Ben Affleck knows you’ve been mocking his giant back tattoo.
The A-lister does not seem to like talking about personal topics, unless he’s being forced to while doing promotion for a movie. See: his awkward interview with Stephen Colbert in November during his “Justice League” press tour, where he uncomfortably discussed his former working relationship with Harvey Weinstein, and also apologized for groping actress Hilarie Burton on TRL in the early 2000s.
So it was surprising on Thursday when Affleck not only responded to the Internet mockery of his tattoo but even made a joke about it.
It all started in December 2015, when he was photographed on the set of his movie “Live By Night” with shockingly elaborate ink, including a huge, colorful phoenix rising on his back.
Naturally, the mockery was merciless. Even his ex-wife, Jennifer Garner, a noted Nice Celebrity, made fun of it during an interview with Vanity Fair. (“You know what we would say in my home town about that? ‘Bless his heart.’ “) Finally, Affleck sat down with “Extra” host Mario Lopez, where everyone goes to set the record straight.
“[It’s] fake for a movie,” Affleck said.
Okay, fine, case closed. Fun while it lasted. That is … until this month, when Affleck was spotted on the beach in Hawaii filming his new movie, “Triple Frontier.” Photographers captured him, shirtless, with the same gigantic tattoo that he initially said was fake.
Setting aside the fact that someone had the gall to lie to Mario Lopez, this caused another round of Internet frenzy.
“The Story of Ben Affleck’s Crazy Back Tattoo Just Got Crazier,” GQ explained.
“Ben Affleck Steps Out With Lindsay Shookus Amid Back Tattoo Drama,” OK magazine chimed in.
“Ben Affleck’s massive back tattoo mocked,” CNN wrote, succinctly summing things up.
Even Matt Damon was forced to respond, when “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah asked him about his best friend’s interesting artwork. “It’s not one man’s job to tell another man what he can do to his back. You know, I support him in all of his artistic expression,” Damon said, raising the question of whether a true friend would let someone get that tattoo on his back.
But the New Yorker was the harshest of all, with the headline “The Great Sadness of Ben Affleck.” Naomi Fry wrote about the “sad Ben Affleck” meme from a couple years ago when his turn as Batman got harsh reviews, and pondered why the idea of Affleck being depressed resonates so much in our culture.
“Affleck’s was the kind of middle-aged-white-male sadness that the Internet loves to mock — a mocking that depends, simultaneously, on a complete rejection of this sadness, as well as a hedging identification with it,” Fry wrote. “These depressed-Affleck images can arouse both amusement and a sense of poignancy, a touch of Schadenfreude as well as something like sympathy.”
Fry also pondered the imagery of Affleck’s tattoo. In the new set of photos, one showed him gazing pensively into the ocean with a towel around him, while his younger co-stars frolicked in the sand.
“The image suggests not just the fall of Affleck but the coming fall of man. There is something about this exhausted father that reflexively induces panic,” Fry concluded.
Then on Thursday, Affleck sent his first tweet since December. Apparently the New Yorker column, published last Saturday, sent him over the edge, as he directed his tweet at the magazine.
Hear that, everyone? Ben Affleck is not sad. He’s fine. And now, because he responded, it’s fair game for the media to ask him about this in every interview for the rest of his life — and you can be sure they will.