It was only a matter of time before the “Barbenheimer” discourse wound its way through the halls of Congress and into the political corners of the twitterverse.
The phenomenon started as a joke among the terminally online, when studios behind the candy-colored “Barbie” movie and the conspicuously darker atomic bomb origin story “Oppenheimer” announced the movies would be released on the same day. Then came the inescapable memes, outfit inspiration and wall-to-wall coverage.
Now, the U.S. Senate has been dragged into the debate.
“Which of your state’s senators is seeing the Barbie and which is seeing Oppenheimer? (you have to choose),” one Twitter user posted late Wednesday evening, wracking up 1 million views as of the morning of release day.
Senators and their constituents have been musing publicly on the topic: A ticket to “Barbie” for Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.)? “If you say so,” he says. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Pa.)? “Neither Barbie nor Oppenheimer. I’m a Ken.” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.)? A lawmaker who “can do both” — fittingly on-the-fence for the former Democrat-turned-independent.
To put an end to the speculation, POLITICO asked each senator about which — if any — of the two movies they intend to see this opening weekend. Here’s what they said.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) told POLITICO he plans to see both, and is taking some people from Capitol Hill to see “Barbie.” And while he said he won’t be able to see them back-to-back, he has strong opinions on the viewing order.
“You need the seriousness and then the desserts,” Booker said. “You don’t see ‘Barbie’ and then ‘Oppenheimer.’ You see ‘Oppenheimer’ and then ‘Barbie.’”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) was one of Booker’s invitees, though the details of the outing had yet to be nailed down as of Thursday night, according to a spokesperson for Cardin. Regardless, the Maryland Democrat is interested in seeing the “Barbie” movie with his granddaughters.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said he and his wife agreed to watch both. While he is more of an “Oppenheimer” fan himself — he did get Oppenheimer-endorsed legislation — Markey said his wife is passionate about “Barbie.” But he firmly believes in doing a double-header.
“Why make a choice when none is required?” Markey said. “You’re asking me to choose between two movies I can see on the same day.”
“The question really would be: What would I eat in between the movies?” he added.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) is planning on doing the double feature, though probably not this weekend, according to a spokesperson.
“I’ll see both,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said in an email. “I loved the bio ‘American Prometheus’ on which ‘Oppenheimer’ is based. I would not see ‘Barbie’ … except for Greta Gerwig directing. She can make cinematic gold from straw. As for when? Who knows?”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) will also see both — but not back-to-back, according to his team.
For Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), it’s a no-brainer. She’s a “Barbie” girl in a Capitol Hill world.
“How could you not be team ‘Barbie’?” Warren told POLITICO. While she probably won’t have time this weekend, she is coordinating when to watch with her granddaughters.
Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) is also planning on seeing “Barbie” sometime next week, a spokesperson said.
Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are in the “Oppenheimer” camp, as are Sens. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), both history buffs, according to their teams.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) is definitely in for “Oppenheimer,” and “would likely see ‘Barbie,’” a spokesperson said, though he won’t be doing the double feature.
“After learning that Oppenheimer contained extensive scenes from 1950s-era Senate committee hearings, and three hours of American history, Senator [Michael] Bennet cannot wait to go,” a spokesperson for the Colorado Democrat said. “His wife and daughters will be watching ‘Barbie’ tonight without him.”
“As one of the key Senators responsible for vindicating J. Robert Oppenheimer,” Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) “looks forward to seeing Oppenheimer with his family in the future,” a spokesperson said. Heinrich was one of the four senators who urged President Joe Biden to rescind the Atomic Energy Commission’s characterization of the physicist as “untrustworthy and unfit to serve his country.”
And Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) wants to see “Oppenheimer,” but the new “Indiana Jones” movie is at the top of his list.
Uhh, no thanks
Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) don’t have plans to see either, their teams said.
Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) have a different movie in mind: “The Sound of Freedom,” based on a former government agent’s efforts to save child trafficking victims.
“I had plans to see neither, but that meme has made me wonder if I now need to see both,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), said in reference to a photo that dubbed him as “Oppenheimer” and Sinema, with whom he was speaking, as “Barbie.”
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) also doesn’t plan to see either of two films; but he is currently reading “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” a spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declined to comment.
From a meme to the halls of Congress, no one can escape the “Barbenheimer” phenomenon.