Monday, June 19, 2023

Depp/Heard Drama in Retrospect: Will Social Media Apologize Yet? (WITH SOURCES, YOU ASSHATS)

While it was a defamation trial, the internet and various news outlets turned it more into a public abuse trial, picking through Amber Heard and Johnny Depp’s 2-year marriage. My interest, and therefore this blog post, has much more to do with that larger cultural phenomenon. I will not pick apart various pieces of evidence as though I could determine a different outcome – that was the jury’s job and they made their decision. If you wanna go there, message me. Moving on.

“Why do you care? This case has nothing to do with anything in your life.”

Two main reasons. First, I think it does have to do with us because it was a giant cultural phenomenon that resonated with a lot of people. Sure, Johnny and Amber might not personally have any impact on most people’s lives, but the case triggered something deeply rooted in the cultural consciousness that I think is worth looking at. The sheer level of venom it created online to the point of mockery of serious allegations is, I think, definitely worth talking about.

I also want to be clear that, obviously, men can be victims of domestic violence and that should be acknowledged. Obviously. But if we were looking for some sort of high-profile legal case to prove it, this ain't it.

“But he won the case!?”

First, for this case, the jury actually found them both guilty of defamation. Since his net worth and general earnings are significantly more than Amber’s, it makes sense that he would be awarded more since his loss of earnings would have been significantly more than hers.

He also lost pretty much the exact same case in the UK in 2020, after he tried to sue The Sun for calling him a “wife-beater.” A judge, rather than a jury, ruled that 10 of the 14 abuse claims were proven. The BBC has a great article on why the two trials ended so differently.

I would certainly agree that he was successful in covering up the verdict from the UK trial and pushing for the Virginia one to be broadcast.

“I watched the whole trial and can tell you, she is definitely the abuser.”

I think watching the actual thing you are commenting on should be a default before pretending to have any sort of authority, but alas, that is not the world we live in. Props to you for sticking around for the whole thing. However, I came to different conclusions.

If she had just taken some level of accountability, it would be a different story.

She did acknowledge her awful behaviour. Both during the trial and after the trial.

Conversely, have you seen or read a single word of accountability from Johnny? In the words of that Rolling Stone article Johnny himself has praised, “[he] seems oblivious to any personal complicity in his current predicament.”

“If this many people watched the court case and came to the same conclusions, that clearly indicates something.”

People follow live-broadcasted court cases and jointly come to misunderstood conclusions all the time. Take, for example, how people responded to the defense council during the trial for the Parkland massacre. An investigation after the trial found that the judge acted improperly by allowing improper testimony (starting at 4:30) against the defense council, wrongly accusing the defense lawyers of threatening her children, and unfairly chastising them. And yet, take a moment to read the comments on just about any related video. The vitriol is almost always directed toward the defense council. Given the horror of the event caused by their client, it makes sense that ordinary people could jump to the conclusion that anyone “defending” him are horrible people, but that certainly doesn’t make it so. The state has an obligation to provide a defense and this is a pretty clear example of when public perception of a judicial incident isn’t necessarily on par.

(Also, the trial of the Parkland shooter is a-whole-nother can of worms I’d be happy to write a separate blog post on, but that one just didn’t seem to expand much further than the YouTube comments. Prooobably because it’s much clearer who’s to blame when it’s a literal mass shooting with video evidence, a confession, and a guilty plea).


“They were probably both abusive to each other.”

I hate this one. So much. Because, yes, the fact that this is probably true PROVES MY ENTIRE POINT. I mean, if someone isn’t paying attention to the trial at all, then fine – it feels like a neutral statement acknowledging the probable faults of both parties during a messy relationship. Fair. From a distance, the statement is harmless.

But as for those who did follow along a bit more and did acknowledge/take part in the Amber-directed vitriol, do you not notice the imbalanced media coverage at all? Seriously. If you believe this, then welcome to the club – care to join the cause as well?

Why is Johnny’s victimhood the only one worth acknowledging? Why is what Amber went through not worth acknowledging simply because “she was abusive too”? Why are people able to see past Johnny’s flaws and imperfections but relentlessly cling to Amber’s?

There is an idea in criminology called “the perfect victim,” in which women often do not receive compassion unless they perfectly fit the observer’s definition of a defenseless victim. It’s one of the reasons rape victims who also engage in prostitution are often not taken seriously – they don’t fit the required persona of the “perfect, helpless victim.” This idea is misogynistic, sick, and so very much on display here.


“She was acting the whole time she was on the witness stand.”

Newsflash: they were both acting! Seriously. They are both public figures having their libel hearing live broadcast to millions of viewers while being physically in front of an entire courthouse full of Johnny Depp fans. They both gave long-winded 10-minute answers to so many questions and Johnny was funny and endearing on the witness stand – like, who does that?


AND FINALLY, a few reasons I think people are giving Depp WAY too much credit.

      1. Johnny Depp is notorious for filing ill-fated legal claims in various attempts to save his image.

Johnny has a long reputation on spending millions on attorney’s fees to “bail him out of numerous legal crises and pay hush money.”

      2. He chose to force this one against his former partner who had already moved on with her life.

She first claimed abuse and was granted a restraining order in 2016. They divorced and released their joint statement later that same year, confirming that her abuse claims were not fabricated.

The infamous Rolling Stone article, which Johnny’s lawyer had requested, was released in November 2018. It described financial incompetence, narcissism, drug-addiction and incoherent lifestyle disabling him from taking on film roles, and an “aging manchild” who is a “decent facsimile” to Elvis’ last days. It’s not exactly someone who has their shit together.

Amber’s article came out several months after the Rolling Stone article, and she is certainly much less famous than Rolling Stone.

Since then, Amber moved on: she was able to have a child and partially escape the public eye. Uuuntil Johnny came back.

     3. He also requested cameras to be allowed in the courtroom, full knowing that would force Amber to testify to everything she experienced on what would essentially become live television.

He is an endearing, likeable actor who is extremely good at making viewers empathize with him. Public perception is his jam, and a live broadcast of his trial is the perfect way to do that, regardless of

He was obviously well aware of what her testimony was, considering he had already tried and lost almost the exact same case. Seemingly kind and gentle people can do awful and violent things when they get into a twisted state, and there is no doubt in my mind that includes Johnny. But forcing Amber to relive it in front of the world? Heck not just that, but forcing her to relive it while physically staring at a crowd of obvious Johnny Depp fans?? No shit Amber’s lawyers fought hard to prevent this.

     4. He deliberately filed in Virginia because California (where they both live, divorced, and where it would make more sense to sue her) has strong anti-SLAPP laws.

       If you can, gotta jinx the system, hey?

5. It was perfectly timed with the end of the #metoo movement and in the wake of its backlash.

Granted, this one is my own speculation, but it’s got some solid supporters. There were a whole lot of people feeling uncomfortable with the conversation focusing on how many women are victims of sexual abuse. Additionally, and bizarrely, the increase in women’s voices caused many men to feel victimized. There were also more people speaking about how we need more male voices within the #metoo movement - that's fair. In the latter half of 2019, around the same time Johnny filed this lawsuit against Amber, many more people were starting to recognize this increasing backlash against the movement as well as the push for more male voices. It was exactly the right time to jump on both the anti-#metoo bandwagon and the push to acknowledge male victims of domestic violence. The perfect time to save his image... at the expense of Amber and probably many other women who want to speak out about their experiences but don't have the resources that Amber did.

6. He was never even seen as an abuser.

Even after Amber released the article in 2018, most online references to her were negative; here’s an article from 2020 trying to explain it. People are so eager to see younger women as “conniving gold-diggers”, especially when one of their favourite public figures could potentially be a “victim” (skipping over the weirdness that society likes to blame the women in those relationships rather than the creepy and powerful old man).

The vast majority of people were never going to believe Amber. And heck, that’s literally what her article was about. The sheer irony that her article is now even truer than ever… is sadly lost on so many.


At the end of the day, while the tides are currently in Johnny’s favour, I have no doubt that will change again. He is the same man who caused his original downfall and I see absolutely zero evidence that he will be any different. What is heartbreaking to me is that by the time that happens, people will probably forget all about Amber Heard and how he tore her down just to momentarily have his image restored