Why Bennifer 2.0 is the Hollywood fairy tale we need

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are engaged for the second time following their 2004 split

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Cast your mind back to 2002.

Kelly Clarkson won the first season of American Idol, Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles was on repeat on the radio, low-rise jeans were all the hipbone-baring rage, and Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake broke up.

But hands down, the cherry on top of the 2002 pop culture cake was the coming together of two of the biggest stars on the planet, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, aka Bennifer.

Bennifer hit the headlines

Between 2002 and 2004, the first celebrity couple to be so effectively portmanteau’d they created their own gossip cottage industry (beating Brangelina by seven years, and Kimye by 10), Bennifer were the epitome of shiny, glamorous #couplesgoals before goals were even a thing.

There was no Twitter, no Instagram, no Snapchat, TikTok, Reddit nor Discord. If you wanted to gorge yourself on the junk food diet of Hollywood gossip, you turned to celebrity magazines (among which I worked at the time) which sold in their millions, to devour celeb sightings, wardrobe malfunctions and the A-list falling out of the Chateau Marmont.

And Bennifer were the Hollywood royalty ruling those front pages.

Bye-bye Cris, hello Ben

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez's romance became tabloid fodder, and they would later blame 'media attention' for calling off their planned 2003 wedding. AFP

After meeting on the set of 2002’s Gigli, a smitten Affleck would take out full-page ads in trade magazines Variety and The Hollywood Reporter in which he gushed: “I really liked working with her and have been so impressed with her acting skills.”

He said: “I thought I’d write a paragraph saying what a professional, decent person I think she is and how kind she is.”

And if you find yourself thinking 'Why would someone be surprised that their colleague is a decent human being?' then you’ve clearly never spent any time in Hollywood (or writing about / obsessing over it, like I have).

Ben and J-Lo were open about their relationship at her July 24 birthday party, and two days later she filed for divorce from husband number two, back-up dancer Cris Judd, after eight months of marriage.

'Rumours (don’t) got me laughing, kid'

In the music video for 'Jenny From The Block', Ben Affleck was ridiculed for playing J-Lo's doting boyfriend. Lopez would later try to remove the video from MTV and VH1 playlists. Photo: Epic Records

It’s horribly Hollywood that something so good should have been the catalyst for something so bad, in this case the beginning of the end of Bennifer. And the looming spectre of love gone wrong came in the shape of the music video for Jennifer’s November 2002 hit, Jenny From The Block.

If the lyrics of which — while admittedly lacking a certain self-awareness on J-Lo’s part — created an era-defining bop, it was the video that truly lodged itself into the collective pop-culture consciousness.

Giving off big meta, art-imitates-life energy, Affleck was filmed filling up Lopez’s car with petrol, worshipping her famous derriere on the deck of a yacht, and helping her find a lost earring.

The tabloids felt this was a step too far, and in a firestorm of misogyny and misandry, Affleck was cast in the real-life role of browbeaten boyfriend reduced to doing nice things for his girlfriend, while Lopez was the boss who had turned one of Hollywood’s leading action men into a simp who liked to do nice things for his girlfriend. Oh, the humanity!

The video would be so inextricably linked to their downfall, that J-Lo tried to get it removed from rotation at both MTV and VH1 in 2004 post-split.

Liz and Dick for the 2020s

The rest of the relationship is Hollywood folklore. The November 2002 engagement, Affleck’s July 2003 visit to a strip club, and the August 2003 critical and commercial failure of Gigli, all culminating in the September 13, 2003, announcement that the wedding would be postponed, for which they blamed “excessive media attention”.

Apparently, Jenny from the block's “everyone’s got to make a living” ethos didn't apply to the media.

Not since Julia Roberts runaway brided Kiefer Sutherland in 1991, just two days before their wedding, running off with his best friend, Jason Patric, had the celebrity wedding industrial complex been so thoroughly rocked.

By January 2004, the pair had split, with J-Lo marrying Marc Anthony five months later, and Affleck launching Bennifer II alongside Jennifer Garner in October.

Now, with Affleck’s sidewalk laughter-fest with Anna DeArnas but a glitch in the Matrix, and Lopez's engagement to Alex Rodriguez called off, Bennifer 2.0 have made their way back to one another.

When, in the name of all that is Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, does this ever happen? And people say fairy tales aren't real.

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Updated: April 11, 2022, 10:16 AM