down the rabbit hole

A YouTube History of Ben Affleck

Photo: Youtube

Once upon a time, before Ben Affleck was an accomplished DGA Award–winning director with a movie increasingly favored to win Best Picture, he was just another kid-made-good from Boston. He was also a child actor. And maybe you forgot, but he was engaged to Jennifer Lopez for a while there. Ben Affleck has lived many lives, all of them broadcast before us in sometimes excruciating detail and now archived forever on YouTube. So here, please join Vulture for a walk down Ben Affleck Memory Lane to remember just how far he has come. (Warning: It gets rough around the 2004 mark.)

1984: The Voyage of the Mimi. A young Ben Affleck braves the Arctic Wind Tunnel for this PBS educational series. You can already see Argo taking shape: the bowl cut, the polo shirt, the “Serious Glucose Face” (an early precursor to the “Serious Ex-Fil Face”). Genius takes time.

1989: Burger King commercial. Don’t miss the wink. The wink is everything. You can draw a line straight from this wink to “Jenny From the Block.” PS: 17-year-old Ben looks kind of like a Knight brother, no?

1997: Good Will Hunting. His breakout role, his most memorable, flood-panted scene. Believe it or not, “retaaaaaaainer” returns exactly zero Google search results. Come on, Google. Show some respect.

1998: Oprah. Here we are in the Golden era: Affleck is dating Gwyneth Paltrow, starring in Armageddon, and not long after this “just a regular guy” Oprah performance, he and best Boston pal Matt Damon will win the Best Screenplay Oscar for Good Will Hunting. But the townie-made-good narrative is not enough for Ben Affleck; no, he has loftier — dare we say senatorial? — ambitions, as evidence by his spontaneous Howard Zinn endorsement. Ben Affleck is a serious man with serious goals. Do not underestimate him.

2001: Inside the Actors Studio. Every leading man gets a date with James Lipton, and so here is Affleck at his movie-star peak, with the shame of Pearl Harbor yet to come. He knows the Weinsteins! He has a website. Everything is in control.

2002: The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, during his Changing Lanes promotional tour. And we’re a little less in control. Box-office bombs make Ben Affleck a little sleazy, it turns out. (Warning: Turn the volume down for this clip. You really only need the first five seconds.)

2002: “Jenny From the Block” video. Control has gone pretty much out the window. (Though, to be fair to Affleck, his movie career was not exactly on fire at this point. Wearing a bathrobe in his girlfriend’s music video probably made perfect sense.)

2003: Dateline NBC. All six parts of this Bennifer special are fascinating — here’s a segment about their paparazzi strategy, and also J.Lo’s cleavage — but this is the one that includes “Air Affleck.” That is just not a cool thing to say.

2003, British L’Oréal Commercial: In Ben’s defense, this commercial was never supposed to make it to the U.S. Plus, he has nice hair.

2004, promoting Jersey Girl: He’d broken up with J.Lo at this point, but yeah, this is a low.

2006: European Axe commercial. Again, this commercial was never meant to be seen Stateside, and at least he’s showered and standing up straight. This is transitional Affleck; it’s been two years since Surviving Christmas, and now he’s easing his way into Respected Director Land.

2009: Curb Your Enthusiasm. Hey, is that Gone Baby Gone director Ben Affleck doing self-effacing one-second cameos on Curb? Why, yes it is!

2010: Ellen. Oh, and now we’re just charming the pants off everyone with goofy accents and critically beloved movies. (The Town, in this case.)

2012: Anderson. “Well, they like to do tea parties, Anderson. I participate in the tea parties.” And the dad card brings us full circle. That, friends, is how you reinvent yourself from gropey J.Lo castoff to auteur and family man in just eight years. Tea parties and Oscar favorites. Welcome back, Ben Affleck.

A YouTube History of Ben Affleck