Barbenheimer: How a Barbie doll and the mastermind behind the atomic bomb conquered the box office

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An unlikely pair// Barbenheimer has taken over the internet, bringing together atomic bombs and pink glitter. Since the movie’s release, the fame has not faded. (Photo by Brianna Gracia)

Barbenheimer: How a Barbie doll and the mastermind behind the atomic bomb conquered the box office
By Brianna Gracia 

This summer, Barbie and Oppenheimer got thrown into the blender of capitalism, internet trends, and fanfare. From the summer of Mission Impossible, Indiana Jones, and Haunted Mansion, emerged one of the most widespread names known to the internet: Barbenheimer.

 No, it isn’t an eccentric ship name. Not yet. (I’ve got my eye on you, Tumblr.) 

For those who have been living under a rock the past summer, “Barbenheimer” is the term coined for the phenomenon that swept the movie industry following the news that Greta Gertwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer would be releasing on the same day. 

This craze took things a step further on opening night, when theaters were flooded with customers dressed in “Barbenheimer attire” which was a mashup of black or gray suits and bright pink dresses and skirts. Clearly, there was no shame in playing a little dress-up. 

What’s strange is this isn’t the first time this has happened. July 18, 2008, Mamma Mia! and The Dark Knight were dropped into theaters the same day. However, moviegoers definitely didn’t come dazzled up in 80s gear and superhero capes. Most of the time, one movie will undoubtedly outshine the other, such as Elvis overpowering Marcel the Shell with Shoes on June 24, 2022. 

None of these movies received the same fanfare as Barbie and Oppenheimer. It looks like a crazy coincidence until you remember one key factor: 

The Internet. 

The biggest contenders to this wildfire spread of media were Tik Tok and Instagram, who have been known to be strong carriers of mass information and the epicenters of trends. There’s no limit to the vast expanse of the internet, going as far as The Grimace Shake trend and the Nyquil Chicken Challenge. 

Putting questionable trends aside, platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram took Barbenheimer by storm. Cosplayers extended their creativity to create lavish outfits. “Dance the Night” by Dua Lipa had influencers in a chokehold, being used in all of their creative content. Soon enough, everyone who had access to a social media site was proclaiming they were “Kenough,” even before the movie came out. Artists across multiple platforms, including Instagram, Tumblr, and Tik Tok created mini-comics and art pieces depicting Barbie and Oppenheimer meeting and discussing the idea of death. 

It’s a wonder that these two pieces of media were somehow able to mash together and bring two very different genres together. Perhaps marketers and the movie industry will learn from this experience and incorporate it into their tactics, for better or worse. Until then, come on Barbie, let’s go party.