If you keep up with tabloid stories, you have probably read that Jennifer Aniston is back together with Brad Pitt, and is now pregnant for at least the dozenth time in the past few years, despite her own insistence that these are merely public misconceptions about her private life.
“Every week I get these emails, ‘We’re working on a story that Jennifer is pregnant,’” her publicist, Stephen Huvane, told the New York Times. “I will say, ‘This is a complete fabrication. There’s no truth to this or this is all ridiculous and completely false.’ And they still go with the story.”
Indeed, the Times points out, rumors about Aniston being pregnant have persisted for years — thanks to a tabloid algorithm that fuels a narrative about Aniston as a likable, but hapless, childless woman.
“With Jennifer Aniston, you have to start with the fundamental thing that people like her, and they’re pulling for her,” Larry Hackett, former People editor, told the Times. “They would like to see her have the baby, because they’re operating under this archaic, old-fashioned notion that without a baby she must be unhappy.”
Essentially, people love Jennifer Aniston, and they want to see the poor woman “win” (a portrayal that dates back at least to her divorce from Brad Pitt and ensuring media-created “rivalry” with Angelina Jolie). And winning, to many people, involves a baby — hence, the celebrity gossip machine that continues to churn out “it’s a girl for Jennifer!” stories every few weeks.
Janice Min, a former Hollywood Reporter editor, told the Times that this kind of investment in a narrative is what fuels the “algorithmic behavior” that tabloids can adopt to sell stories, even if everyone knows these stories are fake.
“Whether politics or celebrity, narratives are what matter to people — the details often don’t,” she said.
It is, the Times adds, a behavior prevalent in the era of Donald Trump, where plenty of people are willing to buy into an idea of the president being unfairly hunted down in Robert Mueller’s investigation, despite evidence of Russia’s efforts to make sure Trump won the 2016 election.
And so, the algorithm cycle beats on: Everything is just fine in America, and Jennifer Aniston is pregnant yet again.