Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were one of the big gossip moments from the Grammys because of an awkward moment and what my friend Melissa Grelo calls his Resting Ben Face. I thought about this today when I read Ashton Kutcher’s comments about why he and Reese Witherspoon look so detached on the red carpet while promoting their movie Your Place or Mine, which is a rom-com. People online, including his own wife Mila Kunis, started commenting that it seemed like they could barely stand each other.
When asked about it Ashton said on the Chick in the Office podcast that (source E!):
"Here's the thing, okay. If I put my arm around her, and was like all friendly with her, I'd be having an affair with her, like that would be the rumor...If I stand next to her and put my hands in my pockets, so there's no chance that could be the rumor—the rumor is that we don't like each other. Reese and I are really good friends, we're really close. I don't have to defend that."
In general, he’s not wrong about people online looking at red carpet interactions and speculating about romantic connection. I’m not sure people online would be speculating about him and Reese specifically (I personally don’t think so) but overall, he’s right – it happens, we do this all the time. And if you’re in their position, I get that it might make them self-conscious, especially if it truly isn’t part of the sales strategy of the project. Because we all know, sometimes they do encourage it to promote the series or the movie.
In this case, clearly, it’s not part of the marketing here for anyone to believe that Ashton and Reese could be a thing. So their reticence to encourage anything is understandable. And insightful. Because it gives us an idea about what celebrities are thinking when they’re out there in front of a great wall of photographers taking pictures that will be seen by potentially millions of people.
To go back to Bennifer then, that awareness must be to the extreme, particularly when you consider their history. When they were together the first time around, before Instagram and Twitter and TikTok, theirs was one of the most aggressively scrutinised relationships in Hollywood history. And it resulted in their breakup.
Now that they’re back together, and when they’re on display, it has to be a factor. All that scar tissue from before, knowing that they used to be the butt of the joke 20 years ago, knowing that there are so many people betting on how long they’ll last this time…
And then at the Grammys, we’re all zooming in on every pixel of her face as she’s talking to him, every pixel of his face as he’s engaging with her, and some are concluding that he’s bored, that he doesn’t want to be there, that they were fighting, that she was mad at him, that the clock is running out on Bennifer 2.0.
But then again, per Ashton’s comments, if they were all up in each other’s face, and looking happy and smiling all the time, would we be saying that they were trying too hard to convince people otherwise? That’s what they’re saying about JLo’s post on Instagram:
Doth thou protest too much?
JLo’s been in the game a long time. She knows how people were reacting to the Bennifer Grammys energy. So is she overcorrecting here? Does she need to overcorrect? Shouldn’t they, at this point, after what they’ve been through, be able to ignore the noise?
Well, if regular people are sensitive to the sh-t that happens online in their own mentions, I don’t know that celebrities are going to be any less sensitive to it. And like I said above, with the PTSD they have from the first time they fell in love, could be a trigger for her.
But you know what’s ironic? The “Jenny From The Block” video – one of the themes of that video is how the paps were taking pictures of them without context and making conclusions that were way off-base. The thesis seemed to be that they could never be truly understood by just what you see on the outside and that they were laughing off the manufactured drama. In 2003 they were unable to laugh it off. Are they better at it in 2023?