This year, one celebrity couple dreamily captured the public’s imagination in a way that you might not have expected, given that we’re still living through a global pandemic. Yet nearly every time a photo of this pair is released, looking almost suspiciously stunning and in love, people of the Internet stop doom-scrolling so they can swoon.

Of course, we’re talking about Bennifer 2.0. But for some reason, Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly are trying to convince us that it’s them.

Bennifer, the delightful reunion of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez 17 years after they first dated, is an elegant and inspirational tale about rediscovering your possible soul mate in your 50s. Meanwhile, Megchine Gun (what, are we supposed to call them “Megan Kelly”?) is a cringeworthy spectacle whose most notable achievement may be providing our culture’s defining — and dumbest — quote of 2021.

Experts explain why the masses care about the personal lives of Hollywood elite. (Allie Caren/The Washington Post)

“I am weed.” This was apparently Kelly’s introductory line to Fox when they first met at a party in Los Angeles several years ago. “I just remember this tall, blond, ghostly creature and I looked up and I was like, ‘You smell like weed,’” Fox explained in last week’s British GQ cover story about the couple. “He looked down at me and he was like, ‘I am weed.’ Then, I swear to God, he disappeared like a ninja in a smoke bomb.”

The profile, which went viral as the quotes and photos were transformed into memes, was the next step in the remarkably choreographed media rollout of their relationship. You have to give them credit for their savviness — they know exactly how to keep the spotlight focused on them. Not because people are necessarily interested, but because it’s hard to look away from a glamorous black-and-white photo of a woman aiming a gun directly at her boyfriend’s crotch.

“I just started feeling bad for the media for the first time, and it’s because of how they’re peddling the Megan Fox-Machine Gun Kelly relationship,” comedian Chris Fleming said in a much-circulated video last week, echoing other observers who are baffled by the couple’s sudden ubiquity. “I could be completely off the pulse of the zeitgeist, but I very strongly think that not a single person in this nation is invested in this relationship. And the way the media is going about it, it feels very much like a dad trying to throw a birthday party for a kid who he’s not involved in the life of anymore, so he just completely botches the theme.”

But now that they have demanded we pay attention, allow us to look back at the five most cringe-y moments from the pair striving for the vibe of Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton wearing vials of each other’s blood, but is instead reminiscent of an angsty late-′90s middle school couple who leave AIM away messages directed at each other typed in gothic font.

1. The Billboard Music Awards tongue incident

News first broke about Fox, 35, and Kelly, 31, early last year, when they were photographed “hanging out” after filming the movie “Midnight in the Switchgrass” together. Fox’s ex-husband, “90210” actor Brian Austin Green, confirmed around the same time that he and Fox had been separated for months. Fox then starred as the dominating girlfriend in Kelly’s video for his song “Bloody Valentine,” waking up next to him in bed and immediately slapping pink tape over his mouth. That summer, they made their relationship status official by posting mirror selfies to Instagram in which they both used multiple knife emoji. (To be edgy.)

This was all fine and maybe even somewhat intriguing, given that the pairing of a Hollywood bombshell and an oddly handsome musician is a time-honored tradition; in this case, it’s an actress giving off Snow White-meets-Evil Queen energy and a singer with enough spiky hair and self-conscious smolder to be cast as the villain rock star in a Disney Channel movie. She’s also one who makes jokes about “daddy issues” on Instagram:

To their credit, they actually seemed into each other: Kelly talked about how Fox changed his life and helped him with his recovery from drug addiction, while Fox said on an astrology podcast that she and Kelly were “twin flames” and “two halves of the same soul.” This was also right in the middle of a Megan Fox renaissance, when audiences started realizing she was more than the “shallow” Queen Bee/popular girl roles in which she was continuously cast, and she spoke up about how being sexualized by Hollywood at a young age affected her career.

But something happened in spring 2021 — maybe it’s because we were a year into a pandemic, maybe because they felt as if people weren’t properly appreciating their raunchy weirdness, maybe their PR reps were just bored. At the Billboard Music Awards, Kelly dyed his tongue black and made sure everyone on the red carpet was extremely aware of this when they gave the cameras a lot of dead-eyed Blue Steel and licked each other’s tongues:

2. The VMAs incident/altercation

Stars have been nearly naked on the MTV Video Music Awards red carpet for as long as we can remember, and Fox decided to bring back this tradition in September. Fox credited Kelly for the look, telling “Entertainment Tonight”: “He was like, ‘You’re gonna be naked tonight.’ I was like, ‘Whatever you say, Daddy!’”

Okay! Even though they probably thought the dress would be the scene-stealer, the story line abruptly changed when Kelly got in a bizarre and unexplained altercation with mixed martial artist/UFC fighter Conor McGregor. They refused to talk about what happened, and Kelly literally pushed away Variety’s microphone when asked about it later.

3. Their shenanigans with Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker

The newly engaged Kourtney Kardashian and Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker have also taken public displays of affection to a new and unfortunate level this year. And now the foursome are all close pals, which they feel the need to make very public with photos like these, also from the VMAs. “New York, I need you to get extra loud for our future baby daddies,” Fox told the screaming audience when she and Kardashian introduced Kelly’s performance, with Barker accompanying him on drums.

4. Their quotes in the British GQ profile

We already told you about “I am weed,” and we are sorry if you had somehow missed that earlier and now know about it. Another gem from Kelly: “Even our first kiss, she wouldn’t kiss me. We just put our lips right in front of each other and breathed each other’s breath and then she just left.”

While these quotes have been meme-fied into oblivion, clearly Fox and Kelly were counting on exactly that. On the pop culture podcast “Who? Weekly,” co-hosts Bobby Finger and Lindsey Weber discussed the article and the “cringe” of it all. “As a couple, there’s a thirst there, there’s a palpable thirst there — there’s an almost desperation that is hard to miss and is a little uncomfortable and embarrassing. Because sometimes when you see them, you’re like, ‘These two want attention so badly,'” Finger said.

Weber said she reached out to her friend Molly Lambert, the writer of the GQ article, to ask what the deal was — and Lambert confirmed that Fox and Kelly are “super self-aware” and “they know what they’re doing.” Still, Weber said Lambert “found their romance to be authentic and very sweet.”

The co-hosts also speculated that Fox and Kelly seem to be embracing “rock star” antics because they’re fun, and one possible reason it’s getting so much attention is that America is obsessed with outrageous celebrity relationships involving grown-ups, particularly parents. (Fox has three children with Green; Kelly has a daughter from a previous relationship.) “We love second acts,” Finger said. “And we love adults who get to be sexy. I think that’s freeing and very aspirational to a lot of people.”

5. Their Instagram captions about the British GQ profile

While we can’t repeat what Kelly said in his graphic caption, we present Fox’s takeaway from the profile, which resembles a PG-13 Mad Lib.

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