A couple days ago I read about Ben Affleck not wanting to be Batman anymore and I couldn’t decide if it was sad or a good thing. He said something kind of spooky about it on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last week that he “couldn’t crack it” and was passing the role on to the next chump and that was that. He did three movies as Batman, all of them pretty silly and insignificant, and easily mockable. If you don’t nail Batman perfectly (or at least better than the last guy who played him) you’re gonna suffer for it, especially on Twitter, which is not a safe space for someone like Ben Affleck. After the 2018 he had this could be seen as yet another in a long list of failures for this poor son of a bitch, but this looks like growth to me. Humility even? But he’s still an actor and an alcoholic so maybe this is just another performance because that’s all he knows.
Considering where he was last summer, when he was getting hammered, both literally and figuratively, in the press and alcoholically, this interview is progress. It wasn’t just the drunken meltdowns, either: There was the divorce from Jennifer Garner. The memes. And then that startling back tattoo. Even The New Yorker declared something was amiss and piled-on declaring Affleck’s extravagant back-tat art was not only stupid, but that he was also suffering from a historically unique “Great Sadness” of Affleckian proportions. Then he showed up on Twitter (of all places) to defend himself and assured the venerable magazine that he was doing just fine.
He probably wasn’t. In August, overwhelmed by sadness, great or otherwise, Affleck went on a four-day bender that had a worried ex-wife and ex-girlfriend, plus the added sidecar of a 22-year-old Playboy-ish model he chose to unhinge with. High-bottom was achieved in the backseat of a car en route to rehab when Jennifer Garner (the ex-wife, also an actress) handed him a bag of fast food before his next 30-60-90 out in the sticks. Rubbernecking persisted.
What was the cause for that latest ordeal? HOW can a successful white man with money and fame and a back tattoo of a fucking phoenix be so prone to such middling screw-ups? Here’s a sampling of some of the headlines: “Inside Ben Affleck’s Demons” [People]; Matt Damon Says Friend Will ‘Beat His Demons’ [Hollywood Life]; Affleck’s Demons Resurfaced Before Rehab [Perez Hilton].
Demons overpowered Ben Affleck. Personal demons, which are the most serious kind of demons, ones which tend to cause people to reach for the illicit substances, or in Ben’s case, cardboard boxes full of cheap booze and a too-youngin’.
Of course he’s not the only one. There were so many demon attacks last year. Demi Lovato has “Faced her Demons” [The Guardian] and also “Opens Up About Her Demons” [Remix Magazine]. Mac Miller’s a man who “bared his demons to all.” Yet, he “succumbed” to them later. “Demons,” says his ex-girlfriend, Arianna Grande, he “did not deserve.” Arianna Grande’s next boyfriend, Pete Davidson, who at one time attempted to “conquer his demons” also had conjured them up again after she broke up with him. (My only conclusion to this bit of news is that Arianna Grande certainly has a type.) And then there’s big-headed actor Josh Brolin, whose summer of box office blockbusters was a complete result of the “demons he beat,” according to Esquire. Way to go, Josh! Anthony Bourdain’s tough-guy chef-ness wasn’t enough to prevent all the demons from taking him out, said many.
(That one’s tricky because I think we knew Bourdain wasn’t healthy. We liked Bourdain’s demons because that made his opinions about Vietnamese bone broths and punk rock more credible.)
The problem with this type of descriptor is this: it’s so lazy and hacky. And, most importantly, for our purposes–as drug and alcohol addicts, depressives and lunatics–demons don’t exist.
Here’s what does exist: Alcoholism. Drug addiction. Mental illness. Trauma. Depression.
The Recovery Community’s attempts to rid the world of dehumanizing words like “addict” and “junkie” due to the negative connotations are noble, but there hasn’t been much of a fuss about describing people with legit medical conditions as “battling personal demons” or, worse, “succumbing” to their demons. The dumb-dumb math here is that drugs and alcohol are ingested to quell the demons, but the demon wins once the person overdoses or commits suicide. Please be on the look out for these demons. Send me the articles about human struggles that are no longer human so we can keep a running tally of how stupid the press still is about this stuff.
I watched the full Jimmy Kimmel Live! interview today and looked for the signs of Ben Affleck’s demons. He pattered properly with Kimmel, nailed all the Boston sports jokes, all the macho self-deprecation, smoothly referencing his “ex-wife” in a way that assures those in the audience that he’s no longer the man from last summer, paunchy and sweaty-desperate to find a new escape route from his escape route. There were no demons. He was just a guy, healthy enough for a few minutes to promote his new Netflix movie, who will have to work just as hard as the rest of us to stay that way, yet there was no reference to this small victory at all.