Bennifer's back and Britney's engaged: Why are we obsessed with the fairytale celebrity ending?

·6-min read
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez kiss wearing face masks at the 2021 Met Gala on September 13, 2021 in New York City. (Getty Images)
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez kiss wearing face masks at the 2021 Met Gala. (Getty Images)

Cindy wasn’t old enough to enjoy “Bennifer” the first time round. The 23-year-old, who lives in Holland, was a child during Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’s engagement in the early noughties. 

Fast forward 18 years, the Hollywood couple are back together and Cindy knows everything there is to know. “Let me say, I did my research quite well,” she tells Yahoo Life UK.

In May 2021, when long-lens pictures of a newly single Lopez, 52, and Affleck, 49, emerged from an exclusive resort in Montana, USA, Cindy says she “went crazy”. 

“What I love about them is that you can see that their affection is still there,” she says. 

On 24 July the pair made it Instagram official, but it wasn’t until September they appeared on a red carpet at the Venice Film Festival. 

“It was so amazing, so epic, so historical...their whole entrance gave me goosebumps.” A few hours after our conversation, Bennifer appeared again at the New York Met Gala; Cindy thought their masked kiss for photographers was inspired by Rene Magritte’s 1928 The Lovers painting.

Read more: Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck arrive at Venice Film Festival together

US actor Ben Affleck kisses US actress and singer Jennifer Lopez as they arrive for the screening of the film
Ben Affleck kisses Jennifer Lopez arrive for the screening of the The Last Duel at the 78th Venice Film Festival at Venice Lido. (Getty Images)
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck arrive on the red carpet ahead of the
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck at the 78th Venice Film Festival. (Getty Images)

Cindy believes Affleck and Lopez are each other’s “endgame”. 

“It was very sad that they called off their wedding a few days before the date, which was 14 September 2003,” she says. 

“They made different choices, ended up with different people, and [found] their way back to each other. I mean, how many people can say that they got back together after 18 years?”

Watch: Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck share a masked kiss at Met Gala

The world of the rich and famous is shrouded in mystery and fantasy; an aspirational life made accessible to only a lucky few who win the fame lottery. 

But, careers and wealth are not the only fairytale ending we think we want for our celebrities. We extend it to their love lives too.

Although it was later dismissed, when reports suggested Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer might have taken Ross and Rachel’s fictional relationship off-screen, fans went wild. 

More than 3.5 million people liked Britney Spears’ Instagram engagement announcement after years of observing her relationship and conservatorship turmoil. 

She deleted her account shortly after, announcing she's taking a break from social media to celebrate her engagement.

Read more: Best dressed couples at the Met Gala 2021

Britney Spears and Sam Asghari arrive at the premiere of Sony Pictures'
Britney Spears and Sam Asghari (Getty Images)

And even other stars can’t resist ‘stanning’ Lopez and Affleck with actor Matt Damon saying: “Oh man, no one's pulling [it to work] harder than I am.”

Analysis has suggested that the value of a celebrity goes up when they are paired up; magazines like Vogue are happy to make famous couples cover stars - think Gigi and Zayn or Kim Kardashian West and Kanye. 

We even establish monikers for established couples: Brangelina (Brad and Angelina), Jelena (Justin and Selena), or TomKat (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes). 

But there is nothing we like better than a relationship that seems to work against the odds.

Mariam, 22, a Bennifer fan from Detroit, says she loved that both parties kept gifts from the first relationship nearly two decades ago - paparazzi pictures showed Ben wearing the same watch he wore in the Jenny From The Block video - and they spoke fondly about each other in interviews over the years. 

“They threw very small compliments back and forth. Ben mentioned how Jen’s performance in Hustlers was her peak performance and she deserved the Oscar.”

Actors Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez attend the premiere of Revolution Studios' and Columbia Pictures' film
Actors Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez pictured in 2003. (Getty Images)
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez arrive at the premiere of
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez arrive at the premiere of Daredevil 2003. (Getty Images)
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez attend the Los Angeles Lakers v. San Antonio Spurs playoff game at the Staples Center May 11, 2003 in Los Angeles, California. (Getty Images)
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez attend the Los Angeles Lakers v. San Antonio Spurs playoff game in 2003. (Getty Images)

Parasocial relationships, a term originally coined in the 1950s, is the experience of having one-sided emotional ties with a media personality or celebrity. We can see this in intense fan interactions - famously addressed in Eminem’s 2000 song Stan - in fans setting up Twitter accounts with handles like @BenniferTea or spending hours trying to lipread remarks on the red carpet. But what is it about the success of these fairytale endings that creates such intrigue?

Dr Ruth Sims, senior lecturer in psychology at Derby University, says while we may know people in real life going through breakups and makeups, we might (ironically) be privy to fewer details than with celebrities – where we have a constant feed of images and new gossip or speculation.

“Many people feel they ‘know’ these celebrities, what they ate, what exercise they did, where they went,” she says. Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at the University of Manchester, calls this the ‘era of celebrity’ and points to the phenomenal boom in exposure.

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez attend the red carpet of the movie
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez (Getty Images)

As a result of this intense insight, Prof Cooper says people project their lives onto those of celebrities. “Their success is your success, their failures don’t make you feel so bad about your failures.” 

He compares it to the origins of football in the English working classes, how supporters associated with a team, and enjoyed seeing them win because it felt like a shared success.

In the case of a celebrity relationship reunion after overcoming obstacles, Professor Cooper says it makes people feel like “there is hope for me”. 

Cindy agrees that Bennifer part two “gives people hope of an actual happy ending”. “It is possible to find that love, maybe you have to be lucky, but it is [possible],” she explains, adding that nostalgia plays a part in the fondness too.

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez leave at the 78th Venice International Film Festival on September 10, 2021 in Venice, Italy. (Getty Images)
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez pictured in September. (Getty Images)

It is also to do with the ‘happily ever after’ concept, says Dr Sims. “[This] has been perpetuated throughout human storytelling history. It's a lovely idea to consider - all your dreams come true and it's all so easy.” 

In reality, of course, relationships take effort and have bad times as well as good. But celebrity reunions we put on a pedestal and don’t remind us of the daily grind. “You can't spend all day gazing into each other's eyes...someone has to take the bins out,” says Sims.

By bringing couples with a public platform back together, by going full circle, Dr Sims says it feels like that fairytale “is alive again”. “It was all a mistake, the idea that love dies, that true love is a myth, we can forget all that,” she explains. 

Whether the relationship survives to see another red carpet season, or shrivels under the spotlight, it temporarily allows us to indulge our most romantic notions - that the white knights of love, destiny, and soulmates will be triumphant.

Watch: Ben Affleck protects Jennifer Lopez from fan

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