UncategorizedBen Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are Back Together, and We Can’t Look Away

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are Back Together, and We Can’t Look Away


dodai stewart

Hi, Michael.

michael gold

Hello.

dodai stewart

How are you?

michael gold

You know, how’s anyone really.

dodai stewart

Yeah, OK, let me just do a little business. Hold on. One second. [CLEARS THROAT] From The New York Times, I’m Dodai Stewart. Bennifer is back. Ben and Jennifer, Affleck and Lopez. It’s been almost two decades. It’s almost like they never broke up. I can’t stop talking about it. I’m not alone. I don’t understand why we care so much. But the person who I talked to about this is my friend, Michael Gold.

michael gold

I’m alarmed at how much time I’ve spent thinking about this, but also not alarmed. It’s quite on brand.

dodai stewart

Michael’s our metro reporter for The New York Times. And I would say that you’re the most online person I know.

michael gold

I will take that. I don’t believe it. But that speaks volumes to you, I think, and your selection of friends — your good selection of friends.

dodai stewart

[LAUGHS] OK, so it was May 23.

michael gold

Yep.

dodai stewart

I saw a Page Six tweet. And they claimed that Ben was wearing a watch that looked just like the watch Jennifer Lopez gave him in 2002. And I was just like, these people are bonkers. There’s no way it’s the same. Why would you be wearing a watch that he got, like, 19 years ago? Also, he’s so sad and bedraggled all the time. Why would he even be putting on a wa — why does he even have a watch on?

michael gold

Who needs to know what time it is anymore, really?

dodai stewart

I just feel like his position has been the saddest man on the internet.

michael gold

Mm. So I want to preface this because I think this is really important, and it doesn’t actually get talked a lot about when we talk about Ben Affleck’s status as the sad man, which is like, Ben has talked a lot about struggling with anxiety. He’s talked a lot about struggling with depression. He’s talked about his alcoholism and his issues with sobriety. There are a lot of things surrounding all of this that are very serious. But the internet and culture strips that context out of everything. And so, none of that really gets talked about, but I do think it’s important to mention.

dodai stewart

Fair, fair.

michael gold

So here’s the thing about sad Ben Affleck. I think this really all started with the back tattoo.

archived recording

Something that’s been talked about plenty — Ben’s large tattoo across his back.

michael gold

Around 2016, Ben Affleck had just broken up with Jennifer Garner, his ex-wife. And he shows up with a enormous back tattoo.

archived recording

I did not believe this is real. That cannot be real. And —

michael gold

It’s a phoenix rising from the ashes. It’s red and blue and yellow. It covers his entire back.

dodai stewart

Far be it for me to cast judgment on this, but I think the internet agreed that the tattoo was hideous.

michael gold

It was horrible. Yeah, I mean, it was just, the colors weren’t right. The image was too big. And it was just very garish. It was very bold it didn’t hide easily. And the internet loses it.

archived recording 1

It’s terrible.

archived recording 2

I know!

archived recording 3

It’s terrible.

archived recording 4

Yes!

archived recording 5

It’s the whole back, and it’s very weird.

archived recording 6

That tattoo is so butt ugly. I mean, I’m sorry if it means a lot. It’s not even an attractive phoenix.

archived recording 7

There’s the tattoo.

archived recording 8

It’s awful!

archived recording 9

It’s awful. It’s not a tatt —

[MUSIC]

michael gold

Because, remember, up to this point, Ben Affleck, we thought of him as this huge A-lister. And the idea that this man who we’d grown up idolizing as part of this huge Hollywood establishment would get this giant back tattoo just seemed crazy.

dodai stewart

There’s something about it. There was something about it that was dark.

michael gold

Yeah, I mean, it was this — there was this moment where everyone kind of looked at that, and they were like, is this guy OK? Is he spiraling? What is this man doing?

dodai stewart

OK, but there’s the back tattoo, but that is not the only sad Ben Affleck moment. There are so many others.

michael gold

Right, so also another early one that has really crystallized into a meme and made its way around the internet comes from also 2016, when Ben Affleck was promoting “Batman v. Superman.” And this was his big action movie where he was playing Batman.

archived recording

Guys, thank you for speaking to us today.

michael gold

And you may recall that the reviews of the movie were a little mixed.

dodai stewart

Oh, right.

michael gold

Not great.

archived recording

You’ve obviously been on the press tour for this film for quite a while now, it feels like.

michael gold

But they’re doing the press tour, and they’re sitting down with the media. And he’s sitting next to Henry Cavill, who plays Superman, his co-star in the movie.

archived recording

But these are the first interviews you’ll be doing since reviews of the film have come out. And I don’t know —

michael gold

And an interviewer asks, what do you think about these reviews? They haven’t been so great.

archived recording

But I just wondered whether that — how that makes you guys feel and whether it will even affect the film as such.

archived recording (henry cavill)

Well, the interesting thing is that —

michael gold

And Henry Cavill, doing his job dutifully, starts talking about the movie and the reviews. And Ben just sits there, looking dazed, looking distant.

dodai stewart

I think he full on dissociated.

michael gold

It seems like it.

dodai stewart

His eyes just glazed over. And he was in another dimension.

michael gold

Oh, he’s in a fugue state. And someone creates a meme out of this, where they have this clip of him looking very upset. And the video kind of focuses on his face and —

archived recording (simon and garfunkel)

(SINGING) Hello, darkness, my old friend.

michael gold

— Simon and Garfunkel’s song “The Sound of Silence” plays in the background.

dodai stewart

Whoever did this was a genius.

michael gold

Yeah, if you’re listening, please get at us.

archived recording (simon and garfunkel)

(SINGING) Left its seeds while I was sleeping.

michael gold

We were also used to thinking of him as this 2000s era heartthrob, that I think it just sort of grabbed people as like this man is in a freefall. Everyone’s kind of rooting for him, but it just becomes this joke. He becomes this epitome of male sadness and male fragility. And so, to me, that was actually where you really get the sad Ben Affleck stuff. And there’s other stuff, too. I mean, there’s a bunch of photos of him smoking cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

dodai stewart

Yes.

michael gold

Where he just looks very distraught or anxious or upset.

dodai stewart

And the Dunkin’ Donuts pictures where he’s holding Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee and —

michael gold

A box of munchkins. So Ben Affleck’s got a tray full of iced coffees and a box of Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins. And he’s in the process of dropping them, kind of fumbling them. You look at the photo, and you know — you know these things are going to hit the floor. Here’s the other thing I will say about this. His arms look really good in that picture.

dodai stewart

[LAUGHS]

michael gold

Objectively, as a New York Times reporter, his arms look really good in that picture.

dodai stewart

OK, I didn’t notice that.

michael gold

Well, you’re not paid to look at details like this.

dodai stewart

[LAUGHS] What I did notice is that something happened where I used to look upon these photos of him fumbling with his coffee, and there’s one where he’s got coffee and a bunch of Amazon packages.

michael gold

Oh, yep, mm-hmm.

dodai stewart

I used to look at these as kind of like, oh, there he goes, the bumbling sad man. But what’s happened, the pandemic hit and suddenly really looking like a little bit on the verge of collapse, it’s very relatable.

michael gold

Yeah, I think the pandemic changed things for him, and it changed things for us. So it changed things for him in a very concrete way. Right before the pandemic or around the time we all go into lockdown, Ben Affleck starts dating Ana de Armas. And she’s another actress. The paparazzi in L.A. doesn’t have a lot to document at this point. And there aren’t a lot of new couples happening in March 2020 that people know about.

And we’re barraged with photos of Ben Affleck, still one of the most famous men in Hollywood, going for walks and doing all these things that we’re all doing so that we don’t lose our minds. And he’s wearing a mask. I wear a mask. He’s walking around the neighborhood, seemingly going nowhere. I’m walking around the neighborhood, seemingly going nowhere. No one wants to think about the sirens outside their houses or think about the fact that you don’t know when you might see your family or friends or co-workers ever again. And the other thing is, all of a sudden, we’re like, oh, I feel that way now all the time. But it just becomes this thing where his sadness and his kind of every man dejection is this thing that we can all suddenly relate to in a way, because our lives aren’t really so fabulous anymore.

dodai stewart

Yes, and that’s why, when you see this photo of him wearing this fancy watch, looking kind of good, that it’s very shocking. It’s very strange, because he doesn’t look like the saddest man in the world. He looks like something’s going on. He looks he’s dressed up. He’s wearing a watch. What’s happening?

michael gold

Yeah, I mean, it’s very like, when you see your friend for the first time after the pandemic, and you realize they’ve had this huge glow-up and everything’s changed.

dodai stewart

Yeah.

michael gold

So that’s a big part of it. But the watch is also a big part of it, right? Because it’s like, oh, he’s wearing this watch that we associate with this moment when he was on top of the world. And he looks kind of like he could be on top of the world.

dodai stewart

He has places to be. He needs to know what time it is.

michael gold

Yeah.

archived recording

Check out Bennifer having dinner at Nobu in Malibu over the weekend, the pair in all their glory.

dodai stewart

And then, on June 14, the photo drops, and it’s confirming everything. Their lips are touching. It’s a kiss.

michael gold

It’s a kiss. it’s a kiss.

dodai stewart

And there they are, like —

archived recording

[CROWD OOHING] Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck making out in public, and we are so here for it.

michael gold

I mean, I lost it. I think we all lost it a little bit.

dodai stewart

I saw a tweet that said it was the 13 most important seconds in cinema. And I was like, yeah.

michael gold

Eat your heart out, Citizen Kane. J. Lo and Ben are kissing again.

dodai stewart

So my thing was that here we have the internet’s saddest man and then the absolute, untouchable reina queen, Jennifer Lopez. It’s like this collision because she is at peak power right now.

michael gold

Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of people had this reaction where it was like, him? Because here’s the deal with J. Lo now, right? She has had a second surge in her career in a way that a lot of people don’t get in any of the industry she’s in. Just to run you through the short list of all the things J. Lo has been up to in the last few years —

archived recording (jennifer lopez)

It’s like robbing a bank, except you get the keys. Are you in?

michael gold

— “Hustlers.”

dodai stewart

This is the film about dancers who end up scamming the men they’re dancing for.

michael gold

Exactly.

dodai stewart

But she plays an incredible character.

michael gold

Yes, and then —

archived recording

The National Football League welcomes you to the Pepsi Super Bowl 54 Halftime Show.

michael gold

— the Super Bowl Halftime Show happens. And this was in 2020. It was probably one of the last big events we had before we all went into lockdown. And notably, in one moment, as sort of a political rebuff, I think, to what was happening in the world, she’s got a bunch of kids in cages at the front of the stage.

archived recording (jennifer lopez)

(SINGING) Let’s get —

michael gold

She’s singing her song, “Let’s Get Loud.”

archived recording (jennifer lopez)

(SINGING) Let’s get —

michael gold

Which she then bursts into a year later at the inauguration of —

dodai stewart

Oh my gosh.

michael gold

— President Joe Biden.

archived recording (jennifer lopez)

(SINGING) Let’s get loud.

Because this land was made for you and me.

michael gold

In front of every political leader in America and every TV network, she sings her song, “Let’s Get Loud,” in this moment of like, let’s get loud, America. And it was so weird, but everyone was talking about it. I mean everyone was talking about it. And she’s 51 at this point. And she’s at the Oscars. She’s at the Super Bowl. She’s invited to inauguration. She also launches a beauty line. And she’s a mogul. I mean, she’s got the fragrance line. She’s had clothes lines. This woman is everywhere. She’s doing great.

dodai stewart

Yeah, and Ben is not everywhere doing great on the same level.

michael gold

Ben’s not everywhere. Ben doesn’t seem to be doing great. Ben seems to have had a lot of false starts.

dodai stewart

But the kiss!

michael gold

The kiss.

dodai stewart

I saw it everywhere.

archived recording

Interrupting my magical day at Disneyland to let you know that Bennifer has been caught kissing.

michael gold

I mean, they’re in love.

archived recording 1

Nothing confirms a relationship more than making out in front of your niños.

archived recording 2

I mean, I’m so here for this.

michael gold

Everyone flipped out. I mean —

dodai stewart

It was everywhere.

michael gold

It was everywhere. And it was like seeing them kiss just seems to have struck at this visceral moment in our core. And you saw think pieces everywhere about J. Lo dating Ben Affleck, various kind of thoughts on their relationship and what does it mean and how long will it last. And people lost it.

dodai stewart

Yeah, so wait. So let’s talk about that, why we can’t look away.

michael gold

Why we care so much.

dodai stewart

Why we care so much. There are other things going on in the world. Why do you think this has taken over our brains?

michael gold

There are a lot of reasons, but I have three theories about this.

dodai stewart

OK.

michael gold

So the first bucket, the first reason, I would say, that people are very into this relationship is nostalgia. We know nostalgia is really powerful. It’s a very powerful motivator. It basically powers the internet. And we have to think about where we were in 2002 when these two got together. A lot of us are kind of coming into more public consciousness. We’re developing our opinions about pop culture.

archived recording

My life is really mostly about work right now. I haven’t got it all figured out yet, but I’m trying.

michael gold

She’s in movies. She’s in pop music. And the music is literally everywhere. I mean, Jennifer Lopez shaped the internet. She wore a green Versace dress at the Grammys, and people were so interested in the dress, they kept googling it. And Google thinks —

dodai stewart

Oh, that’s right.

michael gold

Yeah, we need a way to do image search so that when people Google Jennifer Lopez Versace dress, they see the Jennifer Lopez Versace dress.

archived recording

Hi, nice to meet you. I have a Golden Globe.

michael gold

Ben Affleck also having a great moment. He’s on the A-list. He’s doing action movies. He’s done some indies. He’s got that credibility. And so they were really central to the pop culture in a time when a lot of us were kind of coming up. And all of a sudden, here comes this huge celebrity “it” couple at this really important moment that sort of defined that era for the 18 months that they were together.

Now we’re a little older. We don’t have the centrality to the culture anymore than we used to. It’s Billie Eilish’s turn now. And I think that’s nice. But I think that’s part of it. I just think there’s something very millennial about this. Like, oh, it’s all these years later. But I really care about these people. And there’s something really powerful about accessing that part of yourself that you were back when that happened, and you weren’t so concerned about the virus and the fate of the world and climate change.

dodai stewart

I just want to say that I’m not a millennial. And I do think that part of the reason that everyone can glom onto this is because they are crossgenerational.

michael gold

That’s fair. I mean, she’s been around.

dodai stewart

There are very few people that your grandma knows, your niece knows, your coworkers know. She, for sure, is one of those people where you can be seven, you could be 77, and you know J. Lo.

michael gold

I think some of it speaks to her longevity, too, right?

dodai stewart

Yeah.

michael gold

Because she’s continued to be around and on such big public stages. Gen Z knows who she is, too.

dodai stewart

Yeah, well, she’s on “American Idol,” yeah, and “Hustlers,” yeah.

michael gold

The other thing I will say is, they’re weaponizing nostalgia a little bit, I think.

dodai stewart

What makes you say that?

michael gold

J. Lo is master of imagery. She knows how to control her image. She knows what she’s putting out into the universe. She’s very good at Instagram. And there’s a paparazzi photo of the two of them on a yacht —

dodai stewart

Oh my gosh.

michael gold

— at the end of July, I think. And it’s almost perfectly recreating an iconic shot from the “Jenny From the Block” music video.

dodai stewart

Yes.

michael gold

This was a song off of her 2002 album. And it’s like shot for shot. She’s wearing a pink bikini. She’s lying on the yacht. He’s touching her rear. And it’s just everything is perfect to the point where we’re all kind of sitting here like, oh, these two people have to know what they’re doing. They’ve been in the public eye for 20 years. Something is going on here.

dodai stewart

Right. OK, so let’s go to your second bucket, which is relatability.

michael gold

Relatability. All right, Dodai, I’m going to level with you.

dodai stewart

OK.

michael gold

So here’s the thing.

dodai stewart

I’m ready.

michael gold

The last year and a half has not been great.

dodai stewart

I feel that so much. It’s been rough.

michael gold

And we’ve had a lot of time to sit and think and look at Instagram and look at Twitter and look at Facebook, and then look at Instagram again. Everyone has that one ex that you wonder if I met them now and we were the people we were today, would it work? J. Lo and Ben Affleck, they were like, let’s see. Let’s find out.

I think the other thing is that relationships have changed so much in the past year or so. I think people are rethinking their priorities. They’re rethinking how they approach finding a partner, how they structure their relationships. So we’re in this moment where everyone’s kind of reconsidering their relationships. She goes through a post-pandemic breakup. And Jennifer Lopez and A-Rod are no more. And then the world starts to open up.

And she makes a decision that I feel like not all of us would make. Not everyone is going to go back to the ex from 2002. But all of us are also kind of like, oh, yeah, but we’ve sent that text. We’ve sent someone a TikTok that we thought was funny and said, thinking of you, even if we weren’t thinking of them, just to see what would happen.

dodai stewart

I agree that for me, what’s relatable is, hey, you know what? Anything could happen.

michael gold

It’s hot vax summer.

dodai stewart

That’s right.

michael gold

OK, so here’s the third thing. It’s hope.

dodai stewart

Let’s talk about hope.

michael gold

Remember earlier, when I was talking about how we all saw Ben Affleck, and we thought, this is us. This is me. I am going to get on my fitness routine during this pandemic so that when the paparazzi catches me dropping iced coffees, some New York Times reporter says, “But his arms look good, though.”

I am not perfect, but I’m trying. If Jennifer Lopez, the queen princess of pop culture, who, more or less, seems perfect — she seems flawless. I know there are criticisms, but she seems pretty flawless as far as celebrities go. If she sees value in this man, that means there is value in all of us.

dodai stewart

It’s like, I, too, can be pulled out of a dark moment where I was spilling coffee all over myself and have a moment in the sun on a yacht. There is hope. And they are living avatars for scenarios that we can see for each other, where you’re like, after all this despair, something good can happen.

michael gold

Yeah. And I think also, I mean, a little part of this, too, is that something good can happen to someone. Later in life, these —

dodai stewart

True.

michael gold

— are two people who are 48 and 52. And they found each other again. And they reconnected. And they look genuinely happy. And relationships are hard. I won’t say how long this lasts, but at least for a moment, they have this nice thing. And that means that in the future, we can have nice things.

dodai stewart

[LAUGHS] OK, so there are moments, and it’s happening now. But there might be another lockdown. There might be another variant. The summer’s fleeting. Summer ends.

michael gold

Not trying to hear that, but OK, great.

dodai stewart

If we are living through them, we’ve been transformed. We took something that was in the gutter with coffee spilled all over it and is now in the yacht, in the sunshine. If that dissolves, if they break up, are we going to be OK?

michael gold

No, I don’t think we’re going to be OK. I think it’s going to be really — I think people are going to take it really personally I think, because I think we’ve all invested in the narrative around that as there’s hope for us. We can restore ourselves. We can better ourselves. We can show the person who thought we weren’t good enough that we have changed and that we are ready and that this is the time for us. And we can step into the sun.

And if they break up, I think a lot of people are going to be devastated because it will say if these two people who have every advantage going for them can’t make this thing work, well, what hope do I have? I think it’s going to be really hard.

dodai stewart

Michael Gold, thank you so much. This has been such a joy.

michael gold

Thank you. It’s been a treat. It’s been a real treat.



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