Ben and Jen - Does Anyone Care?

January 23, 2004
A thought by James Berardinelli

So apparently it's over, and does anyone really care? From the beginning, I never understood why this relationship was such a big deal, and why the media circled these two like they were worth front page gossip column coverage. Yes, they courted the press, thinking they could use them for their own advancement, but we're not talking about Bogart and Bacall here. Or even Cruise and Kidman. Affleck is a decent character actor who has been miscast as an action hero, and Lopez is a once-promising actress whose bad script choices have led to a ruined screen career. So they worked together, became lovers, then got engaged. Why should anyone except their friends and family care? Why should we be subjected to countless news stories about their lives? It's boring, yet somehow it still manages to sell papers and magazines.

Once upon a time, there was glamor associated with Hollywood couplings. Bogart and Bacall. Tracy and Hepburn. Grace Kelly and her prince. They were bigger than life, and their romances were like chapters from a fairy tale. The world was different then, but the fascination hasn't ended, although it has become twisted to match the cynicism of this generation. Now, we seek out scandal and applaud deception with a fervor that would horrify our forebears. We gleefully tear down icons. Instead of the shine, we see only the tarnish. Our fascination for celebrity couplings has less to do with our love of glamor than with an ill-concealed desire to watch their Camelot crumble. And maybe that's why there was so much interest in Jen and Ben - because, with her disatrous romantic track record, the scent of failure tainted the relationship from the begining. And the gossip columnists, smelling the blood, waited impatiently for it all to unravel.

There's a lesson in this, I'm sure, but I don't know what it is. Ben and Jen are disingenuous when they blame the paparazzi for the collapse of their affair. Yes, they were in a fishbowl, but that was their own doing and, ultimately, it was their own words and actions that doomed them. Blaming others is a popular escape route, but how about some personal responsibility? So Ben and Jen are history, but all that means is there's a empty space in the tabloids. Because nature abhors a vacuum, the gossip columnists will begin tracking the next impending romantic implosion. (Demi and Ashton?) And we'll get to be bored all over again.

Time to Return

If you haven't yet seen The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King due to concerns about packed theaters, now's a good time to make the trip to the local multiplex. With the exception of Friday and Saturday nights, when it's still drawing decent crowds, there are plenty of seats. I peeked into a theater showing the movie around 7:00 this past Wednesday, and there were only five patrons in a 300-seat auditorium. You can't get much cozier than that. Actually, most people who intend to see the film projected theatrically have probably already seen it. The majority of the film's current box office is coming from return viewers, and, while it may not match Titanic for bringing back fans fifteen or twenty times, its continued strong ticket sales indicate that many devotees are not willing to wait for the DVD.