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November 22, 2004

Study: Ben Affleck's two facial expressions "natural"

BERKELEY, CA -- Researchers at the University of California in Berkeley reignited the age-old "nature or nurture" debate today by announcing the results of a year-long study into Ben Affleck's facial expressions.

The researchers claim the study, which will be published in a peer-reviewed journal within the next six months, proves that both Affleck's facial expressions -- "determined" and "confused" -- are the result of genetics rather than rearing.

The two faces of Ben Affleck: top, determined, from Daredevil; middle, confused, from Gigli; bottom, determined and confused, also from Gigli

"Since [Affleck] first burst zit-like onto the scene with Good Will Hunting I've wondered what caused his astonishing lack of emotional range," said project lead Dr David Fisker. "Now, thanks to our hard work over the last year, I can rest easy. It's a good feeling."

Fisker explained that all available evidence indicates the 32-year-old actor has just two facial configurations, one expressing determination and the other expressing confusion.

"He can do a mix of both, too, and look determined yet confused or confused yet determined, but that doesn't really count," said Fisker.

After a frame-by-frame analysis of all of Affleck's movies to date the team presented their proposal to the Department of Health and Human Services, where it was determined sufficient evidence existed for the team to receive government funding.

With the financial backing in place the team began interviewing Affleck's friends and family to determine if his facial expressions off-screen were as staggeringly restricted as on.

Matt Damon, co-author with Affleck of Good Will Hunting and long-time "close acquaintance" of the emotionally limited actor, confirmed their hypothesis.

"It's true, yeah. He's like that all the time," said Damon. "It was great when we were writing [Good Will] Hunting though because if I needed, say, determined dialog I'd just give him a jar to open and I'd be inspired by his face."

The researchers then moved on to addressing their most important question: is Affleck's inability to adopt a facial arrangement other than determined or confused a result of his genes or his childhood?

"We really had no idea when we started," said Dr Peter Ferguson, the team's head anthropologist. "It could've gone either way. So naturally the first thing we did was visit with his parents in Cambridge [Massachusetts]."

The researchers soon discovered compelling evidence for the theory that Affleck's condition is genetic.

"It was obvious from the very moment we met [Affleck's parents]," said Ferguson. "We were startled to discover that Ben's father, Tim, only ever looks confused, and his mother, Chris, only ever looks determined."

Both elder Afflecks suffer from a medical condition known as monoris (literally, "single face") which is exceptionally rare in the United States.

Research in the 70s and 80s proved to most doctors' satisfaction that the condition is genetic, with a single sufferer having a 25% chance of passing it on to their children.

Ben Affleck, though, is believed to be the first child ever conceived by two monoris sufferers.

"His case is remarkable, to be sure," said Fisker. "It seems that when both parents carry the monoris gene it's possible that their offspring can inherit not just the disease itself but also a combination of his or her parents' only possible facial expressions."

This explains, according to the study, how the younger Affleck is capable of both determination and confusion, and also why the team didn't consider monosis as a possibility in the first place.

"I'm not... Er... Wait... What?" said the constantly befuddled Tim Affleck in a telephone interview yesterday.

"The... No... Hang on. It's like... Ummm... I don't... Sorry. I'll start again," he added.

Chris Affleck declined to comment by phone, instead opting to respond to halfacanuck's queries through her attorney, David Bauer.

"Chris is determined to see her son through this ordeal," said Bauer today. "She has absolutely no intention of becoming lackadaisical in that regard. She couldn't be more driven in her desire to see him succeed despite his condition. Chris is absolutely hell-bent on being there for Ben, and has been single-mindedly unfaltering in that goal since his affliction became apparent, at which point she swore a blood oath to be utterly firm that she be unwaveringly resolute and purposeful in her doggedly stubborn show-no-mercy take-no-prisoners no-holds-barred iron-clad support for her son. She's quite determined about it really."

But in their study the researchers conclude that further investigations into Ben Affleck's unique condition are necessary.

"We've only just begun to scratch the surface of his almost total lack of facial talent," said Fisker. "The work has just started for us."

When contacted by halfacanuck Affleck initially expressed confusion as to why his woefully inadequate front-of-head contortions were "even newsworthy," but then said he was "absolutely immovable in [his] steadfastness" not to let his condition affect his surprisingly successful career.

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