Ben Affleck Runs On Dunkin'. Why Do We Care So Much?
A Bostonian investigates.
The New England Patriots might not have made it to this year’s Super Bowl, but Boston still had its moment of glory when Dunkin’ ran an ad starring Ben Affleck moonlighting as an employee. It was filmed in Medford, Massachusetts (population: 62,000; nine stores), and ends with Jennifer Lopez ordering a glazed doughnut at the drive-thru window, something I’m sure she does all the time. Affleck’s passion for the Massachusetts-based chain has become something of a national obsession. But why?
Though the actor has been drinking DD for decades, the media only began taking an interest in his loyalty to the brand in 2017, when he was in the press constantly: He sought treatment for alcohol addiction; he and Jennifer Garner jointly filed for divorce; he began dating Saturday Night Live producer Lindsay Shookus; he was also accused of inappropriate behavior by actor Hilarie Burton and artist Annamarie Tendler (he issued one apology to Burton). I don’t know what paparazzi were hoping to capture, but they wound up with 47 outings in which Affleck toted iced coffee.
The Batman star lives in Los Angeles (population: 3.8 million; 15 stores), and as he explained to Collider in 2019, “I have Dunkin’ Donuts every day. It’s very weird; I have it every day, and people are always like, ‘Where is that? Is that near here?’ So, I feel like I’m spreading the word.”
Indeed he is. People has a constantly updated Affleck/Dunkin’ gallery featuring pun-filled captions like “just brew-ti-ful” and “words cannot espresso how much coffee means to him.” In 2019, Vulture dubbed him “Dunkin’ Donuts’ Personal Lord and Savior.” The following year, Vulture dedicated more than 2,000 words to an investigation of the rumor that Dunkin’ keeps Affleck’s order on file (a rep for the company said it does not). In 2021, after the actor was photographed balancing an iced coffee with his teeth while attempting to carry a bunch of packages, Vanity Fair asked, “Will the photos of Affleck drinking Dunkin’ ever get old?” (No.)
Perhaps the most iconic entry into the Affleck Runs on Dunkin’ Canon, however, is a photo that went viral in December 2020. Affleck, clad in a T-shirt that reads “BELIEVE IN BOSTON,” grimaces and struggles to hold onto several Dunkin’ iced coffees and a box of Munchkins. Many people felt the photo embodied the abysmal year. Didn’t we all feel like Affleck nearly dropping his coffees? For many, the sight of that iconic pink and orange logo in his hand was a security blanket during an exceptionally chaotic time.
But why do we love to celebrate Affleck’s Dunkin’ fandom? Taylor Swift is a Starbucks regular; Mindy Kaling and Jennifer Lawrence are McDonald’s girlies; Kim Kardashian and Chrissy Teigen are into Taco Bell. Respectfully, nobody cares. I grew up in Needham, Massachusetts (population: 31,000; three stores), and once dressed as Affleck dropping his coffees for Halloween. Suffice to say, I’ve given this question a lot of thought and believe it comes down to seven reasons.
We love an underdog.
It’s no coincidence that the actor’s coffee preferences piqued our interest when he was going through a difficult time. (This was, after all, after he got that back tattoo.) Similarly, Dunkin’ wins points for local charm, but it doesn’t have the same name recognition or prestige as, say, Starbucks. Rooting for Team Affleck-Dunkin’ simply feels good.
His loyalty is genuine.
Yes, Affleck reportedly signed an “over $10 million” deal with the breakfast brand earlier this year, but we know he isn’t selling out to rep a product he doesn’t believe in. For years, he gave Dunkin’ a golden Hollywood glow for free.
The Boston vibes are unparalleled.
Affleck was born in Berkeley, California, and raised in Falmouth and Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is an iconic symbol of what Vox senior culture editor Meredith Haggerty calls Boston Camp. She defines it as “anything that takes the elements of white ethnic working class identity … and typifies it to the point of parody. So Dunks, the Pats, package stores, parking lots, the more dour/Irish elements of Catholic iconography, really everything about Ireland, windbreakers … it’s ostentatiously suffering. It definitely involves shorts in winter and thinking anyone who likes California is a p*ssy.” Affleck once shut down the Gone Girl set for four days because he refused to don a Yankees cap — he’s Boston Camp personified.
“Being Bostonian is just a love of Dunkin’ Donuts,” Boston-based comedian Joe Fenti tells Bustle. “It’s really easy and digestible for people to see [him with it] and go, ‘Oh, yeah, that makes sense. This is his whole thing.’ It doubles down on that ideology that everyone from Boston loves Dunkin’.” Affleck is the local boy who made good.
Nostalgia is real.
I don’t have a neuroscience degree from Harvard, but even I can tell you that seeing Affleck drinking Dunkin’ subconsciously reminds you of how much you love Good Will Hunting and The Departed.
You can channel Affleck.
Affleck’s favorite large iced coffee goes for $4.09. At hoity-toity Starbucks, the same drink goes for nearly a dollar more, $4.75. Dunkin’s vibe is no frills — just about anyone can feel like a star for a day.
It fuels our parasocial relationship with him.
The actor’s beverage choice makes him seem more accessible, too. “I think Ben gets more out of these pap photos than Dunkin’ does … they make him seem normal (even though celebs are never, ever normal),” writer Allie Jones told Vulture in 2020. With the drink of the people in hand, he’s not just an A-lister or the record-holder for youngest person ever to win Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars. (It was for Good Will Hunting in 1997; he was 25.) No, he’s just our friend Ben who really, really loves iced coffee.
The Dunkaissance is real.
Is it a coincidence that Affleck faithfully slurped Dunkin’ daily for years and suddenly saw his luck turn around? Nineteen years after he and Lopez called off their wedding, they finally tied the knot in 2022. He reunited with his dream girl. That year, he also launched a production company called Artists Equity with his longtime friend and collaborator Matt Damon, and its future looks bright. I can’t prove that Dunks is responsible for any of it — but also, nobody can prove it’s not.