Poor Reaction to Affleck: He-Nerd Rage

ben-affleck-batman-tai-urban_wenn20441205__oPtWow. Been asked three times today what I think about Ben Affleck cast as Batman, once by a person I don’t know and who isn’t a reader. Hate to pass the buck, but with the exception of his dislike of Man of Steel that seems to increase over time (I still like it on the whole), I’d have to say that MovieBob pretty much nails it.

Yes, he’s been in some goofy movies, and yes he’s not as talented as Matt Damon (who probably wouldn’t be right for the role), but he’s a solid actor with a love of comics, two Academy Awards, who has played a range of different parts with depth and aplomb. Sure, his last attempt at a comic movie, Daredevil, sucked, but it wasn’t because of something he did. It was a poorly written movie where the hero was heroic because stories have protagonists and the villains were villainous because stories have antagonists, and in neither case was any motivation assigned to anybody. However, that didn’t keep Michael Clark Duncan from doing a great Kingpin and it didn’t keep Affleck from making a believable Daredevil and, more to the point, Matt Murdock.

I will add that I think Affleck is suffering from a largely male-dominated nerd culture that won’t let go of the brief moment when Affleck was considered a pretty boy instead of a legit actor. This was roughly when he was dating J-Lo, which was bad enough (he’s dating a POP STAR! Nerds stand against pop and everything pop represents!), but then he went and married Jennifer Garner, who was in enough leather-clad spy and super hero roles to have, again for a moment, set herself up as a male nerd fantasy. This combined perception of betrayal and appropriation seems to have set Affleck up as being entirely untenable as a potential Batman, the Mary Sueiest of Mary Sue characters.

And the thing is, I remember the hate directed at Affleck at the time and, to a lesser extent, Garner. Regular readers can probably predict what was said about Garner, but there was this overwhelming sense in geek circles that this guy sullied himself with pop star germs, then swooped in to ruin Daredevil and take Sydney Bristow from us, forever ruining what would have undoubtedly been many more Elektra movies. He had the gall to impregnate her, depriving us of another season of her kicking ass in skimpy outfits in Alias. He…he…something! It was all very confusing back then.

And, to be honest, it’s not just Affleck who gets this. Anyone remember the reaction to Heath Ledger as the Joker? Fortunately, the internet is forever. Did you know there was a time when that guy who did Inception was just some empty-headed pretty boy who only ever did one part and looked like a girl (TW: early internet webpage design)?

Now, I will admit that he has done a number of bad films. I won’t go into them, it was covered pretty well in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but the guy has also done a lot of really fantastic ones. However, lots of people have. For example, did you know that before playing Batman, Michael Keaton was Mr. Mom? He was in Touch and Go. How about The Squeeze? Pre-Batman, this guy had basically one great film, Beetlejuice, and two good ones, Johnny Dangerously and The Dream Team.

But this has nothing to do with good and bad films. It has a lot to do with the perception of Affleck as a pretty boy, and most especially as Not One of Us. Oddly, Affleck himself seems to express the sentiment quite nicely in this interview:

People decided that I was the frat guy, even though I’ve never been inside a fraternity, or the guy who beat them up at school, even though that wasn’t me at all.

The pretty boy actor has a lot to overcome in nerd circles. They need to somehow prove their bona fides as real representatives of geek culture, because wide appeal to others marks them as…well, Other, and we can’t have that. And it seems that building his own goddamn Batcave in his house doesn’t count.

What I’m saying is, time to stop jumping on the “he’s going to ruin the role” bandwagon and think of this rationally. This is an accomplished actor and director. This is the guy who killed it in Argo, Shakespeare in Love, Chasing Amy, The Town, State of Play, and Hollywoodland, among others. He has the chops, he has the passion, and if they can get him to direct one of these films (he was offered the director’s chair for Justice League if he agreed to play Batman years ago), he certainly has more talent in that department than Zack Snyder. He is not just a pretty face, and it’s time that we stop knee-jerk reacting to actors who made their bones being marketed in parts for their looks.

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31 thoughts on “Poor Reaction to Affleck: He-Nerd Rage

      • The thing we really have to worry about is Zach Snyder/Nolan combo destroying the hopes of die-hard fans again. It doesn’t matter how Affleck is if the story/story accuracy is subpar.

      • I grew up a Batman fan boy and loved ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘The Dark Knight’; however, I believe ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is an abomination DC should never allowed come within a hundred miles of the silver screen, yet alone the Batman franchise.

        My girlfriend grew up a Superman fan girl and was so disappointed by ‘Man of Steel’ she stormed out of the theatre in silence before finally saying to me “you were right about Nolan producing it”.

        I can only imagine how bad the new film will be.

  1. Persoanlly, as a guy who didn’t think much of Man of Steel and who thought Christian Bale was awesome, I think the best Affleck can do is play the character differently than others have done in the past. If he wants to make fans like him, trying to not seem like a copy of another actor’s performance is the best way to go.
    By the way, what was wrong with Daredevil? I liked that film, and not just because it was my first PG-13 movie.

    • My problems with Daredevil were many. I rewatched it before writing, since I hadn’t seen it since 2003, and it wasn’t as bad as I remember. Still, there are a few problems with it, the first being that nobody has a real motivation. They just do what they do because they are either good or evil. Even then, there are times when they work against type in the strangest ways (like when Daredevil lets somebody get mugged so he could get laid), and it just seems out of place.

      Secondly, the direction was awful. It looked and felt like the epitome of Dark Age of Comics (three years late) dark’n’gritty, with crazy, awkward camera angles and a lot of scenes that were so dark I felt like I was blind, which is an interesting thought except then there’s no point in doing a movie at all. At least Jon Favreau, playing Foggy Nelson, seems to have learned what not to do, since he didn’t make any of the same mistakes directing Iron Man.

      Finally, Collin Farrel: all of him. The goofy faces, the weird obsession with putting foreign objects in people’s throats, the logo carved into his forehead for no reason, the pointless Irish stuff.

      It wasn’t a horrible movie, and I think at least my memory made it a lot worse than it really was, but it had some real problems that were hard to overcome.

  2. Though I am not a Batman reader and therefore am not qualified to have an opinion on Affleck’s casting, I think this is a perfect example of the ridiculous exclusivity of nerd culture. Thinking of an actor as a “pretty boy” who therefore is not a member of the crowd only perpetuates it. I hear people call each other “fake nerd”s for reasons that have nothing to do with how much he or she enjoys the nerdy subject at hand and a frequent one that is most often directed at women but covers cases like these as well is, “You’re too pretty to be a nerd.” Thank you for this post.

    • Whenever I try to think about the causes, I get confused. Is it jealousy? Fear of more persecution? I have no idea, really. It’s just strange to be accusing a guy with his own damn Batcave of not being a real nerd.

      • I think it also may have to do with the fact that being a nerd is now considered cooler than it wad before. Since many “cool” things are at least somewhat exclusive I guess people want to exclude others from nerd-dom. And yeah, that is strange so jealousy may also play a significant role. That would also make sense with the “too pretty” argument.

  3. I do think the world easily points their fingers at actors when, if we’re bold enough to point fingers at all, they should be pointed at the writing and directing. We wouldn’t want judgement passed on us before we were given a chance, so let it pan out and make your decisions later. Think you can do a better job? Call up Hollywood, friends.

    Heath Ledger Joker fo’eva! *throws up gang sign*

  4. Enjoyed your post, and I agree with you that Affleck has done more good work as an actor than he gets credit for, and that he may well make a fine Batman/Bruce Wayne.

    But I feel the need to step up and defend my boy Michael Keaton. C’mon, Mr. Mom is a great family comedy (written by John Hughes!). What about Night Shift? Clean and Sober? Both are good movies and between them, excellent demonstrations of Keaton’s range. His good films prior to Batman easily outweigh his bad ones.

    Alright, I’ve said my peace. Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed.

  5. Bravo! So glad to read someone defending Ben Affleck . I’m not usually one for revenge, but in this case, I hope he does award-winningly well as Batman and gets to rub his success in all the mean fan-boy faces.

  6. I would hate to be the guy who follows Christian Bale as Batman. That is like following Bear Bryant or John Wooden. Affleck will have to hit a home run to establish himself in this role and I admire him for having the cojones to try. I don’t idolize actors and couldn’t tell you who Jennifer Garner is, but I have liked most of the few movies in which Affleck has stared.

    • Agreed. Justified or not, the Nolan/Bale trilogy is idolized, and I think any Batman film in the next 15 years is going to hear nothing but complaints that “it’s not as good as….” It’s amusing/sad to me that people are already saying how bad a film is going to be, AND IT HASN’T EVEN BEEN FILMED YET!

  7. Prejudging an actor before they even play the role is a mistake a lot of Doctor Who fans do too. To think like this is to believe that you’ve already seen the actor play the character in question, be it Batman or The Doctor, when in essence it all comes down to the writing and direction. Even a great actor with bags of charisma, still lives or falls by the environment they create for the character.

  8. Even the greats of the past had some roles that they were embarrassed with. We seem to remember only the flicks where they were great and forget the losers. Can you remember back to the nerd roles of the fifties? Are there any? Wally Cox comes to mind as Mr. Peepers, the Professor from Gilligan’s Island? Now we have the Big Bang Theory and everyone wants to be a nerd?

  9. Great comment on this debate! But while I absolutely agree with your analysis, and also Affleck’s own comment on the situation, I feel that the biggest problem for Batman fans is that they simply don’t see him as Batman. He doesn’t fit the profile. And as someone who reads Batman comics, I can say that I really don’t see him in that role, although he might surprise us, as you say! There are a lot of layers to this debate, as in others! Congrats on being FP!

  10. I suppose it is the right of fandom to complain and disagree. These debates are at least interesting. I want to see Affleck in whatever version of the Batman outfit before making more of a judgement. This choice has potential – both for awesome and for terrible. It will take patience to find out how he does. I’m hoping he’s more like the surprise of Heath Ledger as the Joker than George Clooney as Batman.

  11. One chance. I’ll give him once chance. But to be honest, I think it took him waaaaay to long to work his way out of the ‘pretty frat boy’ role. He rode the wagon for too long. Brad Pitt was the original exemplary of how to mature your roles. Leo broke out of his (there was definitely a hit and miss moment there though) and I fricken loved him in Django, particularly when he kept his classic Leo Deo scream when threatening to bash Hildi’s skull in – but this time it was a MANS scream! And even Matt Damon quashed the curtains bowl-cut with the Departed and Borne.

    I will give him ONE chance. But just… becuzzz itzzz Batmunnn…

  12. Not to argue but Mr. Mom was an 80’s classic and Keaton was a well established comedian whose films were bankable…His films were moderately budgeted and made good returns. (Gung-Ho, for example) If he wasn’t such a good investment I’d imagine WB would have forbid Keaton playing Batman. Everyone at WB was caught off guard by the public’s reaction to Keaton…so much so that they rushed the now famous trailer for the movie to play at comic book conventions. Keaton’s fame as a comedian was why people we’re upset with Keaton as Batman because everyone knew Keaton from Mr. Mom. It was like “Mr. Mom is Batman?” It wasn’t because Keaton was some little known comic actor. No one could imaging Keaton in a drama (despite the fact he had starred in the critically acclaimed “Clean and Sober”) Everyone assumed it was going to be another spoof until that trailer showed other wise.

    That being said if people were to be honest the hatred for Ben is more about celebrity Ben then the actor/director. I really don’t see a reason why Afleck can not play Batman. People like to make Bale out to be this great actor that he is not. Bale is good but nothing special. The blueprint for the character is pretty simple; don’t act like Adam West or George Clooney. Daredevil was a dud because the film overall was a dud, Afleck didn’t do a terrible job…it was just a mediocre performance in a bad movie. Afleck, now an academy award winning director, should have the good mind to figure how to portray the Dark Knight.

  13. Reblogged this on Aaron Paul Rykhus and commented:
    First thing I thought of was Daredevil. Thankfully someone else caught it as well. Michael Keaton however, was the first. Also, he was in Night Shift. If you can’t appreciate that film. Well, then don’t ever travel to New York City because them “Love Brokers” will say “…you’re over the rainbow pal”, as Henry Winkler uttered after Keaton says “you and me buddy”. Anywho…nice catch on the Daredevil film. Saw it in the theater and still want my money back.

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