Everyone knows about the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. This process is inherently human, and experienced by everyone at some point in our lives. As such a common and universal cycle of emotions, however, studying the 5 stages of grief is really boring. What’s much more interesting is delving into the highly unique states of personality: the different stages of a person’s individual awareness and self-perceptions. For this article, specifially, we will be looking at several existential states.
Now, I’m not a licensed or certified psychologist/behaviourist. Why should I be? I mean, get off my back – I grew up in the 16th century, in what is now the Republic of Estonia. But I am incredibly perceptive when it comes to reading people. In battle, it behoves you to be a quick study of your opponents.
Let’s pursue this fascinating research further by selecting a prominent figure for study. Let’s say, oh I don’t know…Ben Affleck.
State 1: Confused Disbelief & Denial
I would wager this is the default stage of Ben’s personality. A sort of open-mouthed, delusional fugue state. The eyes are very…dim. Yet endlessly searching for escape. From himself. Knowing he isn’t really that talented or smart, but not being able to accept it. Here he looks at you as if to ask, “Do you believe I’m talented? Or do you see through me?” Hug your more talented friends tightly, Ben. Don’t let go. To Matt Damon’s credit, he seems to have successfully navigated this tricky friendship tripwire. I mean, do you think there was ever a discussion or debate about which one would be playing WIll Hunting? Um…no. That never happened.
State 2: Smug Self-Delusion
After the pair won the Oscar for GWH, this was Ben’s usual state of being. He secured some more high profile roles and somehow became a movie star…of some sort. The fears and confusion dissipated for a time, replaced by over-confidence and smug satisfaction. Notice that the mouth is actually closed for this photo? Bravo, Ben. The presence behind the eyes is still dim, though, but better hidden behind the arrogant squinting. In this photo he is literally willing away the ennui through squinting. Amazing. He is also attempting to hypnotize you. I’d wager he believes this is a thing that is possible.
The effort is commendable, I’ll give him that. But here, in this particular state of Affleck, delusion is absolute. Things like money and dating J-Lo confuse things dramatically. Everyone is fooled – even himself! The mouth-breather pulls it together for a time. But the truth is never far away.
State 3: RAGE!!!
Eventually the ennui catches up and self-awareness returns. Because of, y’know…life. The doubts flood back in like a tsunami and all semblance of feigned intelligence is washed away. This kind of elastic snap-back results in dramatic displays of anger and violence, often emerging in very bizarre ways. Lashing out is quite typical. It must be “their” fault, obviously. “Unhinged” is a word that gets thrown around a lot. The pent-up frustrations and the binge eating combine to poison the mind. Self-destructive behaviour can no longer be kept in check. Who doesn’t like a little drinky-drinky when confronted with their own limitations?
State 4: Fully Submerged in the Existential Surf
You can only be mad at the cruel universe for so long and eventually even a rage-a-holic like Ben must succumb to fatigue. Fatigue from being really, really self-aware in moments like this. Fatigue from suffering through the consequences of your own stupid oafish actions. Sometimes a smoke helps, but not always.
These images pretty much say it all, don’t they? Acceptance. ‘Nuff said.
State 5: Glimmers of Hope that Lead to Rage-Joy Lash-Outs
Look at the anger on Ben’s face. Even on the thumbs up picture – that open-mouthed intensity. Is this the face of a man confidently celebrating the fruits of his talents? Or a vindictive “revenge-on-the-universe-and-everyone-who-has-ever-doubted-him-mostly-including-himself” lash out? If you watch his face during the award announcement, you can see his complete and total shock. The purest look of amazement you will ever see. He never thought for one second he would win or even had a glimmer of a chance of winning. He ultimately knows the truth.
But baffling moments like this give him brief interludes of hope that are confusing for Ben. It’s quite cruel, actually. He seems to be screaming “I knew I was talented! I knew it! I had to be! I just had to be!” Years of self-loathing have led to this angry declaration. He looks more like a man who has killed a longtime arch enemy on the battlefield than a filmmaker celebrating an award. That enemy, of course, is the painful truth of his meagre talents. Or so he believes in the moments pictured. Argo was not a great movie. You could make an argument that it was a good movie, but I wouldn’t make that argument. It certainly wasn’t well-directed. Look, anyone with a bit of film knowledge and a really good DOP/crew can direct a movie. Can you recall one sequence or one shot that stood out as an example of superior directing talent? I cannot. And neither can you.
State 6: Full-On Oaf
This isn’t really an existential state. I include this state only because it is probably the least existential state Ben gets to routinely experience: being a mindless, drunken oaf freely given over to every oafish craving and impulse. There’s peace in the release, however. Oaf on Ben! And keep cheating at those cards!
Wow. I didn’t need to write this article at all. Ben’s writing it himself – in real time!
Nice hair Affleck. You look like a drunk Frankenstein’s Monster.
Thanks Harvey Weinstein!
Incredible. Nice to finally see people clueing in. And Damon is finally being exposed as well. Perhaps this is a just universe after all. Now if we can just get proof that they didn’t actually write Good Will Hunting…