Sad Ben Affleck Is My Favorite Meme

A relatable (and exasperated) king.

Ben Affleck and Jlo at the 2023 Grammys

Getty Images

For those of us with clinical, seasonal, or even mild depression, Ben Affleck is a bit of a pop culture icon. You see, unlike other celebs, Affleck is raw, unmanicured, and frequently visibly distressed while out in public. His paparazzi shots are a refreshing departure from the highly orchestrated street-style shots of the Kardashian clan and the calculated “opening up” of many a celebrity profile. There’s an honesty, an unhinged and unwound humanity, to Affleck that’s relatable on many levels. 

Take, for example, his precarious Dunkin’ Donuts orders. The actor’s been photographed juggling iced coffees and donuts with a dead look on his face on more than one occasion — a perfect visual metaphor for just barely holding it all together. There’s also his mysterious phoenix tattoo, which was likely inspired by Affleck’s divorce from Jennifer Garner and stint in rehab. The actor denied the tattoo’s existence after rumors of it started circulating a few years ago, creating a memorable media frenzy, the culmination of which included a series of photos where Affleck contemplates life on the beach. With a towel wrapped around his waist and the mythical rising-from-the-ashes ink on full display, the shots of Ben became an icon of ennui, a symbol of collective struggle (and, perhaps, the universal experience of getting a regrettable tattoo).

Of course, the most viral Affleck moments are his despondent smoke breaks. The photos, which understandably blew up right around peak quarantine, when things felt especially dark and claustrophobic, have since stood the test of time as Twitter fodder for any moment that evokes despair. Here’s Ben, in the midst of a deep, primordial sigh carrying a lit cigarette in his hand — unshaven in a rumpled sweater — to show how you’re feeling over it today. Here’s another Ben, smoking through his mask, unbothered and unamused. Here’s yet another sad Ben, feeling the existential pain of being alive as he grips his iced coffee and morning newspaper like a talisman that might save him. There’s a Ben for every mood, every graduation of sadness.

This Sunday, the actor delivered another great to the pantheon of Affleck memes while accompanying his lovely and talented wife, Jennifer Lopez, to the 2023 Grammys. To put it mildly, Ben did not look like he was having fun in photos from the event. Sitting at J.Lo’s Grammys table, his expression wasn’t petulant or annoyed, per se, just a little sad to be out of the house, masking it as best he could.

It's a face that says, "I'm here for her, but I don't want to be here for her." It’s a relatable look for any introvert whose extroverted partner has dragged them out to a party on a Saturday night. It’s an emblem for anyone who’s ever had to sit through a long work dinner when they just want to be alone. Once again, Ben Affleck has unintentionally captured the mood of the moment as we all struggle to return to socializing and office life after a few years of relative solitude.

It’s hard to pinpoint why exactly we love to empathize with this ostensibly unrelatable movie star. I mean, he’s played Batman. He’s married to a beloved triple threat and one of the most beautiful women in the world. He’s a successful, Oscar-winning director. Life is great — at least, it should be. Maybe it’s his doomed quality, the relatability of having things go your way and still not being happy about it, that makes photos of Ben Affleck a perfect meme. After all, it’s this expressiveness and pathos that make him a good actor. One thing is for sure, though, Ben Affleck is more than a man. He is a feeling, a vibe for anyone anywhere who’s just not feeling it today. 

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