I'm a Barbie Girl in an Oppy World

by Nate McKenzie

As a general way of living, I tend to steer clear of trends. Although I’m generally aware of significant trends as a part of culture and familiar with all the memes, I try not to participate in their perpetuation too much. (Hipster!) Guilty. 

I have an aversion to the status quo, to falling in line, to fitting in. I’m a loner, Dottie, a rebel.


I used to chide any friend or family member that claimed to have a phobia, give them a good ribbing about their “made up” fear. My girlfriend used to claim to suffer from a silly thing called Arachnaphobia. I told her ‘great movie, not a real thing, you’re just being a lil baby.’. Never mind her involuntary shrieking. “Kill it! Kill it!” she’d command. I did exactly what you would expect a boyfriend to do: snatched the bug in my fist and chase her with it. “Give him a hug! That’s what the eight arms are for! HE JUST WANTS TO BE LOVED!”


At some point, I started to recognize a trend in my own life -  right about the time everyone started to glue googly eyes on everything from cellphones to houseplants. Not sure if I should blame bored housewives at Hobby Lobby or that Christopher Walken SNL skit but in spite of my discomfort, the trend was a new form of torture. I was forced to confront something inside myself that I was only vaguely aware of before.


Circles… they bother me. Circles bunched together. Not just circles, openings, bumps, groupings, in irregular patterns. Tiny holes burrowed in wood by whatever eats and lives in wood. These patterns, somehow both natural and unnatural, disturbed me deeply.


Trypophobia, I heard it was called.

At some family gathering, my niece, the one named after an 80s pop-star, showed up with a new iPhone case covered in those never-blinking plastic black and white peepers. She tortured me with it all day. I couldn’t eat, my own eyes darted constantly, afraid to look in one direction for too long, living in fear of her popping up from around a corner directly in my line of sight. My girlfriend watched on with a grin. “Does she remind you of anyone?”


This is something, I realized, that has been on the fringe of my consciousness for a good long while. I remember when I was thirteen, underneath a metal crossbar of our swingset in the backyard, some kind of insect sac, bubbly and full of blech. My stomach turned at the sight of the grody cluster clinging to the underside, wriggling in aggregate… coagulating, conspiring… I could hear them chanting… gooba-gabba, one of us… 


The Hivemind… 

it beckons still; yet I resist. In one voice I hear them calling to me, yet I resist. I’m not like the others, I tell myself. Don’t give in, kick back the fold, spit at conformity, piss on trends… 

Resist! Resist!


But there is no resisting… 


The Barbenheimer.


The movie event of the year, a mash-up so uncanny it could have only been concocted by the Hollywood spin-cycle responsible for continuously squirting out The Marvel Cinematic Universe from its prolapsed sphincter. Somewhere in a beer-soaked basement, Girl Talk, the musical mash-up master himself, nods his head in respect. Barbie + Oppenheimer = Barbenheimer. Brilliant! This, dear reader, is why Saint Spielberg invented the Summer Blockbuster. 

Despite my posturing, when it comes to Hollywood’s allure, trends and all, I am but a pig. Ever since I was barely a baby country bumpkin with sights turned toward the glitz and glamour of a West Coast oasis peeking over the cornstalks, I’ve been suckling that teet. Iggy-Piggy! Iggy-Piggy! Oink oink oink oink oink.


In many respects, Barbie and Oppenheimer are two movies at polar opposite ends of any measurement one could use to grade cultural trends. For starters, one is a based on a kid’s toy, a fictional character and the other is based on a real, live Christopher Nolan fever dream he once had about Florence Pugh. Mood, music, cinematography, set design, number of men on screen at any given time (lotta dudes to blame for that bomb) these movies couldn’t be more different. It’s Romey and Michelle stumbling into a Fight Club; it’s the gimp from Pulp Fiction standing on Fifth Avenue, munching down his Breakfast at Tiffany’s; it’s… it’s… two cowboys Frenchin’ in the Brokeback Mountains! But the most glaring difference between Barbie and Oppenheimer are the colors with which each masterpiece was painted. Barbie, twirling in her technicolor dream closet, encompasses every shade and hue available on the visible and non-visible light spectrums (from neon to bright neon!); Oppy, on the other hand, moribund gray fabrics draped over his skin coffin, embodies the very soot and ash he is responsible for raining down upon the world. 

Meanwhile, back on the farm, dudebros and good ol’ boys, dispossessed of self-awareness in even trace amounts, are upset about the depiction of Ken in a fictional movie about a doll. Why? Because they think that Ken was the butt of the joke and every guy, incorrectly, thinks that he is a Ken. Even the Alans and Michael Ceras of the world think they’re Ken. We’re taught to want to be Ken, but there is only room enough for one Ken in the mojo dojo casa house and his name is Ryan Gosling. The actual Ken doll pales in comparison!

On the flip-fl-Oppy side of things is a dude who built the world’s biggest fire-cracker and is therefore totally obviously the hero of the story. They made Men Ken out to be like some kinda dumbass or somethin but hoo-boy! That fire-breathing Bob Oppy is a pinnacle! A Man-o-War!


Emotional vampires; some people are blind to their own reflection in the mirror. 


They look nothing alike, Barbie and Oppenheimer, but despite the color barrier, they find common ground in a shared mantra, twin flames with the same beating heart beneath their vintage blouses. The heart of someone who doesn’t fit the mold, who won’t stay in a box on the shelf. Someone whose stomach turns at the idea of goose-stepping off a cliff into the sea, single file with the other lemmings.


Sure, Barbie wasn’t a rebel or a hero by choice but doesn’t that make her, in the immortal words of Robert Zombie, more human than human? Bravery comes not only from fighting the good fight despite your fear but also in having the courage to even admit that you are afraid. That’s the place no one wants to go, into the shadows. It’s a dark place with a lot of poorly made yet somehow highly effective booby-traps. Self-made traps. You have to go slow (because it’s near impossible to sneak by yourself) but once you’re through that part, once you overcome the Jungian ‘shadow self’, the part of whatever is you that is holding you back is brought into the light and can be dealt with. And if the light isn’t there, you may have to find a way to create it, from yourself, for your self. The shadow is a hardscrabble bastard requiring megatons of white-hot effulgence to illuminate. How many of us take a moment to look behind at the shadow we cast in the wave of light from an exploding star? J. Robert Oppenheimer, with a name as kaleidoscopic as his vision, did the thing that no one else could, then he went and did the thing that no one else would when he rebelled against his own creation. Barbie did the thing she didn’t want to do, and she did it in the only way she could - her way.

Rebel, rebel, you’ve got your mother in a whirl, she’s not sure if you’re a boy or a Barbie Girl in an Oppy world…


When is an act of individuality a detriment to the individual? When it gets in the way of the individuals understanding of… the individual.


I don’t know if I’m a rebel or if I just have a genetic defect that prevents me from doing the sane, sensible things that would make my life easier. I do know that there exists in me an innate sense of  who I am which is so strong that it causes actual physical revulsion at the grotesque site of (oh god I might puke just thinking about it) cooperation.


My girlfriend used meditation to get over her fear of spiders. If I use meditation to get over trypophobia, this innate fear that I have come to associate with my disdain for becoming One of The Many, do I lose that involuntary tick that makes me… original, unique? Does it repair that frayed wire that trips my breakers? Do I want it repaired or is the purpose of a spark to start a fire? If it flames out, goes away, how long after until I’m just another plastic product back in my box, all neat in the row on a shelf full of selfs?


I had this exchange recently with one of the smarter human beings from back in my hometown. If my retelling lacks color, try picturing one of Tolkein’s Ent beings; a tall, ancient tree looming over us mere mortals, with a deep booming voice espousing wisdom as well as fears from bygone eras that don’t apply to the modern world. He’s a true original, one-of-a-kind guy that I’ve enjoyed knowing for many years now. 

Even still…


     I said to him, “You gotta see Barbie. It’s sooo good!”


“Fuck that” he said “you couldn’t pay me to see that shit.”

I laughed, expecting more or less that reaction.


“No dude, it’s hilarious!”


“Nope. Huh-uh. No thanks.”


“What about Oppenheimer?”


“Now THAT I want to see.”


“Hell yes. I’m curious to see what Christopher Nolan does with the story. I love his movies… Tenet, Inception, The Dark Knight…”


“Never heard of ‘em.”


“Those movies or Christopher Nolan?”

Our other friend chimes in, “I heard Oppenheimer has subtitles.”

I was about to ask where she heard this but I was cut off.

“Oh fuck that too then. If I wanted to read, I’d read a damn book.”

And he’s one of the good ones.


This world is brimming with individuals swarmed-over by The Hive and each of those people are yearning to be free, whether they realize it or not. Don’t we all just want to be ourselves, in whatever shape or form feels most natural, most comfortable? 

Some guys just wanna sit in a garage and throw a game of darts with friends, firing down Camels in between White Claws, chompin’ on about the President’s drug-addled son and some old ladies e-mails as Morgan Wallen shits on Ronnie Van Zant’s grave through the bluetooth speakers. But there are other dudes that just want the simple freedom to ride on a Pride Parade float and pinwheel their flaccid dicks at the crowd. “That’s just how they express their freedom.” says a non-binary inter-something throuple to their rainbow-painted children.

We all just want the freedom to be whatever version of this dipshit species we choose.

There are people who possess the key to that kind of freedom. It’s not a key that you can buy, borrow, or even steal. If you are fortunate enough, another traveller might give you the key along the way, should they deem you worthy, by deeds done or by they way you live your life. In the rarest of cases, the luckiest of us are gifted the key from a young age. There is no rhyme or reason to this distribution, as far as I can tell. What I do know is that it is incumbent upon these blessed few to pass the key on to as many others as possible, to unlock as many doors as possible, to open every single eye wide, wide open. Right eyes, Left eyes, Third Eyes. An endless sea of all-seeing googly eyes, full of light, where shadows find no quarter. This takes nothing more than a gentle hand guiding another hand to a doorknob; the fingers trace the metal, probe the spot where the keyhole should be and find… there is no keyhole. Hand wraps around the knob, grips and rotates… the handle begins to turn, then disappears in an instant, along with the entire door. 

Suddenly, there is no door, 

no wall, 

no barriers of any kind…

A confused voice wonders…

But what about the key?

The same voice answers. The key… the key is…

the key is you.

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