Jennifer Lopez & Ben Affleck during Daredevil Premiere – Black and White Photography by Chris Weeks at Mann Village Theatre in Westwood, California, United States. (Photo by Chris Weeks/WireImage)

It’s 2002.
You’re thumbing round the scroll wheel of your new iPod, checking out your stash of loaded tunes.
FRIENDS is on and Rachel is telling everyone she’s pregnant. You don’t know who the father is. This is not a re-run.
Today you spent $190 on a pair of Sass & Bide satin cargo pants to wear with your white heels and drapey cami on Saturday night.
You’re eating a cupcake homaged to Magnolia Bakery as Jenny from the Block starts to beat through your earphones. 
Life is good.

So the world is a-fluster with the fairly well-established rumour that Jennifer Lopez has rekindled her romance with former fiancé Ben Affleck. They’ve been spotted on a mini break in Montana. There are some grainy paparazzi shots floating around. As Matt Damon said on US television this morning (live from a pub in Byron Bay) “I hope it’s true, that would be awesome.”

Yes, it would be, Matt.

 

It’s been nearly 20 years (500 in celebrity years) since Bennifer first became the celebrity portmanteau we never knew we needed. Now, two decades, two marriages to other people, one engagement to another, five kids to a couple of the same people and one Sad Ben Affleck meme later, we’re apparently in for the sequel.

Perhaps it’s because our 2021 selves are so intoxicated by even the smallest whiff of nostalgia that we’ve invested in the idea quicker that we did when Jen (Aniston) and Brad briefly touched at the Golden Globes in 2020. We’re conjuring anything pre-COVID, pre-the social media dissipation of our brains and pre-the doom-scrolling of Netflix every single night.

It’s true we’re here for a redux (celebrity personal lives notwithstanding) but delving into the archives of 2002 glossy magazines covers is like a pre-MeToo reckoning. There’s all the Britney-blaming and the graphically suggestive men’s shoots and even one that dared to run a little unknown face with the headline “Who Is Kim Kardashian”.

Though it was a simpler and (mostly) Kardashian-free time, circa-2002 is not an island of perfection. So, perhaps we’re just manifesting the best bits, beckoning them forth to live again, if only for a moment. Fashion, in particular. The reemergence of Bennifer cements the probability of the return of the 2mm-fly trouser, of the slim-cut casual suit pant, of the A-symmetrical halter top and of the extremely superfluous dance floor Fedora.

Perhaps Britney will burst from captivity to release a Crossroads sequel – you know, the movie she made about a girl who has a great voice but an overbearing father. Maybe Christina Aguilera will dig out her black hair extensions, the micro denim skirt and that scarf top thing and do a 20th anniversary Stripped album. Will Avril Lavigne and her Nickelback ex-husband reunite to record a mash-up duet of Complicated and This Is How You Remind Me? Maybe Kate Bosworth will wax up the short board and give Pipe another crack in Blue Crush(ed), notching up armchair travel as the new most successful genre of film.

We already know that FRIENDS, Sex and the City and Paris Hilton are planning current day reboots, dusting off their flawless formulae and once again panning for ratings gold.

The question is, can popular culture of a bygone zeitgeist work in the future? Will Bennifer make it through Montana and all the way to Oprah’s couch where they’ll be forced to revisit that Jenny From The Block video clip where he sits in the car and that Gigli movie – the 6th most Razzie-d film ever or as Wikipedia describes it “one of the worst films of all time”. It’s uncertain.

All we know is that velour tracksuits die hard and cargo pants with heels is a conservative next step possibility for our season of couch couture. Millennials are already handing over hard earned influencer dollars to snap up handkerchief tops and low slung belts while It-girls like Bella Hadid and Hailey Baldwin are fuelling the fire with endless 2002 incarnations – stacked corduroy! bootleg jeans! Low low, side-zip pants! Skinny scarves!

J.Lo herself paid homage to early millennia when she wore a version of her famous Versace deep plunge gown on the runway with Donatella in 2019. As for Ben, in 2002 he seemed very partial to a shin-length overcoat and ties in accountant shades of burgundy and baby blue. These days his pap-moments consist of standing on street corners smoking and definitely not throwing out giant cardboard cut outs of former lovers.

Their love story was gratuitously public and little wonder unable to sustain its own narrative. If the next chapter really is being written now, however, it seems like many are lining up to read it. Perhaps fans can show solidarity by way of a short sleeve t-shirt worn over a long sleeve t-shirt, or a pair of super huge hoop earrings or a Von Dutch cap.

Meanwhile, I remain fully committed to Ben Affleck’s ex-wife’s Instagram account. Watching Jennifer Garner cook fried chicken while on Zoom with Ina Garten while also swearing and panicking is all the 2021 magical realism I need. If Ben’s hot-footing back to 2002, I sincerely hope Jen G. stays in the here and now.

thoughts?