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Jennifer Garner has two movies opening this month, so naturally she's been on every late-night couch and morning news show talking them up. But, though she's a seasoned pro at the sound bite circuit and a top star in her own right, every headline this week would have you believe she's Ben Affleck's wife — period.
Garner stars in indie drama Men, Women & Children as well as the children's book adaptation, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Both films have a fair amount of buzz: Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children tackles the underbelly of social media, and Alexander is sure to be an intergenerational family hit. If you managed to catch her full interviews on shows like TODAY and Ellen, you'll see that Garner does indeed spend most of her screen time discussing these films. But, when the clips are clipped and the blurbs are blurbed, neither of those films make the headline. Instead we get Garner's thoughts on her husband's latest project. Maybe you've heard of it?
It's certainly not the first case of one famous partner stealing a slightly less famous partner's spotlight (the fame seesaw goes up and down in the Affleck-Garner marriage, but at this point he's the bigger name). Nor does it only happen to women. When Frozen took over the universe last year, Dax Shepherd went on a similar streak of spousal PR. Sometimes the project is too big to ignore, and Gone Girl is one such monolith.
"He has a little movie," she joked when Ellen DeGeneres segued away from Garner's movie promotion and into the good stuff. "We're really excited!" she grinned, turning, open-armed to the audience as if to say, how about that?! Before leading her into the dick joke heard 'round the world, DeGeneres teased a little further, asking if Garner was trying to knock her husband's film out of the top spot at the box office. Garner puts up her dukes, noting that Men, Women & Children is open on all of four screens. Still, that grin stays put. Of course, the show only distributed this particular clip. The full interview, including discussion of her movies, is not available online.
Now, there's no don't doubt that some of this is genuine. By all accounts, Garner is a relentlessly sweet and effusive woman. Affleck himself has often remarked on her unstoppable generosity, and how humbled or even ashamed he is for being such an oaf in comparison. Still, she's been in this business for decades. She knows that we know that she's nice — and that niceness works for her. She also knows the costs and benefits of being in a movie star marriage. Hey, what's good for the goose is good for the gander and both these geese know their way around a press junket. If a Gone Girl mention makes her bytes more sharable, then why not? They might not remind us of her film, but they remind us of her.
But, what would we say if Garner said "no comment?" What if she dropped the mom anecdotes and jokes about everyone seeing her husband nude? Certainly, Ben Affleck has never excelled at being the nice guy, at least in public. But, that's never stopped him from being a superhero. (Have you seen him in the Batsuit?! Jennifer Garner can tell you all about it!) If Jennifer Garner got busted for illegal gambling, would she be allowed back into the land of leading roles? Even if she did, the headlines still wouldn't be about the work.
Being a celebrity means you play by our rules, and make no mistake, we are the ones that made them. We demand that couples be perfect but relatable (Ben Affleck Kisses Wife Jennifer Garner After Gone Girl's Opening Weekend Success!) or a desperate, crumbling sham (6 Pieces Of Evidence Suggesting Jennifer Garner And Ben Affleck’s Marriage Is On The Rocks). As individuals, men and women each have their own set of rules. In the past, being a female celebrity meant choosing to be a sexpot, a sidekick, a wife, or a mom. Now, you need to be all of the above and you have to like it. If you want to talk about your movie, you'd better sneak it in under the headline we want to click. Or else, we'll just write our own, and you'll have to like that too.