How Barbenheimer Has Redefined Culture? Movie studios usually avoid releasing more than one big film together, especially in summer. The reason? “No matter how good a movie you’ve got, if it opens against five or six others, you’re not going to get traction,” Bob Berney, the CEO of Picturehouse, told Variety in 2004. But analysts say that an ‘antiquated strategy of counterprogramming’ is at play in the case of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” – hence the name, ‘Barbenheimer.’

Over the past weeks and months, ‘Barbenheimer’ has become a global phenomenon. One day. Two movies. They have intensely different emotions, plots, genres, tones, and cinematography – but they are released to audiences on the same day. In fact, the decision to simultaneously release such thematically divergent films is precisely to target diverse and untapped audiences. The combined worldwide gross box office earnings of ‘Barbenheimer’ has now exceeded the $520 million mark. It fundamentally inspired even the casual moviegoers to see both back to back — even if they were initially planning to see one or neither of the films — for fear of missing out on the fun.

Experts say the organic social media buzz and cleverly building upon those trends by the marketing teams created unprecedented box office figures. But the success and discourse around the two movies also mark a critical cultural moment unlike any other. It will be a testament to the rewarding end that embracing the game of meme magic may bring. This comes especially after a period where the Hollywood machinery has exhausted its potential by churning out films that run on fumes of established IPs.

Memes and articles together created a digital bubble for ‘Barbenheimer,’ and word-of-mouth converted the virtual hype into a more physical one. This sort of tangible influence can be compared and understood through the Tibetan Buddhist concept of a ‘Tulpa.’ It’s where a trend or an idea becomes the ideal over time. According to a report by The Guardian, Mattel, the company that created Barbie, has signed collaboration deals with 100+ brands across the FnB apparel and makeup spectrum. The Warner Bros marketing team had also developed an AI-generated selfie generator. Grammy-winning singers Billie Eilish and Dua Lipa have also released exclusive Barbie originals to further aid the pop cultural discourse.

Barbenheimer Culture

Moreover, the simultaneous release of both these films has provided a sweeping sense of wonder that had been missing from summer blockbusters that once defined an era of Hollywood. Of course, the only exception that comes to mind is last year’s massive hit in “Top Gun: Maverick.” But while that film earnestly committed to the modernist style of filmmaking, both “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie” have elements of what defines our current cultural landscape imbued with metamodern notions. It’s precisely because the films have dwarfed the scope of all the movies that have come out in recent years while delivering their supremely experiential quality.

While Greta Gerwig’s ineffable and hilarious satire fully commits to metamodern quirks and style in its meta pursuit to poke fun at the absurdity of the ‘real’ world, Chris Nolan’s 3-hour biopic actively responds to both notions of postmodernism and modernism while preserving the complex interiority of its central enigma. In Oppenheimer, the movie’s first half shows the promising aspirations the rise of modernity and American individualism had brought. In contrast, the second half criticizes the modernist wave by depicting the terror the McCarthy era had bestowed upon the country.

The amusing conflicting convergence of a big girl movie and a big boy movie opening on the same weekend in an otherwise barren second half of summer is probably a singular anomaly. But perhaps this simply shows that audiences want variety —theaters shouldn’t just be the places where people go to see IP movies that increasingly demand more legwork. Given the box office numbers, it seems inevitable that audiences have been flocking to both hotly anticipated films. Movies can be events, even when they’re not the fifth or 30th installment of a big franchise. Perhaps, this will finally encourage more studios to take more significant swings with semi-untested material, to rethink the parameters of summer cinema, and to invest in higher-budget comedies and serious, expensive, and expansive dramas like they used to.

But ‘Barbenheimer’ has arrived not only during a worrying time for the box office but at an even more harrowing time for the film industry at large. The ongoing writers’ and actors’ strikes have halted major productions and have left a question mark on films already slated for release. After the walkout of the cast of “Oppenheimer” from its premiere, the strike now prevents guild members from promoting studio work. It’s now proven that engaged and enthused audiences are willing to pay big bucks for an original film. But, as long as studios are unwilling to negotiate with unions, it’s still being determined whether we will have anything to watch in the following months.

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Barbenheimer: How Barbie and Oppenheimer critique our flawed worlds in their own ways

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