Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

THOUGH GRETA GERWIG’S Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer will forever be linked – landing in cinemas on the same day mid-summer will do that for you – there’s another Nolan film which has a particularly Barbie-ish heart to it. You’ll remember Tenet, and being annoyed by Tenet. But Tenet knew you were going to be annoyed by Tenet, and it got in ahead of you. “Don’t try to understand it,” Clémence Poésy’s scientist character said about all the backwards bullets and that. “Feel it.”

Barbie should really come with the same get-out clause. The politics of Barbie and Ken have consumed sections of the internet since Friday, when really, we should just appreciate the film’s jokes, like the magnificent gag about the Kens building their wall vertically instead of sideways. Barbie is manic, and it keeps surprising you with yet another member of the cast of Sex Education or Stath Lets Flats or Fleabag. Yes, it talks gender politics, and the whole thing is in danger of falling apart when you prod it too hard, but it’s still enormous fun.

And yet, there’s one part of Barbie which does deserve some further analysis. That staggering musical number, in which Ryan Gosling’s Ken bemoans his beta status and has a “beach-off” with Simu Liu’s Ken, is an infinitely dense point of Kendom. This is when Ken, previously a little moronic, finally gets you to take him seriously. And then, we see the long-awaited beach-off. “I wanna know what it’s like to love, to be the real thing,” Gosling-Ken sings, smacking Kens about with abandon as a Ken gives his horse CPR in the background. “Is it a crime? Am I not hot when I’m in my feelings?”

Starting with plinky-plonky balladeering and an incel-ajacent lyric (“All my life been so polite / But I’ll sleep alone tonight”), the Mark Ronson-produced “I’m Just Ken” is at its most throbbingly rawk during the fight. “You really fall in love with this hapless, but immediately sympathetic figure,” Ronson told Variety. “I instantly had this idea for this lyric: ‘I’m just Ken / Anywhere else I’d be a 10.’ It just seemed funny. It felt a little bit emo, like, this poor guy. He’s so hot, but can’t get the time of day.”

It’s big, explosive. To add some Big Dude Sounds to ‘“I’m Just Ken”, drummer John Freese, Eddie Van Halen’s son Wolfgang and – amazingly – actual Slash from Guns N’ Roses shred away during the big fight sequence on the beach. Gosling really sings, and really hit the big notes when he came to London to record with Ronson. “He really got [that] it had to walk this line of not being funny or parody,” the writer-producer said. That’s where some of the oomph of this whole sequence comes from: Gosling’s ability to play it straight at the centre of a Saving Private Ryan-style beach landing where very, very pretty men are getting whacked with tennis rackets and cartwheeling all over the shop.

Related: What can men get from watching Barbie?

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

At the centre of the fight, Gosling-Ken and Liu-Ken face off, screaming and firing sparkles everywhere as they bare their chests. Then the Kens arrive in the white soundstage void just as things take a turn for the “Take On Me” musically. Suddenly everyone’s in all black with some very spiffy loafers, a little like the T-Birds from Grease(a call-back to that montage where Gosling-Ken found out about the patriarchy at Century City). To confront what he’s learned about himself, the Barbies and his place in the patriarchy, he has to confront those icons of masculinity. Note that he chucks away that Sly Stallone-style faux mink coat in favour of the I Am Kenough hoodie at the end.

The Kens whirl around each other, and two rings of Kens separate Gosling-Ken and Liu-Ken. That’s pointed choreography: it’s not the Barbies keeping the Kens down at this point, it’s the Kens keeping each other down. They’ve tried to import patriarchy into Barbie Land and have been easily manoeuvred into all-out war against each other. They’re fighting each other, and they’re also isolating themselves.

The lighting works overtime here. Pink and blue merge and swirl into each other. As Gosling-Ken walks toward the fourth wall, the Kens around him dance in twos, helping each other up from the floor, then en masse. Then, we hit that big, genuinely quite moving final chorus.

“I’m just Ken – and I’m enough, and I’m great at doing stuff,” Ken sings. “So, hey, check me out, yeah, I’m just Ken.” He has spent the whole film asking Barbie to check him out as he attempts to beach or to impress her in some other way. Now he’s ready to say it to the world. So hey, check him out: he’s just Ken.

“My name’s Ken,” sings Ken; “And so am I,” sing the others. It’s time to “put that manly hand in mine,” to stop feeling threatened by other men and form a brotherhood. “Just Ken” no longer means “only Ken”; it means that Ken’s thrown off the expectations with which patriarchy burdened him. He doesn’t have to care about liking the right things or wearing the right faux mink coat or seduce Barbie. He’s Ken, and that’s enough.

Perhaps the song’s message does not sink in immediately for Ken – he’s still trying to get off with Barbie when he and his boys ride back to Barbie’s Dreamhouse (formerly the Mojo Dojo Casa House) and threatens to jump off the first floor in despair. Eventually, it clicks. The “I’m Just Ken” sequence is an absolutely wild, joyful, audacious few minutes of cinema, crammed with showtunes, Queen-style rockin’ and noodlin’, Busby Berkeley soundstage choreography and big Giorgio Moroder synths. And finally, a genuinely quite moving moment of friendship and self acceptance. He’s just Ken, but maybe he also just gets it.

Related: Cillian Murphy says he’d play Ken in a Barbie sequel

This article originally appeared on Esquire UK.