It was one of the most iconic images of the aughts, an image seared in the collective low-cultural consciousness: Ben Affleck, Oscar winner and real-life boyfriend of Jennifer Lopez, caressing Lopez’s bikini bottom in 2002’s “Jenny From the Block” video. Sure, Good Will Hunting was fine, but have you seen Affleck’s thinly veiled performance of himself in this four-minute short film? ’Twas perhaps the most salacious instance of yacht PDA ever.
Lopez and Affleck’s reunion 19 years later had already infused the pandemic summer of 2021 with an air of delicious nostalgia, like a Juicy jumpsuit for the soul. But the fresh Bennifer frenzy escalated over the weekend when, soon after the couple made their Instagram debut, they dared to re-create that salacious, butt-centric yacht shot of yore while sailing through Saint-Tropez for Lopez’s 52nd birthday. The questions swirling around Bennifer 2.0 have never felt more urgent: What exactly is going on between the noted Gigli stars? Is this real, a hologram, a PR stunt, or all of the above? Proceed for theories.
Theory No. 1: Bennifer are really and truly in love.
To remain unbiased in the study of Bennology, one must allow for the possibility that Lopez and Affleck are, to quote Cher Horowitz, “majorly, totally, butt-crazy in love.” That after decades apart, including engagements, marriages, children, and divorces (see also: Marc Anthony; Alex Rodriguez; Jennifer Garner), the formerly engaged Ben and J.Lo imprinted on each other like Twilight vampires and are now living their truth together. Affleck has referenced staying in touch and continually lauded Lopez in interviews over the past few years, including telling InStyle in April: “She remains, to this day, the hardest-working person I’ve come across in this business. She has great talent, but she has also worked very hard for her success, and I’m so happy for her that she seems, at long last, to be getting the credit she deserves.”
Theory No. 2: Bennifer are in love and totally toying with us.
The re-creation of the butt caress seen round the world bolsters the case of our second theory: As The New Yorker’s Naomi Fry aptly put it on Instagram, “They’re playing us like a fiddle!” Once upon a time, Affleck and Lopez could feign innocence. “I think Jen and I made a mistake in that we fell in love, we were excited and maybe too accessible,” Affleck told British TV show Live in 2008. “I don’t think either of us anticipated the degree to which it would take on a world of its own.”
This was suspect enough in the early aughts, even if Bennifer was the first modern-day celebrity couple to inspire a portmanteau. But in 2021, with social media in full, toxic bloom, both Ben and Jen know acutely that their union, and reunion, has strange, bewitching powers: that going Instagram official with a movie-poster makeout will break the internet (even on the weekend), that reenacting the famous “Jenny” video will inspire countless before and afters. Does Bennifer send us into a tailspin because they can, dancing for the cameras like a form of elaborate performance art? Do they delight in our obsession with them? Let’s just say: not no.