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Ben and Jen: Their so-called private lives

The relationship is over, their careers will soon follow.  By Michael Ventre
/ Source: contributor

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are no more, and the harsh spotlight on them fades. Now Ben can relax and pursue a more sedate coupling with Paris Hilton, while Jen is free to become the next Mrs. Michael Jackson.

Although they are seemingly through with each other, Ben and Jen surely are not finished with celebrity romance. It’s in their DNA, like poor career choices and outlandish shopping sprees. Yet civilized society is in a much better place today, because Bennifer is officially Splitsville, and citizens can now line up at the supermarket checkout stand without getting nauseous from their grinning mugs.

I doubt that either is a malicious type, bent on torturing the populace. But that’s what they were doing. For the past year and a half, they performed a tactless tango before a captive audience, and although they were roundly booed, they couldn’t take a hint and get off the stage. Until now.

Alone at last? Reportedly, it was Jen who ended the engagement. A statement from her publicist added: “At this difficult time, we ask that you respect her privacy.” What the statement fails to mention is, if the public respected her privacy,  she wouldn’t have a career.

That is what was so annoying about their union in the first place. Ben Affleck has talent. Jennifer Lopez has talent. But their greatest gifts came in self-promotion. They became famous far beyond their accomplishments, and especially as lovebirds. True, Affleck did share a Best Original Screenplay Oscar along with pal Matt Damon, but the rest of his resume’ is spotty at best. As for Jen, aside from a sparkling turn as a law enforcement agent in “Out of Sight,” which was far more the result of director Steven Soderbergh’s expertise than hers, she has been notable largely for cartoonish displays of diva-like arrogance.

So together, they represented the most repellant aspects of show business. Their on-again, off-again shifts in status had magazines like People and Us shuttling staff around the country like military deployments. They did so many television interviews and talked about their romance so freely, it was as if their relationship was a spinoff of “Project Greenlight.” I can only hope there isn’t a bad movie on the way.

Oh, I forgot. We already have been subjected to the bad movie. “Gigli” was a romantic comedy that was not romantic, comedic or profitable. That was released in August. It bombed both critically and commercially. It also represented the apex of the Ben-Jen phenomenon. Before it, there might have been pockets of resistance in certain parts of the U.S., trusting, cockeyed optimists who still wanted to invest in Ben-Jen’s future together. But when “Gigli” came out, even those holdouts turned, reacting like Enron stockholders who were left with nothing but empty promises.

This breakup puts to rest any talk of weddings. It seemed that whenever there was a ominous development in their situation, a rumor would quickly surface in rebuttal, claiming that a secret wedding was scheduled in some posh locale. These reports could have been planted by their flaks to feed the monstrous blob of publicity they created and allow it to devour everything in its path. Or they could have originated from others who could benefit, like tabloid journalists, paparazzi and resort owners. Regardless, it was yet another reason to reach for the clicker to switch channels, and for the Pepto-Bismol.

A moment of silence for the death of their careersBen and Jen probably got into this to have a little fun together, but primarily to keep their careers in high gear. Instead, it has turned each into a melancholy joke, and it will take some doing to reverse the damage.

Ben’s last movie, John Woo’s “Paycheck,” did not do well, and because of his status as Jen’s elbow ornament for the last 18 months, he is now looked upon as a marginal thespian more desirous of fame and money than respect. He is 31 years old, which means he should have known better than to declare — even as recently as a week ago — that their love for each other was strong and that they would eventually tie the knot. Maybe it comes from being a Boston Red Sox fan all his life, but sometimes you just have to face reality and accept the fact that it isn’t going to happen.

Jen has even less of a career ahead of her. True, there are still teenyboppers out there who are seduced by her meager attempts at pop music and will mindlessly shell out bucks for her next CD, but let’s be frank. This woman is an “American Idol” judge in training. Her acting career is kaput, despite her appearance in Kevin Smith’s upcoming “Jersey Girl” — opposite Ben again, albeit this time in a mercifully brief role. Her only real hope is to latch onto another superfamous boyfriend. From what I hear, P. Diddy is still single, and I don’t think Jen will need a handful of staff meetings with her people to connect the dots on that one.

What both should do is find seclusion for a while before taking on the next phases of their respective  lives. They need to isolate themselves from their adoring public and put the painful memories of their shattered bond behind them. As they both can probably attest, however,  such privacy is enormously difficult to achieve, especially when you have so many publicists on the payroll.