Jennifer Lopez dissed it, Jennifer Garner said, “You know what we would say in my hometown about that? ‘Bless his heart,’” but it seems that Ben Affleck’s giant back tattoo of a phoenix isn’t real after all. In an interview with Mario Lopez, Affleck confirmed that the tattoo is “fake for a movie” — presumably Live by Night, as he was spotted with the phoenix on the set of that film, though he did not specify. “I actually do have a number of tattoos,” Affleck added. “But I try to have them in places where you don’t have to do a lot of cover up … they get sort of addictive, tattoos, after a while.”
Then again, what does it mean for something to be real? Ben Affleck’s back tattoo brought America together, like the myth of upward mobility, or the idea that a walk button at a stoplight does something. The ink may wash away, but the promise of the silliest ever mid-life crisis remains; the phoenix of collective perception rises from the ashes of empirical fact, cawing “this still looks stupid, even for a character in a movie” into the night.