In an Academy Awards ceremony that vacillated between offensive and crushingly dull, Ben Affleck Best Picture speech was not only a relief because it signaled that the evening was finally coming to an end, but also because it was one of the best of the night.
It’s customary for people who win Academy Awards to thank their spouses. But Affleck’s breathless thanks to his wife Jennifer Garner stood out among the evening’s boilerplate expressions of gratitude. “I want to thank you for working on our marriage for ten Christmases,” Affleck said to Garner from the stage. “It’s good. It is work, but it’s the best kind of work. And there’s no one I’d rather work with.”
From my Twitter feed at least, Affleck’s thank you was generally viewed as a faux pas, and an awkward moment. My initial reaction was to wonder if he was referring to rumors that he cheated on Garner with Blake Lively while he was directing her in The Town. Other viewers felt like he’d insulted Garner by suggesting that being married was hard. “Am I the only one who thinks Ben Affleck’s gonna be in a lot of trouble at home for telling the world his marriage is ‘A LOT of work’?!” tweeted the popular songwriter Savan Kotecha. (Exception: Dr. Ruth, who tweeted: “Nothing I could say about ur relationship that Ben Affleck didn’t last nite: work hard, don’t hold grudges, work harder!”)
Affleck may be more work than most. He’s admitted that he’s “not very present” in his home life, given how consumed with work he can be. But there was something lovely about seeing him plainly state that he and Garner are working things out together, and to say, however briefly, that the work is worth it. Whether he was slyly referencing an affair or just talking about the daily grind of married life, it sure beats hearing another powerful man thank the little woman at home for helping him achieve greatness.