The Raw Humanity of 'Sad' Ben Affleck

The Raw Humanity of 'Sad' Ben Affleck

Ever since the birth of the “Sad Affleck” meme in 2016, Ben Affleck has been considered as the personification of pure ennui, and almost every paparazzi photo only serves to solidify this projection.

Many see Affleck as the patron saint of apathy and alienation, because of how many pictures of him taking deep drags of his cigarette (or vape) exist on the internet, with his shoulders a little slumped and a look of glassy-eyed exhaustion on his face — the vibe Twitter said he also brought to the Grammys.

However, what made the memes different this time was that they didn't feel as mean-spirited as older jabs, which appeared to celebrate his apparent depression amidst a divorce, some career stumbles and a perceived midlife crisis. Instead, the memes from the Grammys were more about how posters could relate to Ben’s blasé expression, whether it pertained to a night out or just feeling energetically drained. (Jennifer Lopez, for her part, said on Instagram that she had "the best time" there with Affleck.)

I’ve always had a soft spot for “Sad Affleck” memes, especially as someone who often feels like the dad dissociating on a mall bench outside of an Abercrombie & Fitch. Maybe it’s because I feel seen by his thousand-yard stare; or because I’m a clinically depressed person with an inner 15-year-old boy I’ve named “Pierre” or because I know we’re both people whose struggle with substance abuse started as a way to cope with social anxiety. So even though Ben may be a movie star with a gorgeous triple-threat of a wife and the good kind of zeros in his bank account, it’s nice to see more people approach any apparent expression of emotion and vulnerability with a little more empathy and less toxic masculinity, especially if it’s been met with widespread ridicule in the past.

The power of “Sad Affleck” can mostly be chalked up to its realness and relatability factor, which we all know is the secret ingredient for any good meme. Plus, who amongst us hasn’t thought that existing is hard and kind of sucks? That the future is bleak and everything is a chore and a half? Because as a Twitter user wrote, “Ben Affleck at the Grammys is me any time I have to be on a Zoom call,” and it’s nice to know that some of us have started to recognize a little bit of ourselves within Ben’s world-weary expressions.

Most memes are quite dehumanizing, and while this is especially true if you’re not a rich, famous white guy, a part of me is still glad to see something on the internet that isn’t outright mockery of a certain individual. And while I do feel a little bad for potentially adding to any past negativity with my previous coverage of “Sad Affleck,” it’s important that the meme is more about embracing a kindred spirit this time around. So, like the other people who see themselves in Affleck's disenchantment, I’m just going to leave it at “same” and take some comfort in the fact that someone else can also feel complete apathy, even if you think they should be the happiest person in the world.

Welcome to "Internet Explorer," a column by Sandra Song about everything Internet. From meme histories to joke format explainers to collections of some of Twitter's finest roasts, "Internet Explorer" is here to keep you up-to-date with the web's current obsessions — no matter how nonsensical or nihilistic.

Photos via Getty