Greta Gerwig’s upcoming Barbie movie has received unexpected attention last week after a new international poster went viral.
The French version of the poster featuring Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken looked naive, but the French tagline caused a stir with a pun in slang.
The tagline “Elle peut tout faire. Lui, c’est juste Ken”, which translates to “she can do everything. He’s just Ken”, has a secondary meaning, where “ken” is French slang for “fuck”. Thus, the tagline takes on an NSFW interpretation: “She knows how to do everything. He just knows how to make love.”
The language blunder was quickly picked up by the internet, with French Twitter users sharing photos of the poster and commenting on the “accidental” or “unfortunate” translation. Opinion spread like wildfire, with some original tweets racking up millions of views.
Close inspection of the tagline seems to support this theory. The original English Barbie catchphrase, “Barbie is everything. He’s just Ken,” translates differently into French. It is no longer “Barbie est tout” (literal translation), but “[Barbie] peut tout faire” (“Barbie can do anything”), which conveniently aligns with the slang Ken line and its suggestive meaning.
A French marketing executive at a rival studio commented: “It was definitely intentional; there’s no way anyone who speaks French wouldn’t have noticed this dirty pun.” The executive went on to praise its inclusion in the campaign. A smart move, acknowledging the genius behind the move.
When reached for comment, Warner Bros. declined to confirm or deny whether the indecent French pun was intended or not. Nonetheless, they have publicly expressed their satisfaction with the social media frenzy the poster has generated in France and internationally.
A spokesperson for the Warner Bros. Discovery Channel said: “The speculation surrounding the Barbie marketing campaign shows that there is a high level of public awareness and great excitement for our upcoming films in France. We can’t wait to see the audience around us. When the film is released next month, the whole world will see it.”