Every Hero Must Have a Foil

Batman and Robin, Carlton and Collingwood, Hawke and Keating, Kath and Kim, Kylie and Jason, a meat pie with sauce, Rocky and Apollo, and . . .Barbenheimer.

Dynamic duos can be the perfect match or grudge match and in Australia, we love to celebrate them.

Barbenheimer fever officially hit Australia this past weekend.

If you have not followed this cultural phenomenon, Barbenheimer is the mash-up invented to mark the simultaneous release of the Barbie and Oppenheimer films in cinemas globally.

The two films have hit a cultural nerve because they are, quite simply, exact opposites and both expected to be huge.

The Barbie film, starring Australian actress Margot Robbie as Stereotypical Barbie, with actor Ryan Gosling as Ken, is a comedy with heart that has taken the world by storm.

Juxtaposed to this is Oppenheimer, starring Cillian Murphy, Florence Pugh and Kenneth Branagh; a three-hour biopic about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the creator of the atomic bomb.

Boom. Put them together and you have cinematic dynamite.

And that's what punters are doing, seeing both films back to back.

The dual blockbusters' release, alongside Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible 7 (yes, that's right, 7) and the fifth Indiana Jones instalment, was the biggest opening weekend in Australian box office history.

So, you may wonder why I am writing about this piece of pop culture?

There's a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it is great to see the film industry, which has been disrupted terribly by subscription TV behemoths such as Netflix, make a comeback.

Australian cinemagoers are flocking to the flicks.

Cinemas around the country are being packed with people of all ages, with many dressed in hot pink to celebrate.

Secondly, the films' releases come as the three Hollywood strikes (writers, screen actors and television and radio artists) continue to rage.

As I have written previously, it gives me tremendous heart to see fair dinkum unionists standing up for their professions.

This is the first time since 1960 that both actors and writers have picketed film and television production companies.

The strikes have been attributed to a perfect storm of the increasing dominance of streaming services leading to a decline in the payment of residuals to actors and writers, and the rise of artificial intelligence in the industry.

The premieres of both Barbie and Oppenheimer saw casts walking off or refusing to walk on red carpets in solidarity with their colleagues, with many of the stars taking to the picket lines.

Not only are these people committed artists, they are also committed unionists.

Proving, once again, not all trade unionists work on construction sites or on the wharves.

Thirdly, as a dad of two great girls, it's excellent to see Barbie star Margot Robbie, who also produced the film, and the movie's writer and director, Greta Gerwig, getting the kudos they deserve as bona fide icons and trailblazers.

Robbie, who started her career in Neighbours, has done Australia proud.

While Gerwig has earned the title of directing the highest grossing film directed by a woman in Australian box office history.

Both are tipped for Oscars and both would be deserved winners.

Finally, because I love a grudge match, this weekend my Pies play the Blues in another type of blockbuster at the MCG.

Carlton has been looking the goods (actually, not really), but Collingwood is in fine fettle.

This game feels like something of a rematch after Collingwood's one-point victory last August when we pipped Carlton's hopes of making the finals.

This time around, I am still confident of the four points, but that's the beauty of a grudge match.

As WA fans will well know from their own derby, you never know which way it will go.

Personally, I've had many political foes in my time - Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison to name a few.

A political fight might not be physical but it sure as heck can be fierce.

All I worry about now is fighting for people with disability and ensuring the National Disability Insurance Scheme is here for generations of Australians to come.

My toughest nemesis, though, will always be the rogue snag in bread that brought me media notoriety.

I'll keep it at that.

This opinion piece was first published in The West Australian on Wednesday 26 July 2023.