The annals of Amusing Celebrity Tattoos run very, very deep. Misspellings and foreign-language screwups abound, as does ink that comes to represent the darker sides of some celebrities’ narratives.
But apart from all these, there is one tat to rule them all. Soon after its debut, it became the subject of controversy and conspiracy theories—and, most importantly, the cornerstone of the biggest mood ever photographed.
That’s what Ellen DeGeneres wanted to know during the actor’s appearance on her talk show Thursday, where the actor discussed his new film, Triple Frontier, as well as his charity work with the Eastern Congo Initiative. But the most important topic of conversation was the ink that shook the world.
The tattoo made its first appearance in 2015, in a paparazzi shot taken on the set of Affleck’s passion project, Live by Night. At first, Affleck denied that the tattoo—which covered his whole back—was real, claiming instead that it was a temporary piece of back art he was sporting for the movie.
But the tat never appeared in the film, and has been spotted on Affleck since—so soon enough, the actor had to admit that backffleck was, indeed, forever. The initial reaction to that first photo, the actor admitted to DeGeneres, was “not so much positive.
During the interview, Affleck admitted that he’s had a rough go of things over the past few years. His marriage with Jennifer Garner imploded in 2017, after Garner confirmed that the actor had had an affair with their nanny.
His turn as Batman ended with a long whimper. And worst of all, the paparazzi kept capturing photos of the actor smoking his way through life’s daily indignities, to the point where the narrative surrounding his sadness became a meme unto itself.
The back tattoo became the linchpin of that narrative. Two of Affleck’s exes, Jennifers Garner and Lopez, have mocked the ink: the former responded with the withering Southern-ism “Bless his heart,” while the latter went with, “It’s awful!” (For the record, Garner’s main issue with the tattoo was its admittedly on-the-nose symbolism; “Am I the ashes in this scenario?” she wondered.
“I take umbrage. I refuse to be the ashes.
”) But the narrative really peaked when Affleck was photographed on a beach, wrapped in a little blue towel and staring out into the ocean, his tat laid bare for all the world to see. “We were two hours north of the city in some island in Hawaii, and we didn’t know the paparazzi was there,” Affleck said of the shot.
“So yeah, they got a picture of my tattoo. And sentiment ran, you know, against.
“There’s temptation to get like—I could get depressed. I could feel like, ‘Oh I’ve been through a lot, and this was hard, and that was hard,’ or I could be kind of embarrassed,” Affleck told DeGeneres.
“I like it. It’s not something that I sort of kept private.
Luckily, I’m the one who has it.” Indeed, we can all count ourselves lucky for that.
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