Ben Affleck, Ana de Armas, and Their Dogs Are the Real Winners of 2020
Decades from now, there will be no shortage of things to remember about 2020. Let’s just make sure we don’t forget the rise of our most fascinating celebrity couple in ages.
Decades from now, if someone asks me about 2020, I am convinced that one image will flash through my head. On and off like a strobe light, I will see a bearded man sporting a gray blazer, arm-in-arm with a luminous young woman swathed in a pristine white jumpsuit. They’re posed with their dogs and smiling graciously, although her eyes seem to betray a hint of irony. They’re standing in front of a dumpster, and their names are Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas, and the photo is from Easter Sunday, a detail as superfluous as it is somehow amusing.
Given the year we’ve had, the rise of a new Hollywood couple doesn’t exactly rank as a historical event. But de Armas and Affleck’s public romance has nonetheless unfolded in transfixing fashion—drumming out the usual rhythm of a celebrity relationship/possible PR hookup even as the world around them has descended into increasingly horrifying chaos. They’ve been a source of escapist joy (awkward poses! tangled leashes during their many dog walks! cardboard cutouts on the lawn!), as well as mild frustration. (Read: It took them way too long to start wearing masks during their many public walks with pooches Elvis and Hutch.)
But let’s focus on what’s really important: De Armas and Affleck have, at the very least, been getting their steps in—and providing all of us with some good old-fashioned gossip at a time when we most sorely need it.
De Armas and Affleck first met last year as they worked on the psychological thriller film Deep Water—now scheduled to debut in August 2021 after the novel coronavirus pandemic delayed its originally scheduled November release. Early this year, as Affleck began promoting his sobriety comeback film The Way Back, he gave interviews about his own journey toward sober living; on Good Morning America in February, he said he hoped to one day, among other things, be in “a healthy, stable, loving, committed relationship.” By March “sources” had begun to confirm that he and de Armas were dating, as photos of the two traveling through Cuba and Costa Rica together spilled onto social media.
In April, as de Armas celebrated her 32nd birthday, the two became Instagram-official, thanks to a series of photos and videos de Armas posted to her grid in which Affleck can be seen and heard celebrating alongside her. In June, after the two were spotted attending a Black Lives Matter protest together, de Armas reportedly met Affleck’s mother, and the next month they were reportedly house-hunting together. After a few months of relative tabloid silence, the couple made headlines once more in the fall with stories about de Armas’ support for the actor’s sobriety and the possibility of their moving in together. And this month, the couple tied their story up with a beautiful, fluffy bow: People reports that de Armas and Affleck have officially merged homes.
As New York magazine writer Nate Jones noted in a fascinating examination of de Armas’ career last month, her relationship with Affleck has drawn some scrutiny given how much it helps each person’s image achieve certain ends. Since movie releases have slowed to almost a halt during the pandemic, celebrities must use their more quotidian public performances to shape how people perceive them, Jones notes. For Affleck, a cynical person could suggest, a steady relationship with a fresh, promising talent in Hollywood could do wonders in healing a historically tumultuous public image—while for de Armas, the relationship could help bolster an already growing public profile. That obvious convenience, mixed with the growing influence of gossip blogs like Instagram’s Deuxmoi and fan channels like @ArmasUpdates in shaping celebrities’ public image amid quarantine, has wrested some of the control stars once commanded over their public image away from them—leaving de Armas and Affleck’s relationship, seemingly, in a strange liminal space between what they’d like fans to think of them and the public’s actual speculation.
But honestly? To hell with what the cynics say! To this addled gossip reader’s eye, there’s something endearing about de Armas and Affleck’s romance. Their conspicuous walks—beachside and curbside, in verdant parks and asphalt parking lots, in front of serene sunsets and parked Toyota Priuses alike—soothe me like a tub of Vicks VapoRub to the chest.
It’s been a while since we had a good tabloid couple in the same league as the Bennifers and Brangelinas of yore, and the resurgence could not have come at a more convenient time for my exhausted brain. While some celebrities have been trying to “speak to our times,” or whatever, by singing “Imagine” and pumping out “Vote!” PSAs, Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas chose to spend their time in the public eye smooching in music videos making sure we all know what their dogs look like. In this climate, that seems to be exactly what we want—because love them or love to hate them, it’s become clear that no one will be able to stop watching any time soon.