When it comes to feuds, celebrities vs. tabloids is all-too-common — stars routinely talk about how they’re disgusted by tabloid rumors. Of course, it’s all a delicate balancing act, because those same famous folks will often rely on celebrity weeklies to boost their profile.
So there’s often an interesting dynamic at play, where the celebrities pretend not to acknowledge that tabloid coverage fuels their fame and, as a result, don’t make it a common practice to call out a specific publication unless it’s a truly egregious claim. Sometimes they’ll allude to a rumor that they want to smack down (Taylor Swift: “As my 25th birthday present from the media, I’d like for you to stop accusing all my friends of dating me.”), but it’s rare to see a celebrity and a tabloid go head to head.
So it was all the more surprising on Wednesday when Jennifer Garner unleashed a critical Facebook post against People magazine, which just put Garner on its next cover, touting the 45-year-old actress’s “Life After Heartbreak” following her divorce from Ben Affleck.
— People Magazine (@people) May 31, 2017
The story itself isn’t an interview with Garner — it quotes nameless “insiders” and “sources” about how she’s moving on after her split with Affleck, even though the couple has been apart for nearly two years. So nothing juicy. The lead quote is “This has really been the most difficult decision for her. But it’s time to focus on the future.”
Garner was not pleased.
“It has been brought to my attention that there is a People magazine cover and article out today that appear to be coming from me. It isn’t unusual for me to receive calls from loved ones thinking I forgot to tell them I am pregnant — with twins! — (Geez Louise), but those are so ridiculous they’re easy to ignore,” she wrote. “This isn’t a tragedy by any measure, but it does affect me and my family and so, before my mom’s garden club lights up her phone, I wanted to set the record straight: I did not pose for this cover. I did not participate in or authorize this article. While we are here, for what it’s worth: I have three wonderful kids and my family is complete.”
It’s a brilliantly savvy statement, reminding readers that Garner is just like them (her mom is in a garden club!) and that she’s routinely hounded by false reports (like being pregnant with twins). She even threw in a folksy “Geez Louise” for good measure.
So why is Garner taking the unusual step of speaking up? Usually when a celebrity goes after a specific tabloid, it’s because they’re suing them (like Blake Shelton did, when In Touch Weekly said he had a drinking problem) or genuinely furious (like George Clooney, when the Daily Mail made some dangerous claims about his fiancee).
Now, Garner seems especially irritated that it looks like a posed photo shoot, which wrongly signals to readers that they’re about to get exclusive Garner content in this story. Reading between the lines: She isn’t the type of celebrity who sits for just any cover — her brand is more valuable than that. (Bustle’s take: “Jennifer Garner Issues A Strong Reminder That She’s In Charge Of Her Narrative.”)
This isn’t the first time a People cover implies it has more information than the story reveals — a couple years ago the magazine splashed Blake Lively on their cover that seemed to promise insider details about her life as a new mom, but the interview appeared to take place before she even gave birth.
The magazine offered a flat statement after Garner’s Facebook post: “People covers Hollywood stars beloved by our audience, and our story on Jennifer Garner is fair and truthful. To be clear, it does not include rumors and does not say she’s pregnant. We wish her well.”
As the Cut’s Allie Jones analyzed, the most interesting element is that until now, People was a very Garner-friendly outlet; she and Affleck routinely gave exclusive scoops to the magazine, which carefully covered their divorce in a more positive light than other tabloids. “This happy symbiotic relationship may be all over now,” Jones wrote.
And frankly, one reason that it’s a celebrity taboo to call out the tabloids is that they commonly have all the dirt. “The remaining question,” Jones speculated. “Now that Garner is walking away from People, what will People’s editors do with all the information they surely have but have not published about Affleck and the divorce?”