Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas were first spotted together as a couple in early March. It started as such things do: De Armas, who broke out last year as the star of Knives Out, had recently finished filming the thriller Deep Water with Affleck when the Daily Mail reported they were vacationing together in Cuba—dining at a “cozy restaurant” in Havana, strolling around together, and “even stopping in a market at one point.” The tabloid proved it, or came close, with a convincing selection of photos.
It all had the makings of a classic if unremarkable celebrity news cycle: an aging heartthrob with a complicated past and the rising younger beauty, yadda yadda yadda. Who could’ve imagined that this relationship would be the pandemic era’s main reliable source of fresh celebrity news?
Like everyone else, celebrities are at home being boring for the indefinite future. There are no more parties, no more industry events, no more film sets, no more awards shows, no more tipsy nights out with other celebrities. That means gossip consumers have been forced to survive primarily on the dregs of self-curated Instagram posts and online feuds between lifestyle personalities. As I type this, a lead headline on People.com is “Grey’s Anatomy’s Caterina Scorsone Splits From Husband Rob Giles After 10 Years of Marriage.” Who? At a time when we most crave nonsense, the global supply of nonsense has almost completely dried up.
But “Benana” (Afflarmas?), God bless them, have found a way to continue being photographed. It’s not that they are making news per se. All they seem to do is walk around in their neighborhoods in L.A. (The blog Lainey Gossip reported this week that they appear to be going back and forth between their two homes, in Brentwood and Venice.) But the important thing is that they manage to be photographed every time they so much as open their front doors. Indeed, they apparently go outside to be photographed together just about every day, a custom that the more cynical breed of celebrity-watchers calls a “pap stroll”—a slow, faux-casual promenade meant to be documented by the paparazzi. (Watch a few YouTube videos documenting these deliberate outings to get a feel for how obvious the paparazzi presence is, and how openly the couple appears to be posing for them.) “The tabloid machine continues to hum thanks to photos of celebrities in face masks and, as ever, Ben Affleck,” a Vanity Fair subheadline put it a few weeks ago in a story about how paparazzi photographers work in a pandemic.
Not much happens in most of these photos. Affleck and de Armas kiss. They wear face masks to “set the right example.” They kiss through their face masks. Once Affleck lifted his mask to have a smoke—a nice touch. They walk their dogs. They wait in line for doughnuts. That’s really about it.
In desperate times, every one of these dull outings can be spun into an individual story. Here are some headlines about the couple from just within the last week or two:
In times of bounty, a meager bowl of beans may not be cause for celebration. In times of famine, however, a bowl of beans is manna, a godsend. We are in a gossip famine right now, and Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas are the bowl of beans.