In a mysterious Hollywood custom, a cardboard cutout of Ana De Armas was placed in ex-boyfriend Ben Affleck's trash.
For decades scholars from around the world have been studying the minutiae of social life within the unspoiled and oft-misunderstood culture known as "Hollywood."
The strange locals we have come to know as "celebrities" defy our understanding with their alien customs — moving in with estranged spouses, joining cults, drinking blood. And yet we are constantly reminded how much these exotic and beautiful creatures are "just like us."
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The Hollywood approach to courtship and romance has always been of particular interest to those of us with an anthropological perspective on their customs. Their pairings are as quick to flare up as they are to flame out, and they are often arranged with heavy influence from the class of cultural matchmakers known as "managers" and "publicists."
But this week brought us a truly rare spectacle as one of Hollywood's most prominent elders — the term for male "stars" over the age of 45 (and female stars over the age of 30) — engaged in the traditional Hollywood ritual of "trashing" his ex. It was the signal that one of Hollywood's elite-ranking couples — Ben Affleck and Ana De Armas — are now officially broken up.
By now we should all be familiar with more modern approaches to the "trashing" phase of the Hollywood break-up cycle. Commonly, one or both members of a severed pairing share unflattering information through cultural forums known as tabloids, music videos, and court filings. But rarely is the ancient custom preserved in its traditional form as it was in this case by the Gone Girl actor.
Affleck and De Armas reportedly began their relationship when they were shipped off to New Orleans to work together on their forthcoming project Deep Water — scheduled for release in August of 2021. Like so many Hollywood couples, they first became close while pretending to be a couple for one of their culture's most significant art forms — a movie. But unlike many, they apparently stopped pretending at some point.
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The two reportedly spent much of 2020 in one another's company, and De Armas finally moved into Affleck's home last month. But the ways of Hollywood romance are still mysterious. It turns out that moving in together was merely a preamble to the ceremonial breakup.
Like Jennifer Lopez, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Garner, Lindsay Shookus, and Shauna Sexton before her, the end of Affleck's relationship with De Armas was inevitable. But there was no way to know that it would be announced with such dramatic and culturally significant flare.
Rather than signaling their broken relationship by spreading private, damaging information about the Blade Runner 2049 actress, he employed the assistance of two landscapers in a more classical interpretation of the "trashing" ritual. Removing a life-size cardboard cutout of De Armas from the Affleck's home, they placed her in the literal garbage.
While once upon a time Affleck's children played happily with this effigy of their father's paramour, it has now — per Hollywood tradition — been trashed. Their relationship is no more.
Why would a Hollywood celebrity like Ana De Armas have a life-size cardboard cutout of herself to carry around with the children from Affleck's previous marriage to Jennifer Garner? And why would it then be placed, reclining, in front of the gate of Affleck's culturally prototypical $20 million home?
Perhaps it was offered up to the gods of Hollywood who bestow renown upon supplicants — or to their priests, the paparazzi.
Perhaps it was placed there as an altar for pilgrims participating in one of Hollywood's famed "Celebrity Home Tours."
Admiring them from afar, we may never know why this beautiful, enigmatic people known as Hollywood celebrities live their lives the way they do. But the image of De Armas's likeness being stuffed unceremoniously into the ceremonial trash can will no doubt be preserved in textbooks on Hollywood culture for generations to come — or at least until next week.