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On Ben Affleck working the Dunkin Donuts Drive-Thru, where a Zack Fox rabbit hole led me to, and watching new-ish Indonesian movies out of homesickness.
Welcome to Hyperfixate! This is a weekly-ish newsletter trying to take itself more seriously by writing about deeply unserious things. Sign up here. Support Ari on Ko-Fi here.
In the history of trying something new on this newsletter, I hope I don’t get too busy to keep up with this one. I’m going to try and put out two essays every month, as well as two of what I’m about to do right now, which is essentially a summary of what’s been rattling around in my brain recently. I’ve struggled to put something together for this week, I just started Uni again. I’m also deeply aware that the birth of this newsletter was initially as an off-shoot of both Hung Up and Maybe, Baby, my own chronicle and analysis of pop culture and media I’ve consumed. Today, we’re going back to our roots. Up first: the latest from our least favourite Triple Frontier cast member.
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Al Pacino’s Dunkaccino commercial from 2011’s Jack and Jill is about to be dethroned as the Dunkin Donuts commercial of the century. Ben Affleck turned his guerilla marketing for Dunkin into actual marketing for Dunkin Donuts, It’s all come full circle; his well-documented Bostonian loyalty to the popular donut chain has culminated in a SuperBowl commercial.
Affleck was photographed working the window of the Dunkin drive-thru in Massachusets wearing a t-shirt that says ‘America Runs on Dunkin’. If America runs on Dunkin, then Dunkin runs on Affleck. I think it’s fascinating how what was initially an organic response to Affleck as a visible Divorced Male Celebrity—dropping his Dunkin order at his front door or prioritizing his Iced Dunkaccino over the tower of Amazon packages he had picked up—has turned into this social capital, inadvertent clout even, that has allowed the corporation involved to cash in on it. It’s the scarier side of a meme’s life cycle.
I find the following image very funny:
But it’s also emblematic of a problem powerful men in Hollywood are at the center of, and I’m admittedly part of the problem as well because I’m bloody talking about it! They get to re-brand. They get to re-brand in the cultural zeitgeist with the help of the internet’s proclivity for chronic irony. Everything from the infamous back tattoo shots of Affleck in Hawaii to smoking a cigarette through his mask, Ben Affleck gets to be this symbol of Down Badism, a herald for Extremely Divorced Men, and the Liam Payne of Triple Frontier because these paparazzi photos happen to capture him at his least contrived.
Perhaps he called the paps, perhaps the paps were called on him—it doesn’t matter and none of this is new. Affleck’s team just happens to be at the forefront now, serving their client better than most Hollywood men can say. It’s different from, say, Leonardo DiCaprio caught acting his age in a club in Miami. The internet laughs at Leo, not with Leo. Affleck, or rather photos of Affleck, get to take on this air of irony where DiCaprio is anointed with cringe. I’m sure once this SuperBowl commercial drops, it’ll further this conceit of affability Affleck’s managed to build off the back of the odd tabloid headline. Reports have come in saying Affleck was very quick-witted and pleasant at the drive-thru window, it’s no surprise that he’s game for whatever Dunkin has for him. It’s as if Dunkin Donuts eclipsed his string of sexual misconduct allegations.
I also think JLo being on set with him, even coming to pick him up from his shift at Dunkin Donuts to be hilarious. I was really moved by Yedoye Travis’ thread on Twitter where he spoke about performance as labour and Marx’s theory of alienation—of how the entertainment industry, as he excellently put it, “rises out of a system that starves us and pretends to be our saviour when we finally have enough to eat.” Affleck has more than enough to eat, in this specific example of the drive-thru, he’s very literally performing service industry labour as part of his performance to feed an even bigger machine, to sell more donuts to people at the SuperBowl. The comedic device in play is this class juxtaposition, a member of the ruling class playing dress-up as the working class for the day. Never mind that Affleck grew up in a union home surrounded by people that work in the arts or advocate for the Democratic party—that’s less about Affleck as a performer and more about the semiotics of American neoliberalism equating itself to the baseline of secular morality. All of this shit is just optics. That’s why Affleck and his team are able to do all of this: because he’s taken at face value, his celebrity as an easily adjustable commodity.
I didn’t expect to get so riled up yet so entertained by another one of Affleck’s Dunkin antics. It’s honestly not that deep, but at the same time, it kind of is?
What began as several rewatches of Zack Fox’s episode of Kenny Beats’ show The Cave, the very video that birthed viral hit Jesus Is The One (I Got Depression), has led me down a long Zack Fox tangent. Tariq is probably my favourite recurring character on Abbott Elementary, I think it’s really cool to see the artist formerly known as Bootymath slay on this Golden Globe-winning sitcom!
This tangent led me to discovering what is now my new favourite podcast, Jaded Forum of which Fox was a two-time guest and Yedoye Travis co-hosts. It’s really good. They’ve kept me company in my long hours of writing with super insightful conversations on building community, politics, and Yaddle fancams.
Kangen Jakarta Anjing
I’ve never experienced homesickness properly before. I had been warned against its perils. However, those who warned me knew that I’d been around the block already. They knew that this was not my first rodeo. I have been away from “home” for a very long time. Being away from “home” had always been a given. Default.
I often write about what my personal definition of home is, how I’m often envious of my friends that are definitively from somewhere; how they have local haunts, places imbued with memory, and cryptids only their hometowns are privy to.
In retrospect, I have those, too. They just happen to be far apart from each other.
For example, there’s a house in the residential compound of an oil company I can’t name on the shores of Min Al-Zur that my friends and I broke into when we were 11, or a now lonely karaoke place nestled in the bones of a South Tangerang shopping mall where my friends sang a k-pop song in matching H&M turtlenecks. There’s a corner hidden away in Elephant and Castle where I would watch an old classmate kick around a bottle cap as he finished his zoot, scoring an imaginary goal into a small puddle. These places were my haunts, imbued with memories and assorted cryptids.
Those morsels of sentimentality are only a facet of what makes home “home” to me. That much, I can identify. Homesickness is new to me. I feel it in my belly. It’s more than just missing my family or my cats. It’s more than a longing for smog in 37-degree heat, or the familiarity of right-hand traffic. It’s something that’s been driving me up the wall with how unmoored it makes me feel. Maybe there’s only so much moving around one can take. Maybe not. Maybe it scares me that I’m too used to this. That I’ve never given myself the chance to slow down and feel anything and the second I do, I’m faced with whatever this is.
I have found temporary ‘cures’, the first of which is food. I am lucky that Indomie is a global treasure, not just a national one, or that my auntie in Surrey cooks a mean gulai ayam. Food is a huge part of our identity, especially as Indonesians. My appreciation of Indonesian food grew more this summer when I was lucky enough to be fed at Spoons, a supper club founded by the legendary Rahel Stephanie. (I had a very life-changing Pandan Tiramisu). Even when I see other Indonesian people here in Vancouver, one of the first things we’d talk about is always food. (I bet Ben Affleck runs to a Dunkin when he misses Boston.)
The second and perhaps the most effective cure thus far is film. Cinema. Kino. The things we love so much and are so embarrassed by all the time because we love them so much. Nerds, I love you. I adore you. You make me feel less alone in the world. I spent most of last Sunday watching movies because I couldn’t bring myself to do anything else. I was spent. No surprise there, we go through these cycles a lot. The two films I watched back-to-back were Mencuri Raden Saleh (Stealing Raden Saleh) and Timo Tjahanto’s The Big 4.
Action movies are the perfect homesickness cure. I plan on rewatching The Raid tonight. What I enjoyed the most about Raden Saleh and The Big 4 was how refreshing they felt whilst retaining familiarity within their genre conventions. Sure, these genre conventions were popularised in Western cinema but the filmmakers behind these films made it their own whilst paying homage. I’ll write a more focused piece on both films sometime later this month, but I just wanted to jot down how much I appreciated them during an oddly rough point in my new life in this new city. They’re both on Netflix, so they’re available for you to check out at your own convenience.
I’m going to end this on a very technical note. I’ve been struggling to figure out a good day of when to post and work on these newsletters. I really want to be more consistent with it this year and take it seriously, but also give myself enough time (and grace) to work on everything else I’ve got going on. I think I just feel a bit frazzled because term just started. But we’ll get into the groove! I think Sundays will be good now. Say goodbye to Hyperfixate Wednesdays/Thursdays and say hello to Hyperfixate Sundays! I’ll keep you company at the end of the week in your inboxes.
That’s all for this week!
All my love,