Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are going strong, and despite the Oscar snub, my goodness is it paying off. Is Argo pretty much a lock for Best Picture at this point? (I hated it, did anyone else hate it? [Lainey: I liked it very much.] And I usually really enjoy Ben’s direction).
The success of the Affleck campaign is due in no small part to Ben and Jen’s Walt and June Cleaver act. She’s all dimples and school runs, while he’s the lovable but serious dad who is there to do the “dad stuff” but not like wipe their noses or anything.
It’s so retro (regressive?) and it’s not even a role that’s being assigned to them. They are actively courting the “good old days” nostalgia that seems to resonate with a certain age group, and not coincidentally this age group makes up a hefty portion of Academy voters.
Celebrities are usually aspiration OR relatable and Jennifer Garner, as a mom, has hit that perfect sweet spot where she is both. Same with Ben as a dad. This is no accident. At the start of the campaign, Ben gave an interview to The Hollywood Reporter talking about how he would be giving his kids a bath and get distracted by work. Any working parent can recognize that moment of stress and anxiety and being torn between work and family.
But apparently, Ben is not that torn. PEOPLE just ran a story about the Garner-Afflecks “traditional gender roles.” It’s a fascinating read, only for its perfectly executed message: Jen woman, Ben man.
It starts off with them at the BAFTAs, where there was some beaming and I love yous, and her “gently reminding him to take his jacket.” Not in a nagging, “you forgot your jacket AGAIN Ben” way. No, she did it gently, so gently, the way a wife is supposed to speak to her husband.
From there it mentions their adults-only trip to London and makes a point to say the 3 kids are with Garner’s sister. Subtext: of course not a nanny.
Then there’s a nod to Ben’s comeback, how grateful he is and how her career has taken a backseat. Jennifer Garner has had 3 kids in 7 years, maintained a steady career (she’s no Cate Blanchett, but kids or not she was never going to be) and has kept together a marriage that has seen some strife. I have no doubt Jen works HARD for her family and that Ben, now more than ever, appreciates her value.
She should get all the credit in the world for her role in her family, but to dub her “Best Supporting Spouse” just feels like a pat on the head…although maybe that’s all she wants, because when it comes to campaign strategy, she is not taking a backseat. She is working her ass to create the image of serene wife to devoted husband.
A family source went on to say:
“Have you ever seen Mad Men? That's how he approaches [marriage and kids] – providing for your family is your priority, and raising the kids day-to-day is the wife's priority."
So Ben is a “Mad Men” dad? I’m assuming this means it's a man who goes to work early, comes home to a scotch at the door, doesn't bathe them or feed them or ... do anything else with them besides occasionally look up from him paper. Oh, and cheats on his wife with his secretary? Not sure if that was the best analogy there, “family source”.
And they are movie stars so is “providing” even a worry? It’s not like every morning Ben picks up his steel lunch kit, kisses his honey goodbye and treks off to the coal mine. At the end of a long day, does Jen greet him at the door in an apron, ready with a steak and cold beer? (I don’t know, is that how traditional gender roles work?)
No matter the details, the message is clear: Ben is providing and Jen is nurturing. Nothing to be threatened by here – the Garner-Afflecks will never make you feel uncomfortable for loving them. They won’t paint their boy’s nails. The Affleck-Garners are safe and worthy of your admiration and any awards that might come their way.
Attached -- the happy Afflecks this week out for breakfast with daughter Seraphina.