Genuine Ken: Search for the Great American Boyfriend

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
Genuine Ken: Search for the Great American Boyfriend TV Poster Image
Brand-heavy online reality contest objectifies men.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 17+
Based on 1 review

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

By comparing them to dolls, the contest objectifies men and reinforces masculine stereotypes that some guys won't be able to live up to. In the eyes of the judges, the ideal man should be athletic, stylish, entertaining,  and romantic. Also attentive and masculine, yet inviting. Just like Ken.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Contestants are a mixed bag, but the fact that they're participating in the contest in the first place is kind of questionable. Nobody's a horrible role model, but some talk smack about the others, act overly macho, etc.


Some bare male chests; discussion of dating.


Infrequent bleeped swearing ("s--t"). Audibles include "damn," "hell," "pissed off," etc.


The Barbie/Ken brand is all over the place -- even in the title. A rep from the company serves as a judge, and the contestants live in a real-life "Dream House."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this brand-driven reality contest is sponsored by Mattel, the maker of the Barbie doll, and plays like a not-so-subtle commercial for the Barbie/Ken brand. Logos are everywhere; Barbie's director of marketing is one of the judges; and the contestants are even staying in a real-life "Dream House" that's decked out in true Barbie style. There's also some bleeped swearing and audible language like "pissed off" and "hell," along with some off-putting masculine stereotypes (including buff male contestants who feel the need to bare their chests).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byemmastanley July 31, 2015


This series is wierd and borinnnggg
Teen, 14 years old Written byemkat97 January 22, 2011


I've never heard of this. Never seen it. Don't watch it. I don't get why people like shows like this. IT DOESN'T EVEN SOUND APPEALING. *tsk*

What's the story?

GENUINE KEN touts itself as "The Search for the Great American Boyfriend.” But it's really a reality contest to see which of the eight male contestants between the ages of 21 and 30 has the same qualities that make Ken -- Barbie's bestselling boyfriend -- so great. Hosted by reality star Whitney Port (The Hills, The City) and featuring a variety of guest judges (including Mattel's "Director of Barbie Marketing," Lauren Bruksch), the series puts men through boyfriend-like challenges, including cooking, decorating, and entertaining. The digital series airs exclusively on Hulu, and the winner gets bragging rights to the title...but no other apparent prize.

Is it any good?

Mattel isn't at all shy about using this oddly creepy reality contest to the bring Barbie/Ken brand to an even wider audience. After all, there's no apology buried in a promotional press release that states: "The series leverages the popularity ignited by the appearance of Ken® in Disney Pixar’s Toy Story 3 and invites consumers to experience the Barbie® brand in a whole new way through the development of original and engaging content. With the series’ launch, the Barbie® brand extends its digital presence and demonstrates its innovation in marketing the brand in break frame ways to consumers of all ages." Alrighty then.

A lot of times, a show that sounds this ridiculous from the get-go at least has some inherent entertainment value, a so-bad-it's-good utility that could at least earn it status as a guilty pleasure. But between the show's use of a "tilt-shift camera technique, which miniaturizes backgrounds to imply that you are in fact in a Barbie® and Ken® world," to its obvious attempts to equate host Port with Barbie herself, Genuine Ken can't even achieve that.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about brand placement in the media. Can a show like this one help Mattel sell more Barbie and Ken dolls? Do you think the show was created to entertain viewers or to market a product? At what point does a TV show become a commercial?

  • Is Ken a good role model for guys? (And do you think guys will even want to watch?) What about Barbie? Is she a good role model for girls?

  • How do Ken's qualities compare to Barbie's? What do Ken and Barbie's traits suggest about men and women in general? Do those qualities reinforce certain stereotypes about each gender?

  • Why did the show's creators choose to air it exclusively online? Is there a benefit to going the digital route as opposed to television?

TV details

  • Premiere date: January 18, 2011
  • Cast: Whitney Port
  • Network: Hulu
  • Genre: Reality TV
  • TV rating: TV-14
  • Available on: Streaming
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

Our editors recommend

For kids who love reality TV

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate