More so than usual, I am down on men. What good have they provided us lately? I have to learn how to spell Geoff, and, meanwhile, they’re in my DMs calling me “Scarchi.” I cannot, for the life of me, find a way to be interested in any of them. These days, every man I look at fills me with violent grief and/or a wave of propulsive nausea. There are plenty of reasons for this, which countless medical professionals tell me lead back to unresolved issues with my father and older brother. But I say the same thing to you as I do to the doctors: I’m uninterested in learning more about myself at this time. The point is that every man makes me sick, and none more so than Ben Affleck.
Or at least that used to be the case. For years, I had been an on-the-record Ben Affleck hater. I just didn’t get it. What good was he? As far as I could see, he was a 6-foot-something Boston burnout who once tricked me into watching The Way Back, a high school sports drama that is the movie equivalent of taking an Ambien and listening to Kyrie Irving explain why he doesn’t want to get the fucking vaccine. That, combined with what we all know he did to Jennifer Garner and the back tattoo that looks like a Lite Brite, means he is my nemesis. Imagine being proud of the fact that you’re from Massachusetts, as if it’s a personality on its own? I have long thought that everyone horny for Ben Affleck is a goddamn nerd. Of all the pitiful white men you could whip yourself up over, you’ve all picked this one? Chris Pine is RIGHT THERE.
Then, earlier this month, Deep Water started streaming on Hulu, starring Affleck and his ex-girlfriend Ana de Armas. I settled into my couch ready to be disgusted by him yet again, but a strange thing happened. I felt…something. How do you put it? Hatred, except…the opposite? What is the word for when you do not find someone repulsive but instead want to pinch their butt so hard it falls off into your hand? Was I…horny for Ben Affleck?
Admittedly, I have almost no grasp on what happens in Deep Water. It was adapted from the 1957 Patricia Highsmith novel, and the reviews are sufficiently lukewarm. It was directed by Adrian Lyne, whose last movie was the 2002 erotic thriller Unfaithful, which I watched when I was 11 and it pushed me so forcefully into puberty that I immediately grew two sizable, undeniable breasts. They just popped clean out, like one of those bubble fidget toys. I should’ve known better than to watch another one of his movies.
The plot of Deep Water is, at best, completely irrelevant. Affleck and de Armas play Vic and Melinda, a couple who hate each other and should just get a divorce. Instead, Melinda cuckolds Vic over and over again until he is driven to — spoiler, in case you have never seen a movie before — murder.
I don’t know if Deep Water is any good. I don’t really care. What I do care about is the renewed pants-feelings I had for Ben Affleck playing a pathetic little man whose wife is incessantly cheating on him while he watches. That’s his entire role. It’s the whole movie. (Right now, if you look up “cuckold” in Merriam-Webster, the first example of how to use it is about this character, which sounds like a lie but somehow is not.) While de Armas swans around their enormous house, which is just close enough to a heavily wooded river where, say, a body could be submerged, Affleck gazes at her, wan and devastated while she tries to tongue the eustachian tube of whatever guy comes to one of their balls-out parties. Vic’s friends repeatedly ask why he lets his wife walk all over him, even applauding him for dancing with another woman (as if cheating back would be the best move here), but he doesn’t really explain it. (Also, for some reason that is never explained or narratively exploited, Vic has a huge shed full of snails that, he is at pains to say, cannot be eaten. This is a metaphor, I guess, but not a very good one.) Honestly, reflecting on this movie for more than five minutes will make the whole thing melt in your hands, so it’s best not to consider it for too long.
The only thing that Deep Water does effectively is make Affleck pitiful enough to be sexy, to me, at least. It turns out what I needed to find him attractive wasn’t a sense of confidence, or a clean shave, or a nice suit; what I needed was to see him sterilized, powerless, and utterly useless at managing conflict with his conflict-ridden wife. Look, I still think Jennifer Lopez could do better. But boy do I now want to cuckold this farthead version of him the way he deserves: quietly, slowly, over a long period of time, in a way that breaks his spirit.
There are only two sex scenes, but neither of them really count because they’re so very brief. But the first one has stuck with me, like a tick buried in my pubic hair and slowly giving me Lyme disease. After Melinda and Vic drive home from a party together (she bites his penis twice in the car), they writhe around kind of predictably on the bed. That is, until Melinda asks Vic, “Would you kiss my ass?” Affleck then turns her around and desperately kisses her butt for a few fateful seconds, a scene that would have benefited from being 20, maybe 50, minutes longer.
I will never be able to appropriately explain how much and how often these words have rattled around in my brain since I heard them. Yes, there’s the odd phrasing and the sentence structure — Would you kiss my ass? as opposed to Kiss my ass, a polite ask as opposed to an immediate demand. But it’s really the utter despair with which he says “Yes.” That got me. It’s almost like he needs it to SURVIVE.
I do not want to talk about how many times I watched this scene. Any further questions you have can be directed to my lawyer, who does not exist.
There are a million ways that Deep Water could have introduced a rimjob, but this is nothing short of art. It doesn’t actually look that fun. Vic seems to miss Melinda’s anus entirely, mashing his head against the fleshiest part of her butt. (It is a nice butt, for whatever that may be worth.) Maybe this is just to preserve the movie’s sense of propriety (if there is any), but even him aiming wrong delighted me. He can’t do anything right!
Sad little cuckold Ben. Here, he is not an A-lister, smiling at his A-list girlfriend on the red carpet. He is not a fledgling star, enjoying his first Academy Award. He is boring and not good at sex. I’m not interested in an Affleck who’s wholesome, powerful, brawny, interesting; give me this mewling little baby any time. He’s someone I can laugh at, finally. What else is there to look for in a man other than his evident self-subjugation? I had hated him for so long, and finally he made it fun for me.
Maybe the pleasure is in enjoying his defeat; I don’t need Affleck (or any of his characters) to convince me he is good, or that he is noble, or that he is worthy. In Batman v Superman, he was too capable and aggressive, The Town relied on his chin dimple far too much, and The Last Duel made him look like he belongs in the Hype House. Some actors don’t need to fight their true selves onscreen. Just be the little boob that you are, Ben. Use your blank, white face and your monotone, emotionless delivery for good. Turns out, I like it! ●