Culture / Film

We love Allan, and so does the internet

Allan Barbie

He's Ken's buddy and all of Ken's clothes fit him. By and large, that is the purpose of Allan, a doll in the Barbie-verse played by Michael Cera. In Barbieland, it's easy for Allan to fade into the neon-pink background with his forgettable face and strange contour. There's stereotypical Barbie of course, and even if she wasn't in the throes of an existential crisis, her girls nights and sisterhood comprising Supreme Court Justice Barbie and President Barbie would be enough for anyone, but especially the wet toast that is Allan to be dulled by comparison.

But Allan is more than his confused expression and gaudy hand-me-downs from Ken. He is the unsung scene-stealer of Greta Gerwig's feminist tribute – or two-hour toy commercial, depending on your read on the reviews – to Barbie and his newfound popularity is driving up prices for the doll on the secondhand collectors market.

First introduced in 1964, Allan was dreamt up to limply orbit Ken and perhaps, remind him not to spend too much time in the sun, buddy. Nothing illustrates this better than his name. We know Barbie was christened after creator Ruth Handler’s daughter, and Ken for her son; meanwhile Allan was relegated to the name of Handler's then son-in-law Allan Segal. I know what you're thinking, not quite inner sanctum. But need we remind you of a certain Tom Wambsgans? Although I doubt Allan has the chutzpah to pull off the same style of coup – that's more Ken's thing anyway.

While Ken was jerking about in his Mojo Dojo Casa House, thinking up schemes to introduce patriarchy into Barbieland and infecting all the other Ken's with his miasma of fragile masculinity and Matchbox Twenty songs, Allan was planning his escape to tinseltown. If Allan sounds queer-coded, know that the claim has followed the doll since its inception, and Gerwig does little to disprove it, nor should she.

Allan is non-threatening and when push comes to shove, as it does in the beach-off, not one of the boys. Which earns him points in our eyes. In fact, as the movie evolves, it transpires that Allan is one of the girls, actually. A role perfectly executed by a timid Michael Cera. He jumps out of Barbie's pink corvette to engage in fisticuffs with road crew blocking off the route to LA, proof that he has a spine after all. And for the rest of Barbie, he's riding around in Weird Barbie's Camper Van wearing a pink jumpsuit and aiding Stereotypical Barbie, Gloria and Sasha in their doll heist. Now that's what I call a feminist ally.

It doesn't matter if Allan can't navigate a gated fence or if he lacks Ken-ergy. History may have forgotten his rainbow shirt and put Ken on a pedestal but leave the latter to the horses. As Helen Mirren says, "there's only one Allan", but by god, do I wish there were more.

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