TIME Crazy In Love

We All Secretly Hope Jay and Bey Get Divorced

Beyoncé & Jay Z
Beyoncé & Jay Z Frank Micelotta—Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup

Call it crazy, but no longer in love—just like the typical married American

On Wednesday night, Jay Z and Beyoncé, who are so private, they refused to tell us why Jay Z was kicked repeatedly in an elevator by Beyoncé’s sister Solange—even though we really wanted to know, even though the pain of not knowing never subsides—once again showed movies of their daughter on a Jumbotron. If putting babies on Jumbotrons were a press release, by the way, it would read, “Please leave us alone. Our private lives are sacred. And also please enjoy these images of our daughter on a Jumbotron.”

Displaying one’s infant child on a Jumbotron seems like a strange reaction to being in the spotlight, rather like a homeopathic remedy given in unsuitably large quantities. My immediate thought, probably not original, was that they were trying to use the child as a sort of decoy: Look at the thing we wrought when we made mad, passionate pro-creative love, and of course we are still in love, because people with children who used to be really in love never fall out of it and get divorced. Gosh, here I am like every other Tom, Dick and Perez Hilton, analyzing Beyoncé and Jay Z’s marriage like I know what’s going on. I’m not a mind reader. I’m not one of the 300 or 400 people who, if imminent divorce is actually a secret, are being paid to manage it full time, while simultaneously ensuring that it is not a secret.

Sure, I could shut up about stuff I know nothing about, but how can one resist the new national pastime? And how can one deny they want the guessing game to be our national pastime? Seriously, if you’re not trying to figure out what it meant when Beyoncé changed the words in “Resentment” from “Been ridin’ with you for six years now” to “Been ridin’ with you for 12 years now,” or whether it’s really true that Beyoncé has been shopping around for her own apartment in New York City, or whether their distance on stage means that they’re splitting up or that they’re just plain sick of being paid millions of dollars to sing and dance, can you really call yourself an American?

The day after the news broke that Jay and Bey were having problems and were going to break up as soon as their tour ended, Twitter buzzed with pre-breakup anxiety-meltdown tweets, like (I’m paraphrasing), “No, I love Beyoncé and Jay Z they are too perfect don’t let it be true #distraught,” and, “Maybe Bey and Jay-Z are just going through a rough patch #fingerscrossed,” and, my favorite, “If Bey and Jay can’t make it, please tell me who can #sad #breakups #why.” They persist. Yeah, there’s the odd person who is like, “Hey, me and Beyoncé are going to be single moms together #cool.” But mostly not.

However, it seems abundantly clear that if two pop stars who have turned themselves into global brands can’t spend the rest of their lives together in wedded bliss in a nation where about half of all marriages end in divorce anyway, then there is no hope for anyone. And just because there are a few individuals out there who are upset for 45 seconds that Jay and Bey might indeed split up (I am going to go out on a limb and guess that none of these people are named Solange Knowles), most people are delighted.

Sorry for yet more unproven, random Jay-Bey theories, but I know this. How? Because I am a human being, and if I know one thing about human beings, it is that the only thing they love more than french fries, Law & Order: SVU and sleeping is when rich, hot people’s lives are revealed to secretly suck.

I additionally know this because when I went to Google “How many marriages end in divorce?,” I only got to “How many marriages” before Google kindly guessed the end of my question: “are sexless?” So. There are six 15-year-olds out there who don’t want Beyoncé and Jay Z to break up. Everyone else in America has circled Sept. 13, the final night of Jay and Bey’s On the Run tour, on their calendar in red. Between now and then, they will wake every morning at dawn, kneel by their bed and mutter, “God, please let those people who forced us to watch that “Partition” video in which they acted like being together for 11 years was so hot be so frickin’ over each other, because they so frickin’ deserve it.”

On second thought, maybe the Jumbotron was an act of generosity—Jay Z and Beyoncé’s way of saying, We live in a disgusting, exploitative and fame-obsessed world, and please allow us to signify the moment where this particular situation jumped the shark. Ten years from now, perhaps, Tavi Gevinson, interviewing Beyoncé for the last magazine in existence, will turn off her iPhone 18’s recording device, rest her vintage Mont Blanc pen pensively against her lip, lean across a marble table in a hotel bar and whisper, “Tell me, Beyoncé. Was the great Blue Ivy Jumbotronning of 2014 in fact rooted in a sort of meta, post-Warhol sensibility?” And Beyoncé will perhaps reply, “Oh, Tavi. I thought you’d never ask.”

Sarah Miller also writes for NewYorker.com and The Hairpin, among other outlets, and has published two novels, Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl.

TIME Humor

‘Lena Dunham’ Congratulates ‘Allison Williams’ on ‘Peter Pan’

Allison Williams and Lena Dunham
Allison Williams and Lena Dunham Paul Archuleta—FilmMagic

When 'Girls' are cast as boys*

Lena Dunham: Allison! Hi! You know what — let’s kiss on both cheeks in case there’s any photographers around. That will help them with their headline “Lena Dunham goes Euro.” I really do try to think up headlines for them. I just can’t help it. It’s just what my mind does! Anyway. I wanted to have coffee with you because I wanted to tell you how totally excited I am for you that you’re going to be in Peter Pan Live on NBC. I mean, wow. What an opportunity. Why are you looking at me like that?

Allison Williams: I am suspicious of this meeting.

LD: Really? You are? God! How fascinating. Why?

AW: Well, I feel like Le Pain Quotidien is such the place that you, like, meet someone if you want to make it look your intentions are neutral and benign but they’re really sinister.

LD: Allison! That makes me feel terrible. I mean, it theoretically makes me feel terrible. It is the kind of thing that someone would feel terrible about if they felt terrible about things. Although I am still open to feeling terrible if in fact whatever you’re suspicious of is something that ends up happening. Anyway. Did you think it was weird that one of the producers described you as having a boyish vulnerability?

AW: Not really. I mean, I have a kind of a square jaw and maybe, like, a boyish glint in my eye?

LD: I guess. I thought it was so creepy. I mean. This isn’t against you. But I feel like the kind of guy who says stuff like that is the kind of guy who goes on vacation to Thailand, alone. You know what I mean?

AW: Look. I know you said this isn’t against me, but when you say things like “the producers who are responsible for the show you’re about to do are probably into underage sex vacations,” that is hurtful. And. Not everyone can write a book for a couple million dollars and have their own show. I’m very exited about playing Peter Pan. I have been wanting to play Peter Pan since I was three years old…

LD: Oh my God, I got it. I got it. Talking to you right now I totally know where I want to go for season four! I mean, I seriously, honestly, came here just to congratulate you, but now, I mean, I really know what direction I want to take …

AW: You’re not firing me are you? Le Pan Quotidien is so exactly where you fire someone.

LD: I’m not firing you. But you’re right. This would be a good place to fire someone! But listen, listen, listen. Oh my God, I love this so much. Wouldn’t it be cool next season if maybe Marnie was in… I don’t know, a made-for-television Broadway play. Like — wait. Oh my God. Jersey Boys. Listen. Oh, this is so great. Some weird female director – like, Julie Taymor decides to do Jersey Boys, but women playing all the guy’s parts, and Julie Taymor sees Marnie at a party at that gallery, and she’s like, “Oh you have such great boyish energy” and she casts Marnie … And it’s supposed to be this big thing, so interesting and avant garde, and it ends up being a huge flop. And then…

AW: If you think Le Pan Quotidien is a good place to tell someone you’re going to insert them in a story line where they play one of the male leads in an all-female, live television broadcast of Jersey Boys, directed by Julie Taymor, that ends up being a flop, it is not.

LD: Wait, wait, wait. I didn’t even get to the best part: In the last episode it’s revealed that the novel that Hannah’s been struggling with all season that she won’t tell anyone the plot to is actually a roman-a-clef about Marnie’s horrible experience.

AW: But that makes me look like such a loser.

LD: I don’t understand.

AW: Well it makes it look like my career, not just, you know, Marnie’s career, but my career, is a joke.

LD: Would it make you feel better if the novel Hannah writes is really, really bad and no one will publish it?

AW: Slightly better. Can Marnie sing My Boyfriend’s Back?

LD: Of course.

AW: And can the reviews say that’s a highpoint of the show?

LD: Absolutely. Oh, but your character also has to become best friends with Carrie Underwood, because she was in the The Sound Of Music, and kinda got crap for it, and she’s the only one who can understand Marnie’s pain.

AW: I don’t know about that. That makes Marnie seem really – I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem like Marnie, to be friends with someone who says “mean people need Jesus.”

LD: Well, it’s kind of too late, because I already talked to Carrie Underwood and she wants to do it, so…

AW: Wait a minute. You acted like you just came up with this story line while we were sitting here. But you actually came here knowing that you were going to tell me this.

LD: Ok, remember I said I was open to feeling terrible? I feel terrible. And I will totally have a scene where Carrie Underwood finds the MS of my novel and tells me that it sucks. Ok? Plus, you agreed to come to Le Pan Quotidien. What did you think was going to happen?

*At least this is how such a conversation might go in Sarah Miller’s imagination. She also writes for NewYorker.com and The Hairpin, among other outlets, and has published two novels,Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl.

TIME feminism

I Really, Truly, Fully Hate ‘Women Against Feminism’—But…

Bob Aylott—Getty Images

While the world should certainly have respect for feminism, I’d like to see feminism have a little more respect for chaos and ambiguity.

The worst part about writing everything you’re about to read has been the ever-present thought, Please God, do not let Women Against Feminism think that I am even remotely on their side. I will never, ever, be “against feminism” — whatever that means. But I’d like to have a chat about it, a moment to engage in a little womansplaining.

My issues with an ascendant strain of feminism — wherein attacks and likes and tweets and retweets are substitutes for thought, and actually reading what someone wrote — did not begin with The Fault in Our Stars, but it’s a good place to start. Back in June, Slate published a piece about adults reading books meant for kids, making the case that we should read more sophisticated, age-appropriate material. Three days later, Medium published a response entitled “Why Criticizing Young Adult Fiction is Sexist.” If irritation were fatal, I’d have perished where I sat.

But my patience with regard to other purportedly feminist issues had been tried in smaller ways.

Like last year, when Sheryl Sandberg declared that the word bossy needed to be reclaimed. #BanBossy, the moms on my Facebook feed chorused, bragging about how they were going to teach their daughters that being bossy was actually great. Now, there is a reasonable conversation to be had about how women’s assertiveness is not valued, but #BanBossy was not my idea of a conversation. It was a cheap commodification of something more complicated.

#BanBossy was just one of the feminist flavors on Facebook that I tasted and immediately wanted to spit out. There is also the persistent complaint about airbrushing in magazines, as if fashion magazines have ever promised to be a woman’s friend, as if someone were forcing us to buy them. I’m not a fan of airbrushing any more than I am a fan of violent pornography, but I refuse to be surprised or upset that it’s at the heart of the beauty industry, and I don’t look to Anna Wintour for my sense of self-worth. When Jezebel offered $10,000 for the unretouched photos of Lena Dunham’s photos in Vogue, I cried to the heavens, “Wake me up when it’s over.” My celestial alarm clock remains unrung.

The University of California, Santa Barbara, shooting was a rallying point for many feminists, but even as I watched Elliot Rodger on YouTube saying horribly misogynist things, I couldn’t get behind the idea that he’d done what he did because of an endemic hatred of women. My mind, skidding over the insanity, found traction on the issues of guns and deteriorating mental illness. But according to my social-media feeds, I had gone to the wrong place. “If you don’t think this is about misogyny there is something wrong with you,” proclaimed one status. After a Wall Street Journal opinion piece drew a psychological connection between the shooting and the entertainment industry, blame shifted haphazardly from the shooter to Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen.

The theme continued last month when Benjamin Wallace profiled Terry Richardson for New York magazine. (I know Wallace but have not seen him in more than 10 years). Whatever I think of Richardson, Wallace had written clearly and thoroughly about a complicated subject. His reporting had also uncovered new allegations. The headline —“Is Terry Richardson an Artist or a Predator?” — seemed a reasonable way to suggest culpability without getting sued.

So I was surprised by the attacks on him. Guardian writer and feminist journalist Jessica Valenti tweeted, “Maybe Terry Richardson will lay off coercing girls now that he got such a huge BJ from NYMAG.” Jezebel reported that Wallace withheld portions of an interview with a source so he could “placate the powerful.” Really? Or was it possible that reporting and writing about a convoluted situation involving lots of people didn’t lead to simple conclusions? Of course a discussion about that wouldn’t be as exciting or as tidy as accusations of a hidden agenda.

In some ways, the tendency to see sexism everywhere is proof that feminism is healthy and vigilant, and that is not necessarily a bad thing, because misogyny is insidious and rampant. Fifteen hundred women are murdered each year by their male partners, 1 in 5 female students in the U.S. has been sexually assaulted during her college tenure, and women who write about such issues are stalked and threatened. Never mind the discrepancies in the workplace or household. We need feminism. Still, the pain that we experience as women — even physical — does not give us the right to tell people there’s one way to think or feel, or to assume that we have some godlike understanding of everyone’s motivations. Believe me, I have walked out of at least one Judd Apatow movie because I didn’t enjoy his female characters, but I do not believe the man belongs anywhere near a conversation about mass murder.

A few months ago, I read Nassim Nicholas Talib’s The Black Swan. One passage in particular sticks with me: “Categorizing is necessary for humans, but it becomes pathological when the category is seen as definitive, preventing people from considering the fuzziness of boundaries, let alone revising their categories…” I think about what’s going on in Nigeria right now. Hundreds of girls have been kidnapped; less reported is that fact that their male counterparts have been murdered. #bringbackourgirls is effectively telling the majority of Americans the story of Nigeria — not because it is an accurate or complete story but because feminism helps us categorize and make sense out of what is actually chaos.

I have always called myself a feminist and have no plans to quit. But while I think that the world should certainly have respect for feminism, I’d like to see feminism have a little more respect for chaos and ambiguity. Right now we are in a loop of “This is good.” “This is bad.” “This person is sexist.” The Internet and its outrage machine are to blame for some of this lashing out. So is the human desire to lay blame, shouting “It is you who did this! You who thinks adults shouldn’t read teen books! You who make movies where not-so-hot guys get hot girls! You who wrote an article about a bad person and didn’t say he was as bad as I think he is!”

I think back to the Facebook comment about the Santa Barbara shooting: “If you don’t think this is about misogyny there is something wrong with you.” I suppose the thing that is wrong with me is that while I can’t escape the urge to categorize, I am aware of its potential to become pathological.

Miller writes for NewYorker.com and The Hairpin, among other outlets, and has published two novels, Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl.


Sarah Palin’s ‘The View’ With Rosie and Whoopi: The Script

Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O'Donnell and Sarah Palin Getty Images (3)

With Rosie O'Donnell reportedly set to join Whoopi Goldberg on 'The View,' Sarah Palin has offered up herself as a “voice of reason” for the show. Let’s imagine what that might look like

Goldberg: Ok. Let’s talk about Prince Fielder on the cover of ESPN – it’s the body issue. He looks good, he’s a beautiful man. But he doesn’t have a six-pack.

O’Donnell: I think I know where you’re going with this, pal, and I like it!

Goldberg: And you gotta ask yourself, as a woman, would they ever, ever, put a woman with a little tummy, or a little extra junk in her trunk, on the cover of a magazine?

Palin: You know. I’d like to change the subject to something I think average Americans care about, which is not the size of someone’s booty. (Waits for applause.) I think Americans want to know, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have elections, why are we putting a Prince on the cover of a magazine?

O’Donnell: Dear God in heaven.

Goldberg: Let’s talk about something else.

Palin: Great. Let’s talk about the Obama impeachment.

Goldberg: We can get to that. But maybe we ought to ramp up to it. Start with something a little simpler

O’Donnell: Like… Say… Tic Tac Toe. Sarah! Can you play Tic Tac Toe?

Palin: I believe the American people think illegal border crossings are pretty simple, Whoopi. Billions of Mexicans have crossed the border on Obama’s watch and just last week…

Goldberg: Ok, it isn’t billions. Billions – let me see if I can put this in terms you understand. Billions is how many people McDonald’s served. And also, recently, a lot of these people have come from Guatemala and Honduras, because there’s a humanitarian crisis in these places, and…

Palin: Whoopi, Mexico can change its name to whatever it wants. But a native-born American is a native-born American. Whether he eats at McDonald’s or not. I think real Americans—

Goldberg: —So! Moving on. Michelle Rodriguez from The Fast and The Furious. First, she’s with that pretty model girl. And then, all of a sudden, boom! She’s in Italy. Getting busy with Zac Efron!

O’Donnell: Yes! I like this topic, wonderful. Thank you! And you know, it’s interesting because there’s a trend, you know, with younger people, of not necessarily being monogamous, and…

Palin: Well. I am all for freedom, I just hope that young lady understands she’s going to get pregnant and have a lesbian kid. And who is going to take care of that kid?

Goldberg: Sarah, with all due respect, Michelle Rodriguez is a movie star. Whether she has a kid, lesbian or not, she can probably take care if it herself.

O’Donnell: I saw a lesbian taking care of a kid once. It was amazing. Really something else.

Palin: Well. I certainly hope so. Is that her, cavorting on that boat there? You know, that boat that she’s on getting pregnant with her lesbian baby, well, it’s taking up space where we could be drilling for oil. And you know, come to think of it, that boat would be real handy in the Rio Grande, looking for people coming here to take our jobs.

Goldberg: Can you drive a boat, Sarah? Because it seems like that would be a great job for you.


Lindsay Lohan Should Win Her GTA Lawsuit

Lindsay Lohan in 2007; Lacey Jonas in 2014
Lindsay Lohan in 2007; Lacey Jonas in 2014 Clark Samuels—Startraks; Rockstar

I'm no legal expert, but I know my tabloid stars, and I see the evidence that Grand Theft Auto's Lacey Jonas shares some Lohan DNA

I don’t think anyone in their right mind would suggest that the lawsuit Lindsay Lohan filed last week against the makers of Grand Theft Auto isn’t annoying. Yes, it would be nice if Lindsay would go back to being an actual movie star, rather than wasting precious time insisting that her “unequivocal” similarity to Lacey Jonas, a minor character in Grand Theft Auto 5, entitles her to compensation. And yes it would be nice if this weren’t Lohan’s third similar lawsuit. But the fact is, like her or not, the 28-year-old actress/docu-drama subject/paparazzi bait might in fact have a bare, slightly bruised leg to stand on.

Lindsay Lohan is not someone you’d want taking care of your grandmother or even your guppy. But that’s not what’s in question here. What is—put so well in Forbes by intellectual property attorney Kim Landsman—is this: “How recognizable is Lindsay Lohan as the Lacey Jonas character? Would it be recognized specifically as her or as a generic, blond, bimbo actress?” It seems to me that the answers are a. very and b. yes.

Obviously there’s the fact that the hotel in the game, Gentry Manor, brings to mind Chateau Marmont, a place Lindsay has frequented. Then there’s the whole running away from the paparazzi thing that’s pretty Lilo-esque. But let’s get to the stuff that’s more exclusively her. First of all, Lacey’s voice. The way that she makes a declarative, despairing statement “This is a disaster!” and then rambles “Oh my God, I’m so f—ing fat. Oh my God! They cannot get a shot of me!” and then throws out a generally desperate and kind of unanswerable question “How’s my hair? Do I look cute?” Sorry, Rockstar — that is not a “generic” voice, or “generic” speech patterns. No one else sort of wails at the end of everything she says quite like Lohan. And if you don’t know what I mean, please enjoy this clip of Lohan on her reality show upbraiding her assistant for not getting her new keys made fast enough.

Then there are the outfits, which Lacey wears not only in the game but also in promotional material, that the lawsuit mentions explicitly and at great length as being Lohann-y. If I were the Lohan legal team I would forget about the stuff that sort of looks like Lohan would wear it — Lohan did not invent or perfect the short-short, high-heels, 800-necklace look — and concentrate instead on the image for Grand Theft Auto’s cover, which is a blonde model in a bikini giving the peace sign and taking a selfie. Model Shelby Welinder posed for the ads in 2012, but the Lohan photo that looks EXACTLY like it was taken in 2007. Also, if you said to three million people, “Hey, you know that picture of a blonde chick taking a selfie and giving the peace sign, in a bikini? Who is she?” two million of them would say “What?” but the other million would say “Lindsay Lohan,” and the number of people saying, ‘Oh, isn’t that Shelby Welinder?” well, that would be zero.

Finally, there’s Lacey’s personality. She’s demanding, yelling to the poor motorcycle racing protagonist she’s forced into giving her a ride “Go faster! Go faster.” But demanding is pretty basic. Lacey could just as well be channeling Mariah Carey. Or even Katherine Heigl, if Heigl weren’t more of a stay-at-home complainer, with no personality to rip off. If demanding is too broad a category to make GTA 5’s work “unequivocally” Lohan-inspired, then there’s the arrogance: Lacey shouts “I’m really famous!” and is generally appalled that the motorcyclist doesn’t know who she is. Only a few actors have been caught pulling the fame card, Lindsay among them. (Lindsay’s mother Dina even asked someone “Do you know who I am?”)

Lindsay Lohan might not be the classiest person around, but she’s special in other ways. Not everyone can say theyowe the Chateau Marmont $46,000. Not everyone can claim to be America’s sweetheart and then run over it all with a limo. And not everyone can lie to Oprah. There is only one Lindsay, and surely, at this point, she’s at least got a right to that.

Sarah Miller writes for NewYorker.com and The Hairpin, among other outlets, and has published two novels, Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl.


Bombs Bursting in Air: A War on Fireworks

4th of July Fireworks on the National Mall
4th of July Fireworks on the National Mall, Washington, D.C. Matt McClain—The Washington Post via Getty Im

Let’s think about banning the “BOOM!”

I grew up in a town so small and so not ready to spring money for fun (yes, Puritans were involved) that we didn’t even have a football team, let alone fireworks. The first time I heard fireworks, I was 9. They were so loud that I cried, but I also wanted to like them, because everyone else did. The colors were admittedly amazing and people were clapping, which I associated with Ice Capades. So I managed to join the party.

A decade or so later, I was watching a movie in a mall in Bogotá, Colombia, and suddenly, from outside, came a nonspecific rat-a-tat-tat. The movie stopped. We clustered in the center of the theater. Most people were ashen and silent. Some people laughed, albeit nervously. I (never missing an opportunity!) cried and asked panicked, unanswerable questions. We all knew it would have been unusual for a battle to just erupt outside a semi-suburban mall, but, considering a general escalation of violence in the city in 1989, it was not impossible. (And today, I dare anyone to giggle at such a noise.) We waited. After it stopped, a brave man went out to investigate. He came back laughing. It was fireworks, he said, set off to celebrate the mall’s anniversary. We exploded with relief.

Fireworks have been used for all kinds of celebrations in all kind of cultures ever since they were invented by the Chinese in the 7th century. But when we use them on the Fourth of July, we are commemorating a war. And that experience of hearing fireworks divorced from the context of potato salad alerted me to how much they truly evoke the sound of munitions.

Of course, our War of Independence ended long before anyone who’s alive today knew anyone who was alive who knew anyone who was alive back then, and if our last war had been say, the War of 1812, it might make sense to have a holiday wherein we indulged in play bombing sounds. But many wars—Vietnam, the wars Iraq and Afghanistan—are not long over (and for those living in those places, not really over at all). American veterans of these wars do not have the same uncomplicated relationship to fireworks that the rest of us seem to. And what about the millions of Americans who fled here because of wars in Southeast Asia, Central America, the Balkan States, The Middle East, Africa…? Do you think any of them put on their weekend to-do list “1. Tolerate, within a state of heightened anxiety, noises that remind me of a terrible situation from which I barely managed to escape”?

You will notice that the above list of embattled countries basically reads like “half the world.” Most Americans are very, very lucky to have escaped any homefront experience with war. So there’s perhaps something arrogant about being like, “Whoo! Let’s make lots of sounds that sound like war!” To say nothing of fireworks’ considerable expense, or the fact that they aren’t great for the air, or that they tax fire departments who need to be at the ready for other more important things, especially since wildfires are increasing and intensifying with climate change.

I’m not against fun, and I’m not always against maybe-not-environmentally-friendly fun. Meaning: I don’t blame people for loving giant trucks and speedboats and ATVs. I own a Toyota Yaris that is so light you could punt it like a football, but if money were no object and cars burned dried albizzia flowers instead of fuel, I would drive a Ford F150. But we don’t live in a world where driving a giant car means nothing, or where loud, scary, artillery-like noises mean nothing. Now I’m not saying “Fireworks are bad, ban them!” or “Let’s make the Fourth a day to weave God’s Eyes together!” (Though if someone brings beer, I’m in.) But it’s worth imagining a world without them. And if you don’t believe me, ask the nearest Irish Setter.

Sarah Miller also writes for NewYorker.com and The Hairpin, among other outlets, and has published two novels, Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl.

TIME Media

Bennifer 1, Act 2: Comparing and Contrasting the Duo’s Last Decade

"Gigli" California Premiere
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck at the "Gigli" California Premiere at Mann National in Westwood, California, United States. Chris Weeks—FilmMagic/Getty Images

They say living well is the best revenge. So who bested whom: J. Lo or Ben Affleck?

Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck were in the news a lot this past week, though, sadly, not together. He, it seems, has gotten good at blackjack in a way that brings to mind the term “diminishing returns.” She has broken up with her extremely young boyfriend, recorded the official World Cup song with Pitbull, and her new album, A.K.A., came out last week.

Before we get further into the two as separate entities circa 2014, let us harken back to a time when they were simply Bennifer. Whether you were a fan or not, there was no arguing that as the presiding supercouple of post 9/11, pre-housing crisis, cargo shorts-crazed America, their narrative was a compelling one. After a checkered past that included accompanying P. Diddy to court and two short marriages to nobodies, J. Lo found blissed-out stability with a man who had a decent job and had managed to make it through early adulthood without changing his name, twice. Affleck had shown early promise winning the screenwriting Oscar for Good Will Hunting alongside Matt Damon, but seemed a little bland, a little too white-boy lucky. Hooking up with a woman who’d been divorced, twice, who could dance, and whose boyfriend had just been acquitted of weapons charges, gave him something like gravitas. Let’s call it pre-gravitas.

Cue montage: J. Lo in a Red Sox cap, red carpet smiles, an engagement announcement on Primetime with Diane Sawyer, that enormous pink Harry Winston ring, the unwatchable Gigli, a cancelled wedding in Montecito. Please let’s not forget that Ben Affleck appears in the video for “Jenny from the Block.” Yes, Gigli is the accepted cultural marker for Bennifer’s doomed partnership, but the jaw-droppingly awful music video was way more embarrassing. I bet he wouldn’t mind if the next time you felt stupid about something you just whispered to yourself, “Ben Affleck was in ‘Jenny From the Block,’” to remind yourself that hey, nobody is perfect.

Their rocky relationship ended in 2004. And although we never saw them together again, after a romance and courtship that public (and that disastrous), it has always felt impossible not to compare their lives. And though she rebounded and married more quickly (five months later, to Marc Anthony, compared to Affleck’s marriage 18 months later, to Jennifer Garner) he has always seemed to be a few lengths ahead.

It’s not that J. Lo was doing poorly, of course. She has made a slew of movies and recorded a lot of songs. Some of each have been terrible (the movies Enough and Angel Eyes, the song “Get Right”) but some have been decent (the movies Shall We Dance and Monster-in-Law, and the song “On The Floor.”) and although nothing she has ever done came close to 1998’s excellent Out of Sight, nothing seemed to stop her from becoming a massive superstar.

Meanwhile, Ben was also in a lot of truly awful movies (Surviving Christmas, which didn’t make money, Armageddon, which did) and semi-decent ones, like The Sum of All Fears and Changing Lanes. His long-running bromance with golden boy Matt Damon remained an asset. They worked on Project Greenlight together both pre- and post-Bennifer, and he always managed to seem smart, and on the verge of getting smarter.

But the reason Ben was ‘beating’ J. Lo for so many years has less to do with the quality of the material they were producing and everything to do with J. Lo’sbeing hopelessly encumbered by Marc Anthony. Of course no one knows what actually went on between them, and maybe Anthony is totally awesome. But even in the early days when they were pawing each other at Nobu, JMarc (LoAn? PezThony?) was hard to buy. Sure, he’s got a good voice and a certain well-chiseled, ectomorph-ish appeal, but let’s be honest, if the human qualities residing within Marc Anthony ever attempted to emerge, they would be smashed by his evil robot self.

Yes, Affleck definitely kicked some unquestionably serious ass in the look-who-I-married contest. Sure, you could say some bad things about Jennifer Garner – if you were a really terrible person. She’s pretty. She’s smart. She seems nice. She’s had an impressive yet tastefully restrained career. Alias was just the right combination of good and entertaining, and it made her enough money to take respectable, unflashy supporting roles in things like Juno and Dallas Buyer’s Club. Sure, she’s been in some garbage, too, but who remembers? Plus, it seemed like she never tried to be a big star, and was content to play second fiddle to Affleck, whereas Anthony – not surprisingly, being a dude and all, and part robot – seemed unwilling to settle into a role as Mr. Jennifer Lopez.

Both pairs had children. Ever wholesome, Bennifer 2’s (Affner’s? Garnfleck’s?) brood were always coming and going from farmer’s markets. Anthony and Lopez, in marked contrast, were rarely seen with their children. When they appeared in the press together it often concerned their joint clothing collections for Kohl’s department store.

Affleck just kept pulling ahead, his journey from wunderkind to classy family man going hand in hand with his further Hollywood ascent as the director of “good” movies, like Gone Baby Gone and The Town. (They weren’t actually good, but people said they were.) He won the Oscar for Argo, which was better than good, and would have even been great without that scene of himself getting angst-riddenly wasted in a Tehran hotel room. (Actually, if “Jenny From the Block” had been on the television during that scene, it would have been a perfect movie.)

As Affleck’s prestige in Hollywood increased, J. Lo was getting divorced and putting out movies with poor cost/earnings ratios like Parker. And then she jumped from Anthony to Casper Smart, who was 25. If he’d had a cooler job, this might have been more impressive but he was a back-up dancer. He got along really well with her kids, and this was cute, but if they were all running around on the beach, and all wearing bathing suits, it was sometimes kind of hard to tell that Smart was an adult. There was a brief moment when we might have been like, “Alright, Casper, maybe you’re here to stay,” and, then, as if on cue, he went to a peepshow the day before her birthday. Which isn’t against the law, but it’s not exactly a woman’s dream to have the world know her man goes to peep shows.

Then, in the last year, things started to shift a little. It all started last August when Warner Brothers announced Affleck as the new Batman. Fans were not happy. One even started a change.org petition to get Warner Brothers to rescind their decision. Then Affleck starred alongside Justin Timberlake in the truly terrible movie Runner, Runner. And then there were the reports this spring that he’d been kicked out of a casino in Las Vegas for counting cards.

Meanwhile, J. Lo has managed to kick Casper Smart to the curb. It was said that it was because he was texting two transsexuals, but it’s perhaps more interesting to imagine that what Lopez really could no longer abide was Smart’s tendency to write “lol” in texts when expressing something other than having actually laughed out loud. She jetted off to Brazil to perform the official World Cup Song with Pitbull. It’s not a very good song, but it’s not embarrassing.

Speaking of embarrassing, Affleck’s gambling thing has gone from the background of his life into the foreground. He’s filming Batman vs. Superman in Detroit right now, and he just got kicked out of a casino there, and now, his wife, she of the eternal smile and the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to-go cup, is allegedly really pissed at him. (Though I read the other day that she actually likes that he gambles, because it keeps him from drinking and picking up women, which makes a certain kind of dark sense.)

And with this gambling thing getting worse and not better, one looks back and wonders if perhaps J. Lo was the one who blossomed after the breakup, despite the lack of an Oscar, or a perfect spouse, or the inability to grow an “I’m serious” beard. And while Jennifer Garner has looked so saintly all these years – especially in contrast to the more flamboyant, attention seeking Lopez – one also wonders if she landed Affleck not because she is modest or a paragon of virtue but because she was willing to put up with him.

So in the end, the lesson learned is this: when someone breaks up with you, don’t get mad, don’t get even – slowly and steadily develop a brand as a star of meh movies and a Latin pop singer that makes a ton of money even though you never receive critical acclaim while your ex, despite winning an Oscar, despite musing about a future in politics, sinks deeper into gambling and slowly wears out the nerves of his ever-patient wife. And the week that this all comes out, if you can land yourself on the cover of a magazine wearing red Louboutins, and a matching catsuit, with no pants, all the better.

If J. Lo is ahead now – Forbes placed her earnings at $45 million in 2012, compared with Affleck’s $25 million – it’s just proof that the global brand is much more durable than the flawed individual. She’s kept herself out there, she’s kept it moving, she kept producing, but she has never seemed to try to be anything better than famous, so she seems to be unable to embarrass herself or to let us down. Her performance at the World Cup was sabotaged by a horrible sound system, and guess who cares? No one. Affleck, on the other hand. Well. He better bring it with Batman. Or perhaps Kohl’s wants to put out a Ben Affleck-endorsed, Red Sox-themed clothing line?

TIME Humor

Lindsay Lohan Recalls the Time She Had Sex With James Franco

Actress Lindsay Lohan speaks at a press conference on Jan. 20, 2014 in Park City, Utah.
Actress Lindsay Lohan speaks at a press conference on Jan. 20, 2014 in Park City, Utah. George Pimentel—Getty Images

(This is a work of fiction.)

Tuesday, James Franco published his fictional account of the time he did not have sex with Lindsay Lohan—another platform on which to deny her infamous “sex list.” Well, she maintains they did. Here’s what happened.*

James Franco says that we did not have sex and one of the things I learned growing up in a family of chaos was to respect other people’s truths, even if that truth is something they made up driving home wasted in an Escalade that I frickin bought. Anyway, since he has shared his version of events, I think it’s only fair that I share mine.

It was a few years ago. I don’t remember if I was sober or not. I think I probably was. I actually never even really drank that much, and as I told Oprah, I only did coke 10-15 times, so statistically, the chances are good I was not wasted when this happened.

I was wandering around the Chateau Marmont, which is a hotel. Some people like to go on and on about what it represents to them and all the stuff they did there, but I’m just going to stick with calling it a hotel, because on Long Island we like to keep it simple.

I will say that I do like the Chateau because there are lots of beautiful flowers tended by people who care as deeply about tending flowers as I do about my passion, starring in films. I had just taken a swim in the pool where, per the advice of several therapists, I had taken some time to imagine that I was one of any number of various sea creatures. Afterwards I had taken a leisurely shower and then put a deep conditioning pack on my hair. So I was just walking around inhaling the scent of night blooming jasmine and my deep conditioning pack when one of the bungalow doors opened.

This guy stuck his head out. I didn’t know who it was. In fact at first I thought it was this guy who worked at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on Beverly and I was like what is he doing here? “Hey,” he said.

As I got closer I saw that it was that actor who always wants people to think that he’s smart but I still couldn’t remember his name.

“Oh hey,” I said.

“What are you doing?” he said.

“I’m deep conditioning my hair,” I said.

“Why?” he said. He said it in this really challenging way, like deep conditioning your hair was against the law.

“Uh, because it has a lot of split ends from being so color treated and all the extensions that I have used over the last few years, being an actress who cares about my craft, the way that Chateau Marmont flower-tenders care about flowers.”

He shook his head. He was kind of good looking I guess but there was something about his face. He looked so serious, like he had just finished reading 1000 books and had to read 1000 more or he was never going to get to watch TV again.

He said, “Have you ever thought about all the time you spend deep conditioning your hair? Have you ever thought about how the expectations that society places on you as a celebrity and how you exploit yourself by responding to them?”

I said, “Duh, that’s all I think about. But deep conditioning my hair is one of the ways I find my center.”

“That’s beautiful,” he said. He actually got a tear in his eye. Then he said, “I’m sorry, it’s just that the intersection of the banal commercial world with narratives about inner peace triggers a conditioned, sentimental response in me that produces something like actual feelings.”

It was all clear now. “You’re James Franco,” I said.

He asked me to come in and I did. I sat in a chair.

“Gus Van Zandt once sat in that chair,” he said.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know who that is,” I said, even though I did. I knew anyone who went to school for as long as James Franco had was probably just enough of a jerk to imagine that everyone he came in contact with was the stupidest person in the world. “Is that your dad?”

James Franco laughed. “In a way he is, I guess. Parenthood is so – circumscribed by biology in this culture. And really, since what I am is an artist, really, more than a human, and since he is an artist, more than a human, really, why can it not be said that our relationship was more of a parenting relationship than the one I had with the people to whom I am attached by mere biology? Now, if biology was the ideology I adhered to, certainly, by that measure I would have to allow that he is NOT my father.” All of a sudden he looked really excited. “You know what’s intense? In a way, Gus and I are like – husband and wife. And “Milk” is our gay baby.”

He got very excited. “That is such a good idea for an art installation! A series of photographs, fake documentary style. Gus and I meet, we fall in love, and we have a baby, he gives birth to it, I think, not me – well. Wait. Maybe it should be me. Yeah. An image of me pregnant would be so super intense, and really open up a lot of intense dialogue about gender, whereas if an older, gay less gorgeous person was pregnant, it wouldn’t be as interesting. Don’t you think?”

“I guess,” I said.

James Franco went on. “And so I give birth to a baby, but the baby is a movie, not a baby. That is seriously twisted. A movie being a baby, but really being a movie? Don’t you think?”

“I guess,” I said. “Do you mind if I rinse this stuff out of my hair?”

I don’t even think he heard me. I went in the bathroom. He kept talking. “And the baby-as-movie goes to pre-school, and high school, and to college. And meanwhile, we get divorced and the judge puts the baby-move on the witness stand to see who it wants to live with.”

I came out of the bathroom. “And this is all in photographs? Why not fake documentary?”

He frowned again and snorted. “I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced the way that the medium of photography, particularly black and white, legitimizes the unreal,” he said. “In fact, I am pretty sure you haven’t, or you wouldn’t have suggested that.”

All of a sudden, I was really, really tired. As I said earlier, I definitely wasn’t wasted, so I think it’s more likely that I got really tired because the smell of my conditioner made me tired, not because some weird combination of alcohol and drugs had made me unusually animated and then left me suddenly drained of energy and any sense of self-will. I lay down.

“Anyway,” he said, “Not only does photography interact with our memory in a way that makes us think we are re-experiencing things we have never in fact truly experienced, it also, and this is probably even more crucial for this story, adds a shimmer of cold terror to the uncanny and that,” he smashed his hand down on the coffee table, “is my project as an artist.”

Then he got serious. He came over and stroked my hair. “I want to reward you for inspiring me. This is the best idea I have ever had, and I never would have had it about you. Can I reward you by reading you a story?”

He said it was called A Perfect Day for Bananafish. I don’t remember very much about it, except at one point, he stopped reading and started to explain to me that it should really be called something else gross and dumb because of something about the fish being phallic which personally I feel like he made up. I can’t really remember. I was so tired, but somewhere, a little voice piped up and let me know there was actually a really brilliant way to get through the next hour of my life without having to walk all the way back to my room, and I was like, “If I have sex with you, will you stop telling me your ideas?”

I am a lady, so I don’t want to tell you what happened next. But I think it’s messed up that the world is always waiting for me to fail. I mean, has James Franco ever come out with a series of photographs “documenting” his “relationship” and “parenthood” with Gus Van Zandt? No. He hasn’t. And it’s because of me. So leave me alone. I did you all a big favor.

*In Sarah Miller’s imagination. She also writes for NewYorker.com and The Hairpin, among other outlets, and has published two novels, Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl.

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