A couple years later, we’d have a word for this phenomenon — “Bennifer.” It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when using a portmanteau to describe a celebrity duo was novel, or that it would take two whole years into their relationship for someone to come up with one, but Ben and J.Lo were so iconic together that they manifested it. The tabloids — even more vicious and relentless at the time than they are now— turned this idea on its head. According to them, Bennifer didn’t just inspire non-stop coverage: they were fame-hungry narcissists who cultivated it. Furthermore, because sexism and racism, Ben was an idiot, duped by a seductress who was ruining his career by association.
This is exactly what the “Jenny from the Block” video was about, but as a teen girl I was too wrapped up in the “glamour” of it all to give a shit. I was not about to let the fact that my heroes met on the set of the so-called worst movie of all time — or were possibly fame-hungry maniacs — get in the way of lusting over looks like this, which to this day holds up as the epitome of early aughts sartorial excellence:
It sounds ridiculous now, but as a young girl, Bennifer represented the promise of celebrity before I understood what a shallow and bankrupting enterprise it is. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez had the talent, the looks, the money, but most importantly, they had the story. A good origin narrative is important even for normal couples, but when you make your living building myths, it’s paramount.
Ben was the tall-dark-and-handsome all-American boy from Boston, poised to take the throne as the leading man of his generation. Jennifer was a drop-dead gorgeous girl with Puerto Rican parents from the Bronx who was already one of the most successful triple threats in the world. Even though they were two of the most famous people on the planet, one could imagine them in jeans and t-shirts at a baseball game genuinely fighting (and then having mind-altering makeup sex) over whose hometown team is better.
When they called off their wedding in 2004 because of the paparazzi, it shocked no one. In their joint statement, they wrote: “Due to the excessive media attention surrounding our wedding, we have decided to postpone the date. When we found ourselves seriously contemplating hiring three separate ‘decoy brides’ at three different locations, we realized that something was awry.” Though it’s been said that the exact reason for their breakup remains a mystery, non-stop shit-guzzling press that impacts your ability to be “taken seriously” in your career doesn’t seem that mysterious to me.