Amber Heard is back in the news again, for no fault of hers. As she reprises her role as Mera in Aquaman 2, Jason Momoa allegedly dressed up as Depp on sets around her. While representatives have ditched said allegations (Jason Momoa’s naturally dresses like that, apparently), Heard has constantly said that Momoa and were never keen on her being a part of the film since her timelessly famous legal battle with Johnny Depp went public.
The Depp vs. Heard trial was easily one of the most watched live events of 2022 – yes, we’re calling a televised court hearing a live event – and will remain in the good memory for the scores of people that watched it. Such was its popularity that a defamation case, linked to domestic violence claims, became something that was to be binge-watched to catch up. Depp won, and has escaped the spotlight. Heard, however, is not faring so well, as it happens with women who step up for themselves after facing abuse.
If you go through all the events of the trial, it turns out that the only person who was always going to benefit from this was Depp. He was the one who suggested that cameras be brought in in the first place, and not Amber. That courtroom became the talk of the year in the following few months of the trial. Because of the exceedingly overwhelming support that Depp enjoys from women, and men, Amber truly lost the trial before it even began. Because this was not just a room full of 50 or so people watching her – this was scores of Depp enthusiasts watching from back home, simply to scour gossip and spew hatred.
How a defamation case, about domestic violence allegations, becomes an essential pop culture moment is a very interesting field of study. Not many even knew of this case ever since Heard got herself a restraining order against her ex-husband. She made only some tabloid headlines after being in public with wounds on her face – all of these were not noteworthy enough to make even a dent in her career. Her story was second-handedly reported by the controversial British tabloid, The Sun. Heard’s accounts remain similar to her US testimony, and Depp sued the tabloid over the article. In a very shocking turn of events, Depp actually lost this case, where the judge found him guilty and vetted the occurrence of 12 of the 14 incidents of violence mentioned in the article.
This case was not for the world to see, and is consequently not cared about by the raving, content-hungry, bored social media users. The Depp vs Heard docuseries on Netflix explores how shamelessly the world of these people watched the trial and shed their very learned commentary on it – only, and only, for content. Whether they accept it or not – men’s right activists are part of this weird audience – they were not going to miss the chance of a lifetime to generate content worthy of billions of views. Here is case that deals with incidents that are very bizarre and quite unsettling, and should have ethically not been allowed to be broadcasted. But this was just Heard and Depp’s mess to deal with, now out of the whole world to gawk at. And Depp very efficiently asserted that he had no hand in it. People have to understand that celebrities and legalities are a combination that could prove detrimental to their career – it’s why lawyers in Hollywood get paid so much. One thing is for sure – Depp’s counsel was flawless in their efforts.
Much of the case’s popularity was because of parody videos and memes made largely for Heard’s humiliation. The phrase “My dog stepped on a bee,” was the catchphrase of the summer. While scores of netizens laughed at videos of Heard crying, they also made emotional videos when Johnny Depp implies that he was the victim, especially with the shortened finger. The internet was absolutely berserk with hate for Amber and unadulterated love for Johnny. Legal experts on social media broke down proceedings for the world to understand. More than understanding, the larger audience was simply relying on the goldmine of humorous content that came from the trial. There is a famous clip of Depp laughing and doodling amidst court proceedings – which fans took as a ‘badass’ attitude to be in. It’s also ironic how millions supported Britney Spears when she fought for an end to her conservatorship, and a very comparable size of people were all up against Amber. Had Amber been making these allegations against someone who wasn’t Johnny Depp, she might have had a good share of public opinion swinging her way.
Heard became the town clown for no fault of hers. She was not seen as a woman with false claims of abuse, she was also blamed to be the abuser. The dynamic she shared with Depp was obviously not like every other lovey-dovey pair in Hollywood. When audio clippings of her seeming to have hit Johnny and asking him to “grow up” were made public, there was no going back for Heard. Heard is 22 years younger than Depp, and a difference in their mental age as well. People now tend to forget an equally questionable video (recorded by Heard) of Depp, where he is clearly seen slamming cabinets and throwing things around. The scores of horrendous texts about Amber written by Depp have also been ignored. Amber has since been a difficult choice for casting, and has less work falling her way – her role in Aquaman 2 was close to be cut off. Meanwhile, Johnny Depp had a fantastic time at Cannes for his film Jeanne Du Barry.
If there is anyone to blame here, it is the public. This was a high profile case in seemingly nowhere, and the extreme exodus of support for Depp is undoubtedly a factor in the jury’s decision. This was not a courtroom trial – it became one of the biggest media trials in history. The vast majority of the world had already decided that Heard was lying – her crying at every description of abusive incidents was fake, the injuries were fake, and the fact that she did not seem as shaken as other assault survivors were proof enough. The same allegations were heard in the UK court back in 2020, and Heard turned out to be the victor. Then why is it that the exact opposite happened in the US court?
The jury was also formed of 5 men and 2 women, which is concerning for a case that deals with allegations of sexual assault. They weren’t sequestered away, as is the usual practice of a jury hearing. Despite the judge’s instructions on no interactions with the media at all, it is extremely unlikely that the jurors were not affected by the steady stream of hate for Amber. By this point, the public had already deemed Amber as guilty – and would go to fearsome limits if the decision was announced otherwise. In a world where Johnny Depp lovers can easily decimate those who were skeptic of him, and also Amber in some cases, the jury ruled that Depp was the saint that the world claimed him to be.
In all, perhaps Amber could have done with a better legal defense. They were no match to Depp’s extremely organized and shrewd team that left no stone unturned in changing Amber’s character in the public forever. It is hard to see someone you idolize be capable of committing flaws like these, that change your perception of them. Survivors who were also critical of Heard forget that even though domestic violence has a pattern, the story of each survivor is unique to them. Only disillusioned people will truly see that the verdict makes it no better for sexual assault cases, especially for women.