Ben Affleck has little in common with the female creator-stars of TV

By EW Staff
November 02, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT
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WHEN MY HUSBAND, Josh, is feeling good about himself, he likes to stand in front of our bathroom mirror and pretend that he’s doing the mega-cardio Insanity workout, and then he pretends to have a stroke and he lies on the floor until I kneel beside him and call out, “Won’t somebody please help this incredibly ripped, hot young stud?” Along these lines, when male stars direct themselves in movies, they often reveal their most passionate and deranged self-images. When Woody Allen directs himself, he’s usually a highly moral quipster who’s irresistible to women, and in Dances With Wolves, Kevin Costner directed himself as a noble, charismatic Caucasian single-handedly defending Native Americans. In most of his movies, Clint Eastwood portrays himself as a grizzled, taciturn loner who’s the only real man left on earth, and in his sensational new movie Argo, Ben Affleck directs himself as a stoic, brave CIA hunk who helps six innocent white people escape from millions of angry Iranians after the fall of the shah. The movie is based on a true story, and most of the extras playing Iranians have been directed to glower and do everything but twirl their mustaches, but I didn’t care, because the movie is so funny and suspenseful, and because Ben is believably heroic, having once escaped, in real life, from his perilous engagement to Jennifer Lopez. My favorite moment was when Ben, in a bathroom mirror, allows us a teasing glimpse of his bare pecs and abs as he slips into another shirt. While most of the Argo cast have the greasy, lank late-’70s hairdos and the oversize Tootsie eyeglass frames of their real-life counterparts, Ben sports a becoming Serpico shag and facial scruff, as if he’s starring as a macho detective on a TV series and competing for an Emmy against Lee Majors, Lee Horsley, and Jack Lord; all Ben needs is an Asian sidekick and a worshipful, nubile assistant. There’s an adoring shot of Ben’s biceps bursting from the short sleeves of his double-knit polo shirt, but my favorite moment was when Ben, in a bathroom mirror, allows us a teasing glimpse of his bare pecs and abs as he slips into another shirt. In The Town, the last film that Ben directed and starred in, he gave us a similar treat, when a shirtless Ben did chin-ups, with his midsection as lusciously lit and shadowed as a Top Model’s cheekbones. Ben is wonderful in Argo, especially in the Hollywood section, when he’s devising a cover story for the Iranian escape and he uses his narrow eyes and big-lug physique for tiny little double-takes. But once Ben arrives in Tehran he’s all business, and when he’s in his hotel room slugging whiskey and steeling himself for international danger, I wanted him to slap on some Jade East aftershave and maybe take a brief, inspiring glance at Burt Reynolds’ rugged, nude centerfold in Cosmo. Once Ben has completed his mission, he returns home to his slightly estranged family, and his grateful wife hugs him while an American flag flutters in the open doorway, and then Ben’s young son falls asleep with his head on Ben’s manly chest, and I was dying for Ben to pick up a framed photo of Matt Damon and sneer, “Jason who?” Women tend to achieve this degree of creative control only on TV, where Lena Dunham, Tina Fey, and Mindy Kaling have all masterminded their own starring vehicles. None of these women try to come off as gruff, stalwart, or heroic, and their characters all worry about their weight, their friendships with other women, and their attractions to mostly unworthy, arrogant jerks. Female stars almost never write or direct themselves to behave like stars; they’re more concerned with coming across as smart, funny, and romantically embattled, and Mindy, on her show, The Mindy Project, plays an ob-gyn who’s obsessed with Meg Ryan movies. Tina, Lena, and Mindy are all the spiritual daughters of Nora Ephron, which is why I love them; even while they’re trying to be ingratiating, or when they get all dolled up for awards shows, you can tell that their spike heels make their feet hurt. If Ben Affleck had to wear spike heels, they’d be filled with microfilm, and if Clint Eastwood had to wear Spanx, he’d eventually use them to hog-tie a terrorist on Air Force One. It should also be noted that in a male-directed movie, when the star’s onscreen dad, in a flashback, plays catch with his young son, it’s the equivalent of that moment in a chick flick when the heroine’s mom sobs as her daughter descends the stairs in her prom dress. And when the now-grown male star’s dad, often on his deathbed, tells his son “I love you,” it’s the equivalent of a female star’s mom confiding to her grown daughter, usually in a restaurant at Christmastime, that “I’ll always be proud of you, even if you never get married to anyone.” And let’s also remember that on 30 Rock, Tina Fey’s love interests have included Jon Hamm and James Marsden, because Tina’s no fool, if you ask me.

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