Margot Robbie as Barbie and Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer

This One Connection Between Barbie and Oppenheimer Is Giving Me Life

Seeing both Barbie and Oppenheimer in one weekend (not back-to-back, but still) gave me a lot of takeaways I wasn’t expecting. I didn’t expect one of my favorite SNL alums, Lauren Holt, to be in Barbie. I didn’t expect Oppenheimer to be a surprisingly good date night movie. And I especially didn’t expect to like Oppenheimer WAY more than I liked Barbie overall (even though my favorite movie of the year is still Past Lives, by far).

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But you know what I really wasn’t expecting? What I would have never expected, not in a million years? Both of these movies, BOTH of them, were horse girl movies. Barbie, I was expecting this from, but Oppenheimer, too, is one we can take back to the barn.

Not only this, but horses were pretty prominent players in both films! J. Robert Oppenheimer, despite his very intense-sounding name and Judge Doom getup, was actually, at his core, a humble rancher boy from New Mexico. We see multiple shots of him riding a horse western style (as all hot girls do), and once the site at Los Alamos is established, the horses take on a more important role as primary modes of transportation in and around the area. Many things surprised me about Oppenheimer, but the sudden introduction of ranch life was not an aspect of history I thought would coalesce with the man who created the atomic bomb.

Moreover, when a coworker told me there was gonna be horse-talk in Barbie, I figured it’d be from, you know, the Barbies. In my world, in my life, horses have been for the girlies, but as it would turn out in the film, horses are for the Kens.

When Ken follows Barbie into the real world, he discovers that men are actually pretty powerful outside of Barbieland. In particular, horses are pretty emblematic of masculinity … which I guess is true, if you’re poking around in pretty Reagan-esque corners of Los Angeles. Either way, Ken returns to Barbieland with horses on the brain, and suddenly, along with all the garish displays of masculinity, horses abound. Every house has flatscreen TVs with nonstop 24/7 streaming of stock footage of horses, and when the Kens finally go to war amongst each other, they ride into battle on those stick horses we used to get at Toys R Us.

All of this silliness is ended with a line that I, personally, appreciate quite a bit: “I wasn’t into the patriarchy anymore as soon as I found out it didn’t have anything to do with horses.” And ain’t that the damn truth.

In conclusion: You heard it here first, folks. 2023 is the year of the Horse Girl (gender-neutral). She is become horse, enjoyer of equines. Get with it or eat dust.

(featured image: Universal Pictures/ Warner Bros., Mattel)


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Madeline Carpou
Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).