- Par Alex Taylor
- Reporter BBC Entertainment
Looking at photos of Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck entwined on a yacht, it feels like you can blink your eyes and think you’ve stepped back into the heady days of 2002.
One of the (many) images released in recent days shows the couple reproducing steamy scenes from the clip for Jenny from the Block, in which Jennifer Lopez gets her butt fondly stroked by her then-fiancé – and partner today. found.
The photos, first posted on celebrity news site TMZ last week, quickly flooded social media with a dose of nostalgia and intrigue as people scrambled to check their calendars.
But the most observant viewers could also see an on-board photographer capture the moment the couple kissed on the deck of their yacht.
This episode highlighted the enduring power of the couple formerly known as Bennifer, not only to fans or the media, but also to the stars themselves.
The dream couple from the tabloids
The fascination with Bennifer 2.0 reflects the special place the couple occupied when they first met, says Ed Gleave, TV editor of the Daily Star Sunday.
They got together in 2002, during the heyday of tabloid media, when print media still had a stranglehold on celebrity culture. For photographers specializing in distant images and gossip columnists, they were the “dream couple” of the 90s.
Both are riding the waves of success that are sustaining media interest. Lopez, who just released his number one debut album J Lo, has a parallel career in Hollywood, starring in the romantic comedies Maid in Manhattan and The Wedding Planner, as well as the crime thriller Out Of Sight and the horror film. The Cell.
Affleck, the youngest Oscar-winning screenwriter – for Good Will Hunting at the age of 25 – is also in high demand, having starred in Tom Clancy’s Shakespeare in Love and The Sum of All Fears. In December 2002, he was also named by People magazine as “the sexiest man in the world”.
“It’s rare to have a celebrity couple that both have A-list members, so when that happens, fans go crazy for it,” Gleave says.
“They were both at the peak of their fame and both sexy, so a lot of people were interested in their privacy and a lot of people wanted to look at pictures of them.”
For two years, they shaped their image, playing on the media voyeurism they had helped create for the clip for Jenny from the Block.
After Affleck proposed to her with a custom-made pink diamond ring in November 2002, photos kept pouring in, including the paparazzi scene the couple re-staged last week.
But the intensity of the spotlight, as well as the negative reactions to their romantic comedy Gigli, ended up getting the better of the couple.
They postponed their marriage to September 2003 due to “excessive media attention”, and separated the following January.
“We didn’t try to have a public relationship, we just got together when the tabloids were born,” Lopez told Jess Cagle in 2018.
“We might have played the game at first because it was fun … but then it destroyed us.”
“It was a lot of pressure … [une] different time … “.
For Myra Ali, a freelance entertainment journalist, the default story of celebrity between press and public at the time was to “build people up and watch them fall apart.”
The words “be nice” were certainly not taken into account.
Back to the future
Go forward two decades – in a very different time, in the midst of a global pandemic – and the rebirth of their relationship (after their respective failed marriages and Affleck’s struggles with addiction) doesn’t just symbolize a story of love potentially repaired, but a yearning for a heartwarming past.
“The pandemic has made us all hungry for things that are familiar to us,” says Gleave. “Humanity always does this in times of crisis. It is not for nothing that there was a baby boom after World War II.
“Bennifer’s return also gives everyone hope that a happy ending is possible. Anyone who has had a first love they secretly dream of will find some hope in it.
“That’s why there was so much excitement when we thought Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt might give it another try.
“Bennifer ticks all the boxes and that’s exactly what a lot of people need right now.”
With that in mind, the way the public consumed the news – through a pop culture reference to a video from the couple’s heyday, rather than through Lopez’s official Instagram posts – seems appropriate.
The perfect image?
The image debuted on TMZ and spread, largely uncredited, on social media, illustrating how the celebrity press landscape has both changed and remained the same.
Entertainment photographer Carla Speight, who has public relations background, says the image could have been worth thousands of dollars on the open market.
“It’s perfectly clickable and a hot topic in terms of public interest entertainment. Exclusive deals with people like TMZ could easily reach five figures,” she said.
This is important for today’s photographer, because the unregulated nature of social media means that the photo can quickly lose financial value as soon as it starts to gain traction.
“This has happened to me a million times: fans take a screenshot of the image [et] publish it on social networks, without any copyright.
“But all of that said, the still image is very relevant, even in the age of social media.”
One of the reasons Bennifer 2.0’s image was so attractive was its supposedly candid nature, the idea that we were getting a glimpse of a private moment – which is why people cried foul when they saw a photographer on the boat with the couple. But according to Mr Speight, it would not be unusual for such a photo to be staged.
“If this photo was staged, they did it for a good reason,” she says. “Once this photo is out [et] gone viral, the press seized it for days.
“It will devalue all the other footage that occurs in the following days so there will be less paparazzi lurking around. Also, it allows people to talk about themselves.
But unlike the early 2000s, when Affleck and Lopez relied on the media to stay in the public eye – Affleck even placed an ad in Variety magazine to declare his love – any potential editorial collusion between the press and the stars. is questioned by social networks.
Kate Randall, news editor for Heat magazine, explains that “celebrities know they don’t always need the press and can now engage with their fans on Instagram, Twitter and Tik Tok and to have the feeling to better control the narrative “.
Now, celebrity gossip accounts like Deux Moi – which seamlessly requests and shares anonymous tips – are reaching a million followers on Instagram alone.
“Social media allows these images to gain much greater reach in a shorter time than tabloid media from the early 2000s – and people are impatient so they need this immediate gratification from new information,” explains an editor, who wishes to remain anonymous, to BBC News.
“People are also a lot smarter today – so I think they like to play detective and speculate whether the relationship has been rekindled based on Ben and Jen’s real feelings for each other or for public relations purposes.
“Today, they tend to believe the gossip spread by the public rather than a celebrity who speaks his ‘truth’.”
And as for the truth behind the Bennifer 2.0 photo?
“People are speculating that Ben and Jen were recreating scenes from his Jenny From The Block video for his birthday and I think that’s why his personal photographer was there,” says the Deux Moi editor.
“It goes back to the thirst for nostalgia during the pandemic… people are craving it right now and Ben and Jen are responding accordingly.
“She’s a smart and generous celebrity in my opinion.”
While Randall agrees, she notes that stars like Affleck and Lopez “thrive on attention,” meaning sometimes a social media post alone “won’t do.”
“They want their photo featured in every newspaper, magazine and website out there,” she says.
Ms Randall adds that the key ingredient in this 2021 balancing act is providing a sense of authenticity that makes you feel involved – especially as society begins to reject the original age’s insincerity. of the influencer, perfectly manicured.
“Fans are starting to understand that what gets posted on Instagram isn’t always the truth and want to see the imperfect photos, like the spontaneous photo – to get a better look at the story and the limited photos that celebrities give away.
“With Bennifer 2.0, it’s like we’re back in 2002 and it’s exciting again.”