop culture’s most iconic boyfriends. There’s also been word from journalists that the film will supposedly be set in a multiverse and feature multiple Barbies and Kens.
— The Weekly Cut (@weeklycut) June 29, 2022
These sort of first looks and publication exclusives are industry protocol. And vague plot details prior to a trailer drop are expected, given the hype surrounding the potential blockbuster. It’s rare to go into a studio project, particularly one based on IP, completely blind. However, something more sinister is happening regarding the amount of set photos that have become practically unavoidable on Twitter if you follow at least three people in the Film Twitter sphere and especially the Twitter account @filmupdates. God help you if you haven’t already blocked @PageGosling.
It’s not that I don’t derive pleasure from seeing photos of two of the hottest actors wearing cute cowboy attire and rollerblading around town in matching neon sets. Robbie looking distressed on a park bench while wearing a Western fringe getup made me chuckle. I’m more so struck by the fear that footage of these outdoor scenes will never end and lessen at least some of my experience watching the film come July 2023.
I realize that I’m speaking from a place of privilege. This same problem notably occurred during the filming of Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci. I scrolled along when people expressed concern about the startling amount of footage being leaked by bystanders of Lady Gaga and Jared Leto, and the meme farm it prompted. I blew it off as some staged operation in Universal’s thirsty press rollout—although, this isn’t a wild assumption—and didn’t make a fuss. Still, I should’ve known that this would set a precedent for all highly anticipated movies to come and not even filmmakers with as much goodwill on the internet as Gerwig would be exempt.
There’s obviously a better case for not leaking footage from Barbie, a film I trust to be thoroughly good and has already proven to be a visual spectacle in the costume department, than House of Gucci, which, from what I’ve seen, is both bad and looks hideous. I want to be pleasantly surprised when I see Robbie pop up on-screen in her hyper-feminine ensembles. I want to sit up in my seat when Gosling appears wearing presumably the “male” iteration of whatever Robbie’s wearing. Plus, Gerwig (and her partner Noah Baumbach, who co-wrote the film) has given the world, specifically very online film addicts, enough spectacular film content over the past decade—and will most likely contribute one of the few interesting films into the IP cinematic universe—that she deserves us not circulating her bits of her art before she can present it in its finished form.
Even as more people are demanding for the Barbie set photos to cease, I don’t see stan accounts or even just annoying Film Twitter people exercising any sort of self-control. For those of us wanting to reserve an element of surprise until the film’s release, we can only pray the rest of the movie is shot indoors.