Nostalgia is a trap of the mind; it’s easy to believe that things were better than they are in the present or than they ever have been or ever will be. But sometimes, the past really was better and a return is only an upgrade. This idea is the basis for most time travel movies and it is also behind Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck’s re-coupling.
According to E!, Bennifer was spotted in Montana on a “weeklong couple’s vacation,” only a month after Lopez’s split for Alex Rodriguez. Hard to tell just yet if this old candle has any wick left on it, but as a close follower of JLo’s love life and career—a person who has endured the relentless media cycle of all her relationships—this is great news.
Whenever JLo gets a new man, she enters into a new interpretation of herself. At the start of her career, her coupling Puffy marked the “I can say the n-word because I’m from the Bronx” part of her persona. Thankfully, this didn’t last long. Then there were her two “I’m just a regular girl looking for love” relationships with Chris Judd and Casper Smart, both professional dancers who featured in some of her performances. Those relationships were particularly difficult for her because she was scorned by regular non-celebrity men; according to one of her loose-lipped assistants I used to work with, the split from Smart was particularly detrimental to her confidence, evidently so based on her rebound boyfriend, Drake.
JLo’s marriage to Marc Anthony was a great era for me, personally, because it was her “I’m Puerto Rican AF” phase, which resulted in some great duets and a movie about Hector Lavoe which was moderately well acted by Lopez. That marriage also gave us JLo the Mother, a more private persona, but still visible when necessary.
But, arguably, JLo’s best era was the Bennifer Era, which all millennials were able to enjoy between the years of 2002 and 2004. The Bennifer era was so exceptional in the timeline of JLo’s boyfriends because it was the oddest pairing that seemed to just work. From the outside, the two of them had nothing in common and yet they looked good together in photos and seemed for a time to be very much in love. The sole dark spot of this era, one which I choose to pretend doesn’t exist for my own mental well-being, is the film Gigli which starred Bennifer and was hailed as the worst film of the “admittedly young century.” Then again, it’s hard to do something better than Maid in Manhattan.
Bad movies aside, during her relationship with Affleck, who has only grown hotter in the decade-plus since they’ve been apart, JLo had some of her best red carpet fits, looked adorable while pretending to like the Boston Red Sox, and most importantly released This Is Me...Then which contains the iconic song, “Jenny from the Block.”
Could any of this have happened without her relationship with Ben Affleck? Probably not. We can argue that Bennifer was the birth of the now well-known level-up relationship, where each partner adds to the success of the other while simultaneously creating a joint empire. Beyonce and Jay Z are the best example of this and could have been the pioneers of this movement had they not chosen a more private life as a couple (good for them).
Affleck was an Oscar winner and minted household name at this point in his career and Lopez was not going to be outdone or outshone by her partner. Lopez is above all things, a chameleon which is why her fame has lasted this long despite her challenges as a singer and thespian. She can easily align with whatever is hot at the moment and can elevate that thing or person with her presence, see Shakira and Bad Bunny at the Super Bowl.
Between 2002-2004 Affleck was working like the rent was due and he spent it all at the club the night before. He starred in eight films (not all of them good but the checks still cleared) and produced a handful of other projects and who do we have to thank for this? Jennifer I’d Rather Work Than Sleep Lopez. Unlike some other pairings both have been in, this relationship was mutually beneficial. They brightened each other’s stars and now they’re both established, richer than some small countries, and wiser. No longer chasing fame but instead enjoying all the hard work and long nights that kept them apart when they were younger and had something to prove.
So it is up to us, the general population, to embrace this relic from the past and invite Bennifer back into our lives with the hopes that it will usher in a new, happier time where you went to theaters to see bad movies and music videos actually had stories as opposed to being abstract art. But moreover, if they settle down we no longer have to think about JLo’s relationships and which version of herself she’ll be cosplaying next.