What Ben Affleck's Card Counting Means for You, the Over-Attached Fan
As an entertainment writer and a lover of pop culture, I've often found myself feeling far more emotionally connected to a celebrity than I probably should. Take Brie Larson, for instance; after seeing last year's incredible Short Term 12, I began following the actress' career, rooting for her at award shows and cheering every time she got cast in a new role. Or Miles Teller, an actor whose recent rise has filled me with pride, because I've known for years (thanks, Rabbit Hole) that he deserves major fame. Of course, I'm completely aware that feeling proud of/happy for/connected to people I've never actually met is ridiculous, but that's what reading People since fifth grade will do to someone. You feel attached to certain celebrities, and never more so than when they screw up — like when Ben Affleck was caught counting cards last Tuesday, an event that totally, irrationally broke my heart.
You see, I feel personally responsible for Affleck, despite the fact that a) he's twice my age and b) I don't know him. He, along with his best friend, Matt Damon, and wife, Jennifer Garner, is the kind of celebrity who inspires commitment from fans that goes far beyond just buying tickets to his movies. Sure, other actors are just as charming, but there's something about Affleck that makes us care about him as if we knew him. Maybe it's the adorable, inspiring way he got famous, or maybe it's the fact that he's a dad; all I know is that when he succeeds, I'm filled with pride, and when he fails, all I feel is deep disappointment.
So on Saturday, when the news of Affleck's Las Vegas antics was released, I was crushed. How could Ben Affleck, my Ben Affleck, do something so dishonest? I wanted to believe that he didn't know what he was doing, or that the reports of him getting banned forever had been exaggerated, because the Affleck I knew would never do something so morally wrong. But then, on Monday, a quick check at his Twitter told me that the rumors were likely true. Instead of keeping quiet or issuing an apology, Affleck seemed, dare I say it, proud of his actions, re-tweeting a post by Howard Stern saying that the actor did "nothing wrong" and thanking a guy who called him "awesome" for counting cards.
Reading those tweets was very upsetting. I'm holding out hope that Affleck will soon return to being the faultless, saintly actor who I've happily put on a pedestal for so long, but I'm worried my image of him has been tainted for good. It's what happened when Michael B. Jordan, an actor I've loved ever since Friday Night Lights, made those anti-feminist comments, or when Reese Witherspoon, everyone's sweetheart, used the cringe-worthy "do you know my name?" as a way to (unsuccessfully) get out of an arrest for a DUI. Sure, Jordan might not be sexist, and Witherspoon might truly regret that night, but once those actors showed off their flaws, my pitch-perfect image of them shattered into pieces.
I know it's not fair, or even realistic. Affleck, Jordan, and Witherspoon have no obligation to be role models, and all people, no matter how charming and lovable their public personas may be, make mistakes. That doesn't mean it doesn't still crush us when those mistakes get made, though. When good celebrities do bad things, the disappointment is real.
It might take some time, but I can probably forgive Affleck for counting those cards. I'll re-watch Good Will Hunting a few times, Youtube that Oscar speech, stare at some adorable photos of him and his family looking wholesome and sweet. As for Jordan and Witherspoon, I'm still working on my image of them; sexism and drunk driving, at least in my book, are far worse crimes than being a bit too good at blackjack.
But even if I forgive those actors, too, other once-flawless stars are disappointing me left and right. Just the other month, for instance, Scarlett Johansson indicated that she sides with Woody Allen, and recently, Lupita Nyong'o was seen posing for a photo with Terry Richardson. Next thing you know, Emma Stone's going to reveal that she hates puppies and knocks over kids' ice cream cones. It's all getting to be too much; sooner or later, I'm going to have to accept the fact that putting celebrities on pedestals might not be the smartest idea, or at least try not to feel so personally victimized whenever an actor I've never met does something wrong.
It's going to be hard, though. I can deal with certain actors messing up, people like Jennifer Lawrence or George Clooney, celebrities whose wilder sides wouldn't exactly come as a shock. But Emma Watson? Hugh Jackman? Ellen DeGeneres? They better not do anything wrong, because I'm truly not sure if I can handle it. If they're going to cause trouble, the least they could do is give me a heads up — really, considering how invested I am in their lives, it's just the polite thing to do.