Barbenheimer: t shirts and merchandise, memes explained - Barbie and Oppenheimer movie UK release date

Which one will you be going to see first?

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(Images: Warner Bros. Pictures/Universal Pictures/Twitter)(Images: Warner Bros. Pictures/Universal Pictures/Twitter)
(Images: Warner Bros. Pictures/Universal Pictures/Twitter)

July sees two unlikely pop-culture heavyweights meet for a cinematic showdown, as Greta Gerwig's Barbie movie and Christopher Nolan's atomic bomb epic Oppenheimer are released in cinemas on the same day (21 July).

Both films come highly anticipated, with Margot Robbie's big-screen portrayal of the iconic doll just as looked forward to as Cillian Murphy's take on J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist who helped develop the first nuclear weapons.

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The cinematic clash has led many film fans to ponder which one they should see; are the two movies in conflict or not? Opinions are divided, with passionate supporters on each side, while others are just glad to have two intriguing, non-sequel films released simultaneously. Most agree that they'll likely be catching both in the cinema.

That's thrown up a handful of other interesting questions. Which one to see first? Should you see both within the same day? And if so, can you make a day of it? Even Tom Cruise has waded in, pledging to enjoy a double-feature in a few weeks' time.

Social media has dubbed this frenzied scheduling of Friday 21 July 2023 "Barbenheimer", a once-in-a-generation cinematic phenomenon that has led to debate and discussion of the 'best' way to enjoy the new films.

Do you begin the day by delving into Oppenheimer's profound themes, then transition into the realm of pink fantasy with Barbie? Alternatively, do you consider Barbie as a tempting but indulgent appetiser to mindlessly enjoy before the substantial Oppenheimer main course, worthy of an IMAX experience?

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One widely shared suggestion, from Twitter user @ULTRAGLOSS, posits that the day should begin with a strong black coffee and a cigarette before you take yourself to see Oppenheimer around 11am, an early-ish start that accounts for the three-hour run time of Nolan's latest epic.

Then, they suggest, you let the gravely serious historic biopic digest with mimosas and brunch, to help get you in the bubbly mood for Gerwig's more fizzy offering, before taking your seats for Barbie around 6/7pm. Hopped up on ultra-saturated colours and fruit juice beverages, ULTRAGLOSS recommends rounding the day off with "dinner, drinks, club."

The intriguing combination of films has even sparked real-life merchandise. A simple Google search for "Barbenheimer T-shirt" yields tens of thousands of results, with creative individuals on Etsy crafting their own unique interpretations of the cinematic crossover.

Some designs showcase Robbie and Murphy together, while others juxtapose the cheerful pink "Barbie" logo with the ominous imagery of a mushroom cloud expanding in the background - a playful yet thought-provoking contrast.

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One early contender among the numerous options available was a T-shirt that features a straightforward split-screen design, combining the logos of both movies to spell out "Barbenheimer," along with the release date of the films.

23-year-old Hunter Hudson, a filmmaker from San Antonio, told the New York Times that he initially crafted the shirts for himself and his friends to wear to the Barbenheimer double feature on 21 July. However, when he uploaded images of the shirt on his Twitter feed, he was taken aback by the unexpected surge of interest and attention it received.

"I usually receive around three or four likes on anything I post," Hudson added, but after sharing several mock-ups of the shirt, he woke up one morning to find his inbox flooded with hundreds of messages from people eager to purchase it. Hudson works with a friend to create the shirts, priced at $40 (£31.50) each, and has already produced approximately 150 shirts.

"Barbenheimer" is the type of fan-driven viral marketing that no studio could buy, and many would struggle to deliberately orchestrate, and has generated a growing wave of excitement leading up to the release of both films on July 21.

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“They’re so vastly different,” film industry analyst Robert Mitchell told the New York Times, “that they allow for the narrative that popped up organically: This would be the strangest double bill ever.” He adds that this attention-grabbing concept is “pretty much a gift for distributors,” and has created an environment buzzing with anticipation and intrigue.

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