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Leave Ben Affleck’s Body Alone

You don't have to like Ben Affleck, but leave his middle-aged body and divorcee tattoo out of it.

Illustration based upon a photograph by TID / BACKGRID

People can criticize Ben Affleck for many reasons. Cheating on Jennifer Garner with their nanny. Protecting Harvey Weinstein. Groping TRL host Hilarie Burton. Being an inferior Batman. Starring in Gigli. Being from Boston. But his relatable body and massive back tattoo of a phoenix rising from the ashes are not something to hate on him for. Plenty of good people have tattoos they regret and bodies that look microwaved. Make fun of Affleck all you want. Just leave the bird and the dad bod out of it.

Images of Affleck, his tattoo, and completely normal body first surfaced on social media weeks ago when he was photographed on beach in Honolulu, where he was shooting Netflix movie Triple Frontier. Social media went wild trashing the picture; publications quickly began mocking him, too. Even The New Yorker took a particularly vicious shot.

Ben Affleck’s is the kind of middle-aged-white-male sadness that the Internet loves to mock—a mocking that depends on a rejection of this sadness, as well as a hedging identification with it.

— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) March 26, 2018

Sure, the pensive image of Affleck, towel around his waist and Phoenix spread across his back, is meme-worthy. But what drew most of the mockery was the fact that Affleck had been previously dishonest about the ink. After his ex-Jennifer Garner was asked about the art (an apparent response to their split) in a Vanity Fair interview in 2016, an embarrassed Affleck later claimed the big bird was fake and for a movie. That movie would never surface. A shirtless picture of him with the tat inevitably would.

Is it a great tattoo? It is not. But Affleck is by far not the first to get what some may see as shameful ink. There are countless articles, subreddits, and books dedicated to regretful tattoos. Celebrities simply have more capital to invest in their bad tattoos and more eyes on them afterwards. Kevin Durant made waves with a misspelled bible verse, which he later corrected. Rex Ryan did this with a sexy image of his wife in a Jets jersey, which he later changed to a Bills jersey when he changed jobs. Steve-O has a huge back tat of himself, which like Affleck, he never has to be burdened by looking at. But when a person invests in a tattoo, they’re not just purchasing the right to be proud of it for the rest of their lives. Shame can, and often is, a part of that transaction too. If Affleck wants to deny his phoenix forever, that’s totally included in the lifetime warranty.

Some Twitter users came to Affleck’s defense, accusing the articles that mocked him of body-shaming, which has always been a problem for women. But acknowledging that fat-shaming a middle-aged, divorced man who’s openly struggled with addiction is a bad look doesn’t take away from the fact that women deal with this all the time. It’s just another reason to not do it to anyone. The truth is that if Affleck was not such a fat dad, people probably wouldn’t care about his tattoo. We let Conor McGregor walk around with a silverback gorilla eating a heart on his chest and gentleman wearing a top hat on his arm, not only because he’s terrifying, but because his body isn’t old and gross. The reality is that if Affleck were hot, he’d be a complicated DILF staring into the distance. Or at least a father getting a rare moment of peace and quiet.

Yes, Affleck has made many legitimate mistakes and should be held accountable. But his physique and phoenix have nothing to do with that. In a unique moment in time where people are demanding the men do better, being petty doesn’t help the cause. Throwing anyone who’s had it too good for too long under the bus for how they look is not an improvement — it’s a repackaged problem. You don’t have to like the guy, just pick something better to dislike. There are plenty of options.