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Enjoying the Rapture

We are living in happy end times--the union of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez has been averted; the pox that was Bennifer is over.

2:45 PM, Sep 19, 2003 • By MATT LABASH
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MILLIONS OF AMERICANS along the eastern seaboard are hunkered down in fear, weathering the effects and aftermath of Hurricane Isabel. Millions more are rending their garments, collapsing in sustained crying jags, and cursing their Maker over the untimely demises of John Ritter, Johnny Cash, and the Women's United Soccer Association. Still, amidst so much devastation, the fates have kindly given us a ray of hope, a candle in the darkness, a chocolate on our pillow. They have brought an end to the world's single most annoying couple: Jen and Ben. It seems like more than a fair trade.

For the last year, even casual television-watchers and newspaper-readers have been afflicted by Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, the PDA-committing beast with two backs and one very prodigious behind, that gossip wags simply shorthand as "Bennifer." Apart, they were merely two over-hyped and overexposed mediocrities. Together, they resembled a blight, or even an unnatural disaster, two insatiable termites eating their way through the cultural rot of front-porch America.

Among other crimes against humanity, Bennifer has, in the parlance of Page Six, committed oodles of canoodles, and subjected us to constant public declarations of eternal devotion. In 2002, while J. Lo was still saddled with her back-up dancer/second husband Chris Judd, Affleck, seemed almost feverish to get in her knickers, taking out a full-page ad in The Hollywood Reporter. Contrary to the conventional wisdom on Lopez, he extolled her "graciousness of spirit, beauty in courage, great empathy, astonishing talent, real poise and true grace." By this point, Affleck, a self-admitted alcoholic, was supposed to have won his battle with the booze. He'd obviously suffered a relapse.

Shortly thereafter, J. Ho ditched Judd after less than a year of marriage. Bennifer made their couplehood official, then got down to the serious business of compounding their annoyingness. First, there was their bad music: Jen's Ben-influenced "This is Me, Then" album. Since Jen was still in her she-thug phase, having recently emerged from a relationship with former Svengali P. Diddy, her first video was "Jenny from the Block." The song was an amorality tale and declaration of principles in which Lopez seemed to be insisting, "Just because I'm a climber, a spoiled brat, and a materialistic bitch doesn't mean that I'm not originally from the Bronx."

Most of us, it was alleged, had been "fooled by the rocks that [she] got." But Ben seemed to realize that she was "still Jenny, still Jenny from the block"--a simple gal with a simple heart, albeit, one with a very complex contract rider. It mandated that concert promoters provide her with everything from a "white room / white flowers / white tables / white drapes / white candles / white couches" to "room temperature Evian Water" to "Pear Guava" beverages to "apple pie a la mode." But Ben and Jen aren't ironists, they're entertainers. So Ben appeared in her video as the Toolish Boyfriend, a believable performance in a career that hasn't seen many.

The bad video, of course, was just an advertisement for the bad J. Lo CD that spawned it. Many of the Ben-inspired lyrics make for pretty affecting poetry--if you're a second-grade girl. For instance, there's this, from "I'm Glad": I dig the way that you get down / And you still know how to hold me / Perfect blend, masculine / I think I'm in love, damn, finally. My personal favorite, however, is the imaginatively titled "Dear Ben": I love you / You're perfect / A manifestation of my dreams / You made my body feel / About a million different things. In a Diane Sawyer interview, Jen, after describing Ben as "brilliantly smart, loving, charming, and affectionate," also said "I feel like he teaches me things." One of the things he probably taught her was the word "manifestation."

WHEN BENNIFER MET on common ground, in feature films, the results haven't been much better. It's not encouraging that their forthcoming "Jersey Girl" was directed by Ben's frequent collaborator, Kevin Smith, who in interviews, sounds as smitten with Ben as Jen did: "The word on the street is that he's the ideal man, chatty, gorgeous, generous, and intelligent," Smith salivated to People. Then of course, there's "Gigli," the "Heaven's Gate"-meets-"Ishtar" disaster film that the Los Angeles Times said was "nearly as unwatchable as it is unpronounceable." The Rotten Tomatoes website went even further, deeming it the worst-reviewed movie of 2003. Critics lined up around the block to scoff at "Gigli," responsible for the most laughable line since Patrick Swayze declared "Nobody puts Baby in a corner," in "Dirty Dancing."