Believe it or not, I usually go with a less is more approach when it comes to how much to share online. It may seem like I let it all hang out in my blog and in other places, but I usually only speak when I have something to say. I censor myself, a lot.
Why? Fear, I suppose. I don’t like to be vulnerable. I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I don’t want to be misunderstood. But the majority of my self-censorship is done out of respect. See, I firmly believe that we are all entitled to our opinions and such. However, as a journalist, an editor, someone who makes a living with words, I feel strongly that opinions and commentary should be shared thoughtfully, with dignity and respect.
So, when I read this article talking about how Ben Affleck – shout out to Fast Company for always making me laugh and always presenting a diverse bunch of thematically relevant articles – is using his divorce as a tool to advertise his new film, I was thought, yeah. Gross. Too much, dude.
Affleck, as some of you pop culture, film lovers may know, is divorced from actress Jennifer Garner. They have three children together, and it’s widely known that his infidelity and excessive drinking were key drivers for the breakdown of their marriage. They’ve been divorced since 2018, and media wise, I think she’d turned a corner. She was at that place where her name wasn’t automatically attached to his in every online mention or interview. She was back to being Jennifer Garner, not Ben Affleck’s ex-wife Jennifer Garner.
Of course, that’s ruined now. Because he’s on a promotional tour to shill his new movie, and he brings her up every chance he gets. Now, to be fair, part of that may be at the media’s insistence. They’re likely asking questions about his personal life, his road to sobriety/recovery, the dissolution of his marriage, etc.
But when the narrative is this consistent – I looked at several different articles, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if there was a template lurking somewhere in the background – it bears the stamp of a deliberate and strategic media campaign. Like, you feed a mouse crumbs, it will follow where you lead.
Still, even that isn’t inherently bad. There are a ton of similarities between his life and the character he plays in new film “The Way Back.” So many similarities I’m thinking he didn’t have to stretch himself excessively for this role.
But it’s one thing to share your recovery journey, to be proud of it, to be honest. That can help others facing the same tough road. It’s something else to bring others into it. Like the family who had no choice but to go along for the ride, and who by rights are entitled to some peace.
Admittedly, my knowledge of addition and recovery are very third party. Maybe things can’t be separated, at least not easily. Still, I feel sorry for Garner because through no fault of her own, she’s being continually recast as the long suffering wife, the saint who put up with his nonsense. The mother who put it all on the line for her family.
In narrative terms, that’s one, maybe two roles. Neither of which is bad, per say. But the general public isn’t known for its nuanced view of women, nor are casting directors, for that matter. It’s already hard for a woman to move on from life after a divorce, especially a celebrity divorce. Jennifer Aniston, for instance, may never shake off her connection to Brad Pitt, and it overshadows/undercuts her own work and accomplishments because he is always a distracting part of her narrative.
Then, consider how challenging it is for a woman of a certain age who has children to be cast in diverse roles in Hollywood. It’s tough for a woman to reclaim herself as an independent, fully actualized person, not an appendage – the former, the ex-wife of – you get the picture.
So, Ben. Dude. Let her live. Let her move on from you and your messiness. You may be saying positive things, but their impact on your image and their impact on hers are different.
An addict’s recovery is long-term. It’s a continuous process that I think lasts forever. But did Garner sign up to go on the journey with him?
I have a relative who is a recovering addict, and when she’s getting on my nerves, I sometimes say, “Damn, you were crazy as hell on drugs. You’re sober, and you’re still crazy as hell. When do I get a break?”
So, is it really okay to repeatedly discuss your failed marriage and by association your ex-wife during a promotional campaign for a film? I can’t help but wonder, does she want to be thrust into the spotlight this way? I’m assuming the answer is no. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. But regardless of her feelings, it’s not exactly a good look for him, is it? It seems terribly self-absorbed somehow. Enough that this little media blitz is kind of obvious, no?
You’re in a movie about being a recovering addict, and you’re a recovering addict. So, you capitalize on that connection to draw attention to the film and the messages it contains. Messages that could be beneficial to many. I get it. It actually makes perfect sense, and it would be silly not to capitalize on the personal story to enhance the professional one – if Affleck wasn’t pulling his family along for the ride.
I mean, they just got off that roller coaster not too long ago. Is it fair that he’s putting them back into the mix again? It feels kinda cheap.
It’s also annoying. I’m already done with Matt Damon to the point where I can’t even watch my Good Will Hunting and Bourne DVDs – and I absolutely loved those movies. The chance of me seeing any of his new stuff is like, slim to none. But I wasn’t in that place with Affleck. Now, The Accountant etc. will probably be relocated to the bottom shelf with Damon’s and other stuff that I once loved but can no longer endure because real life has low key poisoned the art.
I will say this. If the purpose of this orchestrated media blitz is to get attention, it’s successful. It got my attention, though not in a good way. It will be interesting to see if that attention translates to box office ticket sales.