Why the Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck 2021 reunion issues

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Many regrettable fads from the early aughts are again in fashion today: cicadas, recall elections, low-rise denims.

However the return of at the least one phenomenon final seen throughout George W. Bush’s first time period has been met with practically unanimous glee: Bennifer.

After weeks of rumors about surreptitious conferences in a white SUV, the information broke Monday that Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck — the as soon as white-hot couple and glittering tabloid spectacle often called Bennifer — had rekindled their romance after 17 years with a weeklong trip in Montana. There have been even pictures to show it.

The report prompted giddy squeals of pleasure, the likes of which haven’t been heard since that point Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt mentioned hello to one another on Zoom.

Filmmaker Kevin Smith, who directed the couple in his movie “Jersey Lady,” eagerly claimed credit for coining the Bennifer moniker, as if it had been a lifesaving vaccine. Comic Michelle Collins noticed that after just a few weeks again with Lopez, Affleck was “scorching as s— once more. I guess his phoenix again tattoo is slowly disappearing just like the photograph in ‘Again to the Future.’” Even Affleck’s outdated pal Matt Damon was compelled to share his emotions a couple of attainable reunion on “At the moment.”

“That might be superior,” he mentioned, deftly capturing the emotions of many.

The elation may be the weirdest factor about Bennifer 2.0. In the event you’d requested me — or simply about anybody — how we felt concerning the couple’s extremely dramatic, exhaustively chronicled relationship again in 2004, we’d have mentioned, “Ugh, make them go away.”

Now we’re singing a distinct tune: Please, Bennifer, come again.

So why the collective change of coronary heart?

It’s troublesome now to understand simply how ubiquitous Lopez and Affleck had been throughout their whirlwind romance, which lasted lower than two years however generated practically as a lot media scrutiny because the case for battle in Iraq.

For these of you who’ve forgotten the main points or had been too younger to pay attention to them on the time (impolite), right here’s a quick refresher: Affleck and Lopez fell for one another in 2002 on the set of the misbegotten stinker “Gigli.” By July, Lopez introduced her plans to divorce husband No. 2, Cris Judd, after lower than a yr of marriage. By November, Lopez and Affleck had been engaged and canoodling on a yacht within the video for “Jenny From the Block.”

“Gigli” was launched in July 2003 following months of detrimental buzz and have become a flop of legendary proportions, however by that time it was practically unimaginable to separate the issues of the movie from the backlash to all issues Bennifer.

Britney Spears

Britney Spears, arriving on the MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles in 2015, is among the many cultural figures whose previous remedy by the media has come beneath scrutiny of late — an inventory that now contains “Bennifer.”

(Jordan Strauss / Invision/Related Press)

Then, days earlier than Lopez and Affleck had been set to say “I do” at a lavish ceremony in September 2003, the couple postponed their wedding ceremony, citing the overwhelming media frenzy. They completely break up just a few months later. Inside a yr and a half, each Lopez and Affleck had been married to different folks, and the general public had moved on to breathlessly speculating over Brangelina.

A part of the exuberance about their reunion is the chance it presents for a do-over. As we’ve found within the years since Bennifer’s demise, the media was mistaken about apparently every part circa 2003-04 — mistaken about Britney Spears, mistaken about Justin Timberlake, mistaken about Howard Dean’s scream, mistaken about weapons of mass destruction. Might it have been mistaken about Bennifer too?

These days the tradition has reconsidered the narratives about younger feminine celebrities like Spears, Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson, whose private foibles grew to become grist for the merciless and misogynist tabloid mill through the early aughts.

Affleck just lately complained of the equally sexist, racist protection his ex-fiancée was subjected to all through their relationship. “Ugly, vicious s— was written about her in ways in which should you wrote it now you’d actually be fired for saying these stuff you mentioned,” he mentioned. “Now it’s like, she’s lionized and revered for the work she did, the place she got here from, what she achieved — as properly she f— needs to be!”

There have been undoubtedly parts of bigotry and chauvinism to a lot of the unique Bennifer backlash — particularly to the concept that Lopez was a controlling, spoiled “diva” and a compulsive man-eater. So what if each she and Affleck got here from close-knit, middle-class households who knew what it was prefer to wrestle financially? Lopez favored designer garments and costly candles and had as soon as — gasp! — dated a rapper, and was thus too flashy and risqué for a pleasant boy from Boston.

As Diane Sawyer put it in a 2002 report on “Primetime Reside,” Lopez was “the racy, impetuous pop star with that flashy ex-boyfriend,” whereas Affleck was “the brainy man” and “towering actor who romanced an uptown goddess.” (By no means thoughts that “uptown goddess” Gwyneth Paltrow was not precisely identified for being low-key both.)

A Occasions story from 2004 examined Affleck’s profession stoop and the actual animosity generated by his relationship with Lopez. Kevin Smith instructed that the backlash “most likely needed to do with a good-looking white man and a Latino lady. ’She lends him avenue cred and he lends her class’ — folks would actually write that.’”

In the meantime, Affleck was portrayed as an emasculated cheeseball who had been blinded by Lopez’s bodily attract — shopping for her a 6-carat pink diamond engagement ring from Harry Winston, buying and selling in his Purple Sox T-shirts for camelhair coats and customarily being her designer Ken doll. GQ known as him the “world’s most overexposed actor,” mocked him for his faux tan (“You confirmed up on the Gigli premiere wanting like an overcooked Oompa-Loompa”) and instructed he dump Lopez in favor of “a girl who gained’t make you run out to the nook retailer for a Lamborghini.” (“We now have a few very good editorial assistants right here who’d be more than pleased with just a few cranberry vodkas and a ticket to the Shins,” learn the piece.)

That’s to not say the Bennifer phenomenon wasn’t a little embarrassing on the time. Presumably rather a lot. In the event you can watch the video for “Jenny From the Block” with out cringing — particularly the half the place Affleck actually kisses his fiancée’s well-known behind — you’re a greater particular person than I. However their worst sin was being ubiquitous, and there was solely a lot they might do to cease that. As Lopez has mentioned, “We didn’t attempt to have a public relationship. We simply occurred to be collectively on the delivery of the tabloids, and it was like, ‘Oh my God.’”

Bennifer 2.0 is just not solely an opportunity for Affleck and Lopez to rekindle a once-promising romance as older (and hopefully wiser) folks, then. It’s additionally an opportunity for the remainder of us to simply allow them to be blissful.

There’s something undeniably charming about {couples} who come again to one another, significantly in showbiz — assume Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, to whom Bennifer have been in contrast — and whereas it’s unlikely that we’ve grow to be much less cynical about celeb romance over the past 17 years, it’s attainable that we’ve grow to be fonder of Affleck and Lopez particularly, extra forgiving of their very human shortcomings and extra delicate to the personal struggles of individuals regardless of their financial institution steadiness.

Lopez is now celebrated as Hollywood’s most glamorous workhorse, a fiercely disciplined star who channeled her singular charisma right into a should-have-been-nominated efficiency in “Hustlers” and a blinding Tremendous Bowl halftime present.

And although Affleck has had a rougher go of it within the court docket of public opinion — see: the Unhappy Batman memes and the mockery of that again tattoo — he additionally has been bravely upfront about his struggles with alcoholism. We would chuckle at a few of Affleck’s clumsier missteps, like when a cardboard cutout of his ex, Ana de Armas, ended up within the trash shortly after their breakup. However ultimately we’re rooting for him. How might we maintain something towards a person so dedicated to Dunkin Donuts?

Maybe greater than something, the joy over the Lopez-Affleck reunion has to do with our shared nostalgia for a star monoculture that’s more and more endangered in 2021.

It’s a part of what makes “Associates” so enduringly common and what made Harry and Meghan’s tell-all with Oprah Winfrey in March such an exhilarating spectacle. Sure, there was the very 2021 proven fact that the Sussexes had been calling out the British royal household for its alleged racism and insensitivity to psychological well being points. However the interview additionally felt like a welcome throwback: a prime-time particular, hosted by a talk-show legend, watched by hundreds of thousands of individuals in actual time, commercials and all. Is there something extra 2004 than that?

Despite the fact that the times of Bennifer don’t appear that far-off, at the least for these of us over 30, the media panorama was radically completely different the primary time round. Mark Zuckerberg was only a dweeby Harvard pupil who used his coding expertise to rank classmates in accordance with their hotness.

The video for “Jenny From the Block” premiered on “TRL,” MTV’s flagship broadcast and a vital arbiter of common style in music for practically a decade.

US Weekly, revamped as a star tabloid beneath the management of editor Bonnie Fuller, was on the top of its energy, with a circulation of 1.1 million. Its success impressed a spate of down-market copycats like InTouch and triggered a gold rush for unstaged, usually invasive pictures of {couples} like Lopez and Affleck.

Practically twenty years later, social media has not solely diminished the worth of paparazzi pictures and given stars the ability to regulate what the general public sees of their personal lives, it additionally has launched a complete new breed of celeb, the influencer. The traces between who is known and who’s simply attempting to be well-known are extra blurred than ever, throwing the hierarchy of celeb into disarray. Who’s the larger star: the TikTok character with 70 million followers or the two-time Oscar winner with no social media presence in anyway? Who the heck is aware of.

In the meantime, the erosion of broadcast and cable tv and the simultaneous rise of streaming networks has led to extra fracturing of style, with viewers inspired by the algorithm to gap up of their more and more slim cultural silos. Rankings for marquee occasions just like the Oscars have declined precipitously, even when massive names like Brad Pitt present up. Star energy ain’t what it was.

And for Affleck and Lopez, as they apparently attempt to rekindle a romance that withered within the highlight, that may very well be an excellent factor.

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