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Ben Affleck: American Badass

2003-02-18 - 9:13 p.m.


Is it just me, or is this whole Ben-Affleck-as-Badass thing getting out of control?

Does it seem a little funny to you--and yet a little sad at the same time?

I should state up front that I haven�t seen many of his most recent movies, like �Boiler Room," �Armageddon,� �Changing Lanes� or �Daredevil,� these movies where he�s all Mr. Action Thriller now--but I think it�s obvious that he�s trying to make some kind of statement. And it�s oh-so-subtle. Note the evolution:

1. He sheds the Mr. Sensitive, I�m-Gwyneth�s-guy roles, as well as roles in intelligent movies, like �Dogma� and �Good Will Hunting,� that don�t inspire Happy Meal toys at McDonald�s.

2. He takes on aforementioned roles that necessitate having a stunt double. See today�s Salon article, which offers this description of his latest character: �In �Daredevil,� based on the Marvel Comics hero, Affleck plays a blind attorney with superhuman other senses that allow him to become a deadly crusader for justice by night.. (Ed. note: those are my italics. I mean, a blind crusader?. Give me a friggin� break already.)

3. He does a stint in rehab, which comes off as so much more �Mariah Carey� than it does �Robert Downey, Jr.�

4. He gets named one of �People� Magazine�s 50 Most Beautiful. Normally I would give this magazine points for picking Affleck, who looks rather real and unpolished, but I just can�t get over how weird it all is, to hear and see discussion in the media all the time about �Affleck�s pecs.� All of this just seems as unlikely to me as if they�d picked Steve Buscemi, or if Phillip Seymour Hoffman was cast as the new Batman.

5. And the real frosting on the makeover cake.... drum roll, please......(Sing in OperaMan rhythm:), Good-bye Matt Damon-o, hel-lo J-Lo-oh-oh.

When Ben Affleck�s name became known, when he and Matt Damon won an Oscar for penning �Good Will Hunting,� they both came off as cute, smart, writer-ly, indie-dreams boys who were passionate about their movie and as working-class-underdog-tinged as the guys they played in the film. I guess I just can�t buy the Badass Ben Makeover because it all seems like an over-the-top obvious attempt to get out of indie world and into movies that bring home the big bucks.

And yet I worry the problem has much shallower roots: that I just can�t buy it because I don�t think he looks "studly" enough for any of these stud-man roles. (According to Salon, the problem lies in the milk teeth. And fellow blogger theotherchad seems to have problems buying it as well. I�d link to the exact page but I can�t find it right now, sorry).

Because what else can it be, if it�s not the fact that he�s not good looking enough? Why else would I easily accept the idea of Matt Damon taking on action flick roles, like in �The Borne Identity?� I haven�t seen that one either, but you can already tell from the damn previews that he�s more convincing in this kind of role than Benny Boy is. I think it might be because Damon can pull off that hunky hero look, like he might�ve been the Homecoming king at your high school, while Ben was a band nerd like you and me.

To me, Ben Affleck�s status as Puff Daddy�s �bad boy� replacement in J-Lo�s life seems as funny, and yet as sad, as that great masterpiece of 80�s cinema, �Can�t Buy Me Love.�. Remember how the totally nerdy guy pays the beautiful cheerleader to act like his girlfriend and he finally becomes cool and popular, and then by the end he becomes the total jerk? I keep thinking of Ben Affleck as that guy.

I keep thinking he called his agent one day and said, �That�s it, man, I�ve had it with being a softie. Get me a personal trainer. Get me J-Lo.� And ever since, his telescope and his encyclopedias and his old, loyal, nerdy friends have been missing him.

I keep thinking that one of these days, after J-Lo is on to her next husband and her butt stops making the news, Ben will wake up like the �Can�t Buy Me Love� guy, shake his head, and wonder how it all went wrong.

that was then - this is now

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