Brangelina. Kimye. Tomkat. Gyllenspoon. Each couple is one more note in the long, sad dirge of failed Hollywood romances. Matching famous nicknames has been a showbiz tradition for decades, even if most of these mergers fade faster than you can say “Vaughniston” (remember: Vince Vaughn dated Jennifer Aniston for about a minute after their breakup with Brad Pitt). But in the early 2000s, there was a couple whose tumultuous romance and mixed moniker stood out above the rest, consuming the tabloid press for a full three years, until their abrupt and dramatic breakup just days before their planned wedding. And now, 17 years later, in a plot twist worthy of a Nancy Meyers rom-com, those same not-so-young lovers have shocked the world and delighted the media by getting back together.
That’s right: like the cicadas, Bennifer has risen. The details of the Ben Affleck-Jennifer Lopez reunion are still a bit sketchy. There was a New York Post article in April reporting that the two had been observed entering the restaurant at the Pendry Hotel in West Hollywood with “Arms wrapped around each other”. A few days later, Affleck was seen leaving Lopez’s Los Angeles home early in the morning (“with a smile” on his face, the Page Six article noted). A month after that, several outlets broke the news that the couple had spent a weekend at a resort in Montana. Then the celebrity magazine Us Weekly made it semi-official with a quote from an anonymous source: “Jen and Ben are very happy with each [other] and excited to see where the relationship is going. “
It’s hard to overstate how important Affleck and Lopez’s relationship was the first time. Pretty much every aspect of their original whirlwind courtship: how they met in 2001 on the set of Gigli, the mobster comedy that ended up being one of the most notorious bombs of the decade; how López broke her marriage to her second husband, the dancer Cris Judd, over the matter; How Affleck spent $ 2.5 million on Harry Winston for a six-carat pink diamond engagement ring gave him the kind of wall-to-wall news coverage usually reserved for hurricanes or land invasions.
“We do not try have a public relationship, ”Lopez said of the romance in a 2016 People interview.“ Coincidentally, we were together at the birth of the tabloids. ” But that was not entirely true. They were barely hiding from the cameras when Affleck made that cameo in Lopez’s 2002 film. Jenny from the Block music video, sunbathing with her on a yacht and planting a gigantic, tabloid kiss on her bikini bottom. And his timing was also a bit out of place: it was not the birth of the tabloids, was its climax.
In those days, with celebrity culture at its peak, magazine covers were the shining coin of the kingdom. People and Us Weekly still had massive circulations and raised hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising. In fact, it was almost impossible to become famous in America without appearing on its pages. And in this world, at the time, Affleck and Lopez were the king and queen of the tabloid prom. They practically guaranteed incredible sales on newsstands.
Today, the gossip industry is not what it used to be. There are fewer paparazzi hanging out from the palm trees snapping photos of million dollar canood stars; not so many power-crazed Hollywood publicists turning every interview request into the Oslo peace accords. In fact, the very concept of fame, of larger-than-life personalities living larger-than-life lives and having larger-than-life love affairs, has been all but obliterated by social media, which ironically started right at the beginning. time when Affleck and López parted ways (with the launch of Facebook in 2004). Internet influencers have introduced a more scruffy, more democratic and much more accessible form of celebrity. In 2021, the stars have become their own paparazzi. It’s called Instagram.
That’s why the hype about Bennifer 2.0 is a bit disconcerting. How is it that, these days, so many people are so fascinated by such an old-school romance, the pairing of a 48-year-old ex-Batman and a 51-year-old Fly Girl? And not only fascinated, but encouraging them in ways that they did not always do during the first round of the couple. Remember all the shit Affleck took just because he started wearing eyeliner in public when he and Lopez started dating? It almost destroyed his career.
Part of the answer may just be normal cyclical nostalgia. Every 20 years or so, a new decade is chosen for the celebration, and now it is the turn of the 2000s: the reunion of Friends; Mean Girls becomes a Broadway show; the rehabilitation of Britney Spears as a martyr of the music industry; Y Teen queen Billie Eilish even trying the office in one of his songs. Everywhere you look, there are echoes of the 2000s, and it’s hard to think of anything that evokes them more palpably than the tabloid headlines about Bennifer.
However, scratch a little deeper and there may be something more significant going on here than simple longing. After the last five years of political insanity and general cultural evil, not to mention the last 15 months of social distancing and masking, the world clearly yearns for some normalcy. You are craving comfort food from pop culture. And reuniting after all this time, Affleck and Lopez are serving up a great grilled cheese sandwich of ease and familiarity. Who wouldn’t want to take a bite out of that?
Of course, being Hollywood, you can’t completely overlook the fact that getting back together has been a smart career move for both stars as well. Affleck had some career wins in the years after the breakup (such as winning the best picture Oscar for Argo in 2012), as well as a few failures (his turn as the Caped Crusader was widely criticized). But his post-Bennifer public image took a lot of blows thanks to a decidedly shaky private life. He hooked up with his Daredevil co-star Jennifer Garner in 2004, got married, had three children with her, separated and then got caught playing with the babysitter, developed a drinking problem, and divorced Garner in 2018.
Meanwhile, Lopez has spent the past 17 years bouncing around mediocre rom-coms (occasionally getting better material, like Hustlers), making a stint as a judge on American Idol, pitching beauty and clothing lines, and going through a shaky series of doomed relationships. . Shortly after her affair with Affleck broke out, she married singer Marc Anthony (and later noted that she “knew very quickly that [the marriage] it wasn’t the right thing to do ”), had two kids with him, got divorced after 10 years, embarked on an affair with a backup dancer, then another with Drake, until he met Alex Rodriguez, the retired baseball star with the that he almost got married before his breakup. at the beginning of this year.
By themselves, Affleck and Lopez are scaled down versions of the stars they used to be, which is true of almost every bold name from the 2000s. In today’s world of TikTok, where iPhone screens matter more than those in movie theaters, that’s the way things are. But by coming together as a couple, they have become greater than the sum of their parts. Together, they are getting a taste of the old-fashioned, high-grade fame that they once had had their fill of. That’s something some of his showbiz compatriots haven’t lost, including some former lovers. Lopez’s ex-girlfriend Diddy dated the rapper in the late 1990s, recently posting a photo of the two holding hands. Meanwhile, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop website posted a photo of her with Affleck when they dated in the 1990s. Everyone, it seems, wants a pinch of Bennifer’s pixie dust.
But there’s another explanation for why Affleck and Lopez’s second love story is making so many gushing headlines, and it may be the most compelling of all. Even in a place as cynical and jaded as Hollywood, there is something undeniably sweet about their reunion. What are the chances that two former A-list lovers from the 2000s, who spent most of the last two decades struggling with their own separate demons, divorces, and career changes, will end up emerging in 2021 as single and available in exactly? the same moment? And that they would fall in love with each other again? It’s the kind of high-concept exaggerated romantic stupidity that Hollywood has always found irresistible.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism