Obsessed, Everyone: The Celebrity Defamation Trial

Welcome to OBSESSED, in which I provide you a reading list / media consumption list that speaks to my primary hobby: doing obsessive amounts of research into a singular topic or story for no reason. This week the Amber Heard Johnny Depp trial verdict had some dire implications for us all.


I’m not obsessed with this story in the way I am with the other stories I’ve talked about here — I have no desire to pour over trial transcripts, to watch videos, to assemble a hot take. Even as I sit here typing these words my primary feeling is regret that I am doing this at all, because it is a topic that is fundamentally not my business yet has become all of ours and because I know better.

Because I believe categorically that it’s impossible for anybody besides the parties involved to know the total truth of any relationship, especially a toxic one, and I’m not sure how relevant the relationship between two celebrities can be to our own lives.

But I also believe from experience that being in an abusive relationship can warp your sense of yourself and of reality, that that kind of manipulation and control and fear can wear away at your brain until it breaks. It has been viscerally painful to see, used as evidence against her, Amber’s looping, desperate handwriting, infused with sweeping declarations of love and devotion to Depp, exaltations of his character and their partnership. Because I’ve written notes exactly like that — not because they were true but because I wanted them to be, because I needed to drag a person I loved out of the darkness and into the light, because telling the truth would’ve made the truth worse than it already was. And sometimes I wrote those notes because after being on the receiving end of so much manipulation, I became manipulative, too. And I can’t imagine being in that situation with an abusive partner who was as rich and as famous and as powerful as Johnny Depp.

Like so many others, I could not avoid news of this trial — I only learned it was taking place at all because the clips began invading my TikTok feed in April. These TikTok clips usually featured Johnny Depp being a heartless smartass, framed as clips of Johnny Depp being a heroic comedian. You’ve seen them. We’ve all seen them.

I was confused to find the comments on these clips filled with millions of Depp supporters, because from what I understood of the case, Amber Heard’s allegations had plenty of evidence to back them up. Her Washington Post editorial had been vetted by the ACLU and, you know, The Washington Post. When British tabloid The Sun called Johnny Depp a “wife beater,” he sued them for defamation and lost, despite the UK’s far less generous libel laws. I didn’t believe Amber Heard had a credible case because we should automatically “believe women” but because this case does not rely on one person’s word alone. There is a lot here. But pretty soon I learned — we all learned — that none of that really mattered.


I grew up with Johnny Depp. He had dreamy eyes and a lesbian haircut and dated our collective girlfriend Winona Ryder. He was in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape with our other girlfriend, Leonardo DiCaprio. We saw Benny & Joon at the movie theater in the mall and rented Ed Wood from the indie video store. But he was trouble. Everybody knew that.

Amber Heard came into our lives more recently, and landed on our radar here when she came out in 2010 — some years into her relationship with photographer Tasya Van Ree. Despite already having a pretty extensive acting resume, I knew her mainly as a face I’d seen on a lot of magazine covers including my folded fave, Missbehave. She appeared frequently in magazines like Maxim and FHM, the kind my ex-boyfriends read and left in the bathroom and that I’d read too because I was a Cool Girl. The same magazines likely read by the Depp fans who now curse her name. I wonder how many of them taped pictures of her in shimmering swimming pools upon the sloped ceilings that descended over their twin-sized beds.

We were all a little surprised that she’d come out because so few actors were taking that risk, then. With the complicated exception of Lindsay Lohan, she was arguably the most conventionally “Hollywood hot” actress to do so at that time. The week she came out, we interviewed her at a GLAAD event where she’d been invited to present an award. Speaking about her choice to come out despite the potential career risks, she said, “I’d rather go down for doing what’s right than to rise for doing what’s wrong.”

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 19: Actress Amber Heard (L) holds a protest sign with her girlfriend Tasya Van Ree (R) during a same-sex marriage advocates demonstration against the stay barring gay marriages on August 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. On August 4, District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled against Proposition 8 as unconstitutional, and after his ruling the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted proponents of Proposition 8 a stay on August 16. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA – AUGUST 19: Actress Amber Heard (L) holds a protest sign with her girlfriend Tasya Van Ree (R) during a same-sex marriage advocates demonstration against the stay barring gay marriages on August 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

And it is unfortunate that so many of the stereotypes popularly associated with bisexual women have been leveled against Amber Heard throughout this trial — unreliable, deceptive, dishonest, duplicitous. It is unfortunate to see similar claims being made about Evan Rachel Wood, another mainstream famous bisexual actress who dared to speak out against her abuser. I don’t know if Heard’s sexuality has influenced popular perception of her and if it has, that influence is likely subconscious. I don’t really know anything, I guess, besides that all of this makes me sad and a little scared.


Here is everything I read about this trial, in chronological order. If you want to read only one thing about this trial and not ten thousand things, I recommend this one thing.

The Trouble With Johnny Depp, by Stephen Rodrick for Rolling Stone (June 2018) – This is not about the trial, but this piece I read in 2018 stuck with me, ’cause I remember thinking it was a shocking account of an unhinged once-admired actor who was doomed to spend the latter half of his life destroying himself, after summarily destroying everybody close to him.

Depp seems oblivious to any personal complicity in his current predicament. Waldman seems to have convinced Depp that they are freedom fighters taking on the Hollywood machine rather than scavengers squabbling over the scraps of a fortune squandered.

A Complete Timeline of the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard relationship and Abuse allegations (April 2022) – A twitter thread from April that summarizes the allegations. Contains disturbing photographs.

A twitter thread explaining how this trial pushes back progress made against domestic abuse and sets the stage for those who want to destroy people who name their abusers, and earn support for doing so. It also gets into why he likely chose Virginia as the setting for his trail.

Johnny Depp Stans Are Being Fucking Weirdos, by Kent for Four Kents, May 2022 – This post assembles a lot of information usefully, including a timeline of Johnny Depp’s violent behavior prior to his relationship with Heard. There’s also a useful section on how, even if there’s truth to the allegation that there was some violent behavior on both sides, “mutual abuse is not a thing.” That section led me back in time to a piece from Wear Your Voice that describes how “situational violence isn’t the same as domestic violence.”

Fans cheer as actor Johnny Depp arrives for closing arguments in the Depp v. Heard trial at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 27, 2022. - Actor Johnny Depp is suing ex-wife Amber Heard for libel after she wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2018 referring to herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Fans cheer as actor Johnny Depp arrives for closing arguments in the Depp v. Heard trial at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 27, 2022. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

How We’re All Being Gaslighted by the Johnny Depp versus Amber Heard lawsuit, by Rebecca Davis for The Daily Maverick, May 2022: On how the trial, earning wall-to-wall coverage at “populist outlets” like tabloids and right-wing media and being warped by its uniquely wild social media coverage, is moving the trial into “the court of public opinion.” This piece handily summarizes the social media onslaught we all seemed to be experiencing.

The Amber Heard Trial is Not As Complicated As You May Think, by Jessica Winter for The New Yorker, May 2022 – “You don’t have to trust Amber Heard to look at twelve words in a newspaper column and wonder why they serve as an invitation to listen to her sobbing incoherently in an ugly argument with her unmoved spouse, or to read texts in which Depp calls her a “gold digging, low level, dime a dozen, mushy, pointless dangling overused flappy fish market.” “

Why the Depp-Heard trial is so much worse than you realize, by Aja Romano for Vox, May 2022“Most of the reporting on these memes has placed the blame for their sensationalist tone squarely on the evolution of fandom content creation. But recall that the white supremacist alt-right movement has a long history of memeifying everything they want to normalize and legitimize, and keep in the forefront of your mind that the alt-right latched onto this case as its bulwark long before fandom and the internet at large did. By now, after years of political disinformation campaigns, we’re used to social media’s natural ability to contort reality. Rarely, however, has it bent this far, this rapidly, for this many people, in service of something this vile.”

The Inescapable Horror of Depp v. Heard, by Lux Alptraum for The Cut, May 2022 – “Personally, the fire hose of trial coverage has been actively distressing. Not because Heard is being demonized by Depp’s fans, or because I fear my own abuser taking a cue from Depp and attempting to destroy me in court. For me, it’s the way a horrifically abusive relationship has been turned into fodder for jokes, memes, and deeply insensitive commentary — and the fact that no matter how hard I try, it all feels impossible to escape.”

Jury rules wife beater is bigger celebrity than beaten wife, by Ian MacIntyre for The Beaverton, June 2022 – Satire! It makes a point!

The Bleak Spectacle of the Amber Heard-Johnny Depp Trial, by Michael Hobbes for The Present Age, June 2022This is the best piece on the trial I’ve come across. It’s comprehensive, and full of links to evidence and other worthwhile reads. Michael Hobbes (of The Maintenance Phase podcast) on “How a washed-up celebrity, men’s rights activists and true crime stans convinced millions of Americans to buy into a conspiracy theory.”

The Depp defamation suit should outrage and appall you, by Jill Filipovic for The Guardian, June 2022“This verdict is perhaps the biggest blow to the #MeToo movement since its inception. And that’s true, again, even if you don’t believe Heard’s version of events: the lesson of this trial is that one can be as careful as possible in speaking out about abuse and still be financially gouged into silence.”

Depp-Heard trial: Why Johnny Depp lost in the UK but won in the US, by Robin Levinson-King for the BBC, June 2022Mark Stephens, an international media lawyer, told the BBC that it’s “very rare” that essentially the same case is tried on two sides of the pond and gets different results.He believes the main factor that influenced Mr Depp’s victory in America was the fact that his US trial was before a jury while his UK trial, over an article in the British tabloid that called him a “wife-beater”, was before a judge only.”

The Actual Malice of the Johnny Depp Trial, by AO Scott for The New York Times, June 2022 – “In his testimony, Depp copped to some bad stuff, but this too was a play for sympathy, of a piece with the charm and courtliness he was at pains to display. That he came off as a guy unable to control his temper or his appetites was seen, by many of the most vocal social media users, to enhance his credibility, while Heard’s every tear or gesture was taken to undermine hers. The audience was primed to accept him as flawed, vulnerable, human, and to view her as monstrous.”

The Amber Heard Verdict Was a Travesty. Others Will Follow, by Michelle Goldberg for The New York Times, June 2022 – On what this means for the First Amendment. Reading the comments on this piece made me want to swan-dive into the courtyard of the outdoor shopping mall I am sitting in right now but the piece itself is great.

Here’s A List Of All The Celebs Who Liked Johnny Depp’s Instagram Statement, by Kelsey Weekman for Buzzfeed, June 2 2022 – It also lists the celebs who liked Amber Heard’s post, although for some reason it hasn’t included model Corey Ray or actress Lucy Grace Barrett on Amber’s list. Regardless, the difference is… staggering.


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Riese

Riese is the 40-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in California. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2988 articles for us.

29 Comments

    • thank you for this, it’s an intense read

      also i did not realize that the full headline was “GONE POTTY How Can J K Rowling be “genuinely happy” casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?'”

    • We just gonna ignore that Heard is the only one proven to get physically aggressive with their significant other in a public setting?

      https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.newsweek.com/amber-heard-ex-tasya-van-ree-altercation-witness-beverly-leonard-johnny-depp-trial-1710390%3famp=1

      Doctors can testify about Depp’s severed finger, but none of the makeup artists, medical workers or law enforcement noticed injuries on Heard when she says they happened?

      They sound verbally toxic to each other, but conflating that to her being the one who suffered more is laughable. She literally laughed at him saying nobody would buy that she could be abusive to him because he was a man.

    • Multiple recordings of heard hitting but lied on stand. Called multiple witnesses lying on stand. Anyone ever leave turd in your bed. Did you even watch her trial performance, if you didn’t see her or hear her you are blind and deaf. Constant contradictions even her own lawyer objected. She stepped and trampled on real victims, women should be outragedone but that would hurt there cause so let’s ride the liers.

  1. Thanks so much for covering.

    I’ve really been struggling the last few weeks to identify what was needling (triggering?) me about the trial and especially people’s reactions to it. Including people in my direct environment who are seen as deeply caring and (due to the nature of our work) trauma/DV educated. A great deal of their reactions are without nuance, celebratory of Depp and incredibly harsh on Heard.

    I’ve been avoiding discussions around the case because something felt off to me and I didn’t feel there was a space to discuss or investigate that. I looked at some of the evidence. It doesn’t look great for either from an outside perspective. But I don’t know their relationship. I don’t know them. Who am I to try to undo the threads of a relationship that, at least at the surface, looks incredibly intricate, difficult to navigate and at the very least toxic to those involved? I get that this case isn’t appearing to the rest of the world as black and white as, say, MM’s abuse of ERW and others that have come forward, but still.

    I have my own experience. And I hesitate to use the term ‘abuse’ because it makes me feel like an imposter. I can identify the ways I manipulated them (like you mentioned) to try to make situations manageable or to try to control which version of them would walk into the room. I know which of my characteristics and trauma responses/attachment style made it easy for them and often I still believe that those characteristics and responses are the reason for their behaviour. That I made them into what they were towards me. That, without me, they wouldn’t have acted the way they did. As they would often also tell me, either directly or indirectly.

    It wasn’t until I read a Twitter thread that it dawned on me that that was a big part of my unease around the trial and its public nature. From what I understand, the trial was about an OpEd Heard wrote in which she used a term that felt right to her, in her experience, to recount said experience. Without naming Depp?
    And somehow this was enough for Depp to sue her for defamation and win. I already struggle to place a term on what happened to me due to guilt and imposter syndrome. Add to that the possibility of the person that I have avoided at all costs to be able to drag me back into the thick of things if I publicly use terminology they believe to be slanderous to describe my experience? Nah. I’ll pass.

    And my story is small. When I think about DV victims where children are involved. Where the level of abuse is far greater, the strength to break free much, much harder to find? About their abusers, especially narcissistic ones, being able to find a jury/court of public opinion to manipulate into unwittingly validating or even participating in their abuse? To be able to drag their victims into court, back into an environment where they can ascertain control again? Man… that’s what scares me about this case and especially its outcome.

    The reactions I’ve seen on social media and in the people around me have proven enough that swaying the public court of opinion is easy enough if you have the right reputation, the right amount of charm and control. I don’t know if Depp is fully that or if he is a victim in some ways. This is not a comment in defence of either Heard or Depp (again, I don’t feel I know enough to have an opinion there).
    But (future) victims, maybe especially women, definitely lost. And lost big. And all those people that I know to be kind, caring and DV/trauma educated, appear to be at least partially blind to this. They are, in fact, unknowingly celebrating this.

    THAT is scary af.

  2. I guess what I found really shocking but shouldn’t have was just how much lack of a support system she truly had even within her own community. The list of celebs who publicly support Depp is STAGGERING and a good majority of them are women. Like I don’t know how Heard moves forward from this professionally given the sheer amount of people who are against her and have tried to ruin her career. There is also another list besides the Buzzfeed one going around on twitter of all the celebs who reposted memes and videos throughout the trial mocking Heard. There is some overlap but a lot of those names are different.

    https://href.li/?https://twitter.com/starfallgoddess/status/1532206248443224064

    If anything I think this is going to embolden a lot of these abusive men in the industry to fight back even harder against their victims. Someone pointed out that Evan Rachel Wood, Megan the Stallion and FKA Twigs have court dates coming up and could be subject to the same kind of media circus and social media attacks.

    The Hollywood industry is not going to change when it comes to sexual harassment and abuse any time soon especially when they’ve got so many powerful enablers(many of them women) to prevent that from happening. Because it exposes a lot of the men they love and work with. But a slap at the Oscars was just SO traumatizing for them.

    I,myself, tried my best to avoid anything to do with this trial because its triggering but you could just not escape it if you spend any time online. These memes and videos would pop up on literally every social media platform whether you took precautions against it or not. Every single one. Even instagram if you made the mistake of visiting the explore page.

    This entire thing is going to have damaging, lasting effects on our society for years to come. I just know it. The point was to scare victims into being quiet and its seems like its been very successful.

    • Hello!

      I am not ashamed to say that I was seduced into closely following the trial by the sensation it stirred.
      Normally, i do find trial cases pretty dull but it took this sensation to draw me in and hook me so I did follow it closely.

      I would watch replays of the trial during me free time and it quickly replaced my TV time but i want to highlight that I DID follow it closely and i did see the witness testimonies for both sides along with arguments and expert witnesses.

      After the evidence, it does look like both individuals contributed to the toxic relationship. Depp does have a history with drugs, alcohol, tardiness on set and he absolutely has a foul mouth. Heard has had encounters with police for abuse on her previous ex-gf.

      She has CLAIMED of the “mountain of evidence” but after recycled pictures with a different filter as being posed as (2) separate pictures, among questionable evidence and witnesses that have never actually witnessed the abuse; that is suspicious. How can police and witnesses that are impartial to both parties claim the opposite to what Heard is claiming? She has CLAIMED that everybody has been lying except her and the evidence she’s presented does not hold?

      I’m sorry but no.

      If we’re talking about physical domestic abuse, there was only person who was the victim and it was not Depp. Emotional and mental abuse, however? Perhaps both but that was not proven nor disproven so who knows.

      I do agree that female domestic abuse victims have been set back. But not by the person you suggest it has.
      It has been Heard who has set us back by alleging lies and thinking she was able to get away with it.

      I am appalled that the ACLU and the Washington Post enabled this abuser to get a voice without first looking into it and fact checking. Heard did provide some “evidence” but it points to be manufactured. It was perhaps this “evidence” that convinced ACLU and Washington Post to give her a voice and that is terrifying.

      I have been a supporter of Autostraddle since i was in college and helped my when I was a baby gay and it saddens and shocks me that uninformed reporting is occurring within our community.

      I think that in this day of age where misinformation is rampant, that we are jumping to conclusions and falling prey and even becoming the exact animal we are trying to combat.

      It hurts to know that a queer woman is alleging this abuse when it’s all smoke and mirrors and has only resulted in the opposite effect she intended. Neither party is the hero here. But only party has disserviced true domestic abuse victims. As a former DV survivor, i would NEVER have acted the way she has nor used the particular tone, words, etc she has.

      Not only did DV victims lose the moment she began her lies but our LGBTQ+ community also lost and keeps losing with her continued, false rhetoric Autostraddle is choosing to stoke.

      • I think anyone who can look at Depp’s texts indicating a pattern of overt misogyny and see “just a poor wounded man venting his frustrations” is an absolute monster. And I think women who have responded to behaviour like this as “just a poor sad guy” have done more damage to the me too movement than anything Heard could have said.

      • Jessica, your comment is truly horrific. I do not believe you have been following the trial as closely as you say you have, given the staggering amount of misinformation in this post. That is, of course, unless you have been watching court proceedings exclusively via Tiktok. It is extraordinarily irresponsible to claim that their relationship was “mutually abusive” or mutually toxic, considering the massive power imbalance at play here. Amber Heard is not setting abuse victims back: you are, by policing her tone of voice, choice of words, etc. Survivors do not all act in one specific way. We should all know better than that by now.

      • I’m begging you to read the Michael Hobbes article in full.

        Or if that’s too difficult for you, here are Tasya van Ree’s own words:

        “van Ree said that Heard had been “wrongfully” accused, that the incident had been “misinterpreted and over-sensationalized” and that she recalled “hints of misogynistic attitudes toward us which later appeared to be homophobic when they found out we were domestic partners and not just ‘friends'”.

        Tasya and Amber have remained friends to this day. JD was incredibly jealous of their friendship – one of the many ways he was insecure, jealous, biphobic and controlling. So stop lying and do your research.

      • On top of everyone else who replied to you, the trial was not ‘who is the victim here’. The trial was if Amber Heard defamed Depp with her essay where she didn’t even fucking name him. The jury even agreed that Heard was defamed when Depp’s lawyer said she made everything up. So, in other words, the jury agreed that Heard was abused but she just can’t talk about it.

        You fell hook, line and sinker for Depp’s legal abuse tactic and are further victimizing Heard.

  3. Thank you for writing this I was hoping for an autostraddle perspective. My partner became obsessed with watching the trial early on, and as it progressed so did I.

    I don’t know much about the intracacies of the UK trial, but watched nearly every minute of the US. It created a sickening feeling for me as well as I wanted to believe Amber, but after countless hours and second guessing depp’s teams intentions, the evidence, her witnesses, and her personal testimony itself just felt completely off.

    Regardless of my opinion and noting the staggering difference in monetary means that played into and I’m sure absolutely effected each sides case, the public scrutiny and grotesque display online was by far the worst part. Right or wrong, true or false Amber pays this price regardless of the outcome here.

  4. Riese, I’d been digging through your archive of 2010 coverage of her these past few weeks to recall my wide-eyed optimism about her career possibilities at that time. The Playboy Club was so schlocky, but as you noted at the time, it was also TV for ~Ladies~. So she was permitted to play with a range of emotions and struggles, rather than just aesthetically supporting some male lead’s narrative journey.

    I can’t stop thinking about the elision between the limited, superficial roles she’s had to play in adolescent male movies due to lack of alternative and how that role has now carried over into the public sphere.

    • yes, this – “I can’t stop thinking about the elision between the limited, superficial roles she’s had to play in adolescent male movies due to lack of alternative and how that role has now carried over into the public sphere.”

      it’s funny i saw your tweet the other day about women directors hiring amber heard, because i’d said something similar in slack a few days before — that maybe now that she’s been shunned by all of hollywood, she’d start showing up in niche arthouse queer movies because those could be the only directors left who might be down to give her a shot.

  5. Everything I learned about this trial while it was ongoing has been against my will. I truly resented that so many people around me, including family, friends, and strangers, demanded that I have a take or “choose a side” of this giant unknowable thing. Especially when putting together a take is informed by all of my personal history with domestic violence and abusive dynamics in relationships, the “casual” celebrity drama conversation that ruled everyday interactions for the past number of weeks turned real personal real fast for me, and it was exhausting.

  6. It has been chilling over the last few years trying to convince relatives that their anti-vaccine arguments have no basis in reality, because conspiracy theories are totally unfalsifiable. No source is good enough, no study can’t be written off as secretly faked by Big Pharma. Same with QAnon and now this case. All of the verified evidence against Depp is treated as less credible than his lies. Everything Heard does or does not do is proof that she is the protagonist from Gone Girl but it’s cool for Depp to fantasize about raping her corpse. People believe she cut his finger in a way that’s physically impossible, ignoring medical notes. The ACLU says she did nothing wrong with her pledge, doesn’t matter. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

    • right! it has begun to feel like just another one of those insane conspiracy theories that no logic or fact can defy. the comments of every single piece i’ve ever read, depp fans just keep reminding us of that one recording of her talking about how nobody will believe that she hurt him, as if that is literally the only piece of evidence introduced in this trial.

      to actually find out that the ACLU has said she did nothing wrong with her pledge, you have to like, dig into the material. everything that’s been widely distributed just treats that as a “gotcha” moment.

      • So many gotcha moments, and that recording was deliberately edited and leaked by Adam Waldman (a deeply corrupt man) to damage her reputation ahead of the trial. The majority don’t even know what the full audio says or the context behind it – it’s her fighting back, out of frustration, telling him sarcastically that she’s sure everyone will believe it’s a ‘fair fight’ because he’s bigger and stronger. She was mimicking his speech pattern by saying ‘man’. She did not say ‘A man’. She in no way said ‘you won’t be believed because you’re a man’. Unfortunately people were all too willing to take it at face value and are too stupid, lazy and stubborn to do their own research.

  7. As a millennial, this trial has felt a bit like that moment in 2016/17 when our parents’ generation started being radicalised by Facebook. The number of people who followed “content” about the trial on YouTube and TikTok, and the number of people my age who have outright said “I get my news about this on TikTok, here’s a series of TikToks with no references about why you’re wrong to believe Heard’s allegations of abuse”, has been really disturbing. Without fail, every single one of these people has moved on to sharing overtly misogynistic TikToks making fun of her testimony. It’s a pipeline and it feels obvious, and it’s sad to me that a generation who’ve spent 5+ years angry at how false news pushed their parents further right haven’t noticed that it’s happened to them.

    I don’t believe we’ll ever know the full extent of what went on with their relationship, but the treatment of Heard on social media is worse than any of the male monsters convicted of worse crimes in the last few years. There was none of this energy for Nassar or Weinstein or Epstein. No one jumped at the chance to make TikToks of Nassar crying in court, but a woman on a stand crying while testifying about sexual assault is apparently fair game. The number of people outright refusing to acknowledge that the treatment of Heard is a level of cruelty completely disproportionate to her alleged crimes is fucking despicable, and if you talk about it you get told “you just don’t care about male victims”. I didn’t realise caring about male victims meant sharing memes about an alleged abuser rather than pointing people towards resources, helping fund shelters, reading around the subject to be well-informed. “You just don’t care about male victims” feels like the new “it’s about ethics in video game journalism”.

    Thanks for the link roundup, Riese, this is brilliant.

  8. Thanks for this article. I found this spectacle nauseating, and felt instinctively sad for and protective of Amber Heard. I refuse to spend enough time watching the trial itself to make any credibility judgments, so I cannot by any means offer an informed opinion, but from my outside perspective the trial itself was a horrendous kind of abuse perpetuated by Johnny Depp. Regardless of what happened in their relationship, to force someone to publicly defend themselves humiliating detail by detail years later to no real end other than working up the public into a frenzy and suing for money that you don’t need is abusive, and I need no further proof. Yes, he had a reputation to salvage, but there are much simpler and less destructive ways to do that than this horror show.

    • “Regardless of what happened in their relationship, to force someone to publicly defend themselves humiliating detail by detail years later to no real end other than working up the public into a frenzy and suing for money that you don’t need is abusive, and I need no further proof.”

      Yep! Like his career arguably wasn’t impacted by this at all (his on-set behavior was already a problem) and if it actually was, whatever impact it had would’ve faded quickly, like it has for all men with his level of fame and power. Clearly he has an enormous fanbase who already was on his side before any of this.

  9. Thanks for this. I have not been a victim of Domestic Violence, but the covering of the trial has been if not triggering at least disturbing for me. I have had the same feeling I had during the coverage of the 2016 USA election…that despite whatever truth there was behind, the circus and the permanent framing of the woman as the liar was going to have terrible consequences…and unfortunately once again I have been right.
    I’m extremely sad for Amber, I think she is suffering her worst nightmare just now. I would like to see her appealing, but I also know that is very difficult for that to happen given the conditions that apply. I would give money if she asked for it, but I know there would be a lot of criticism if she does so. I’m truly lost about what the right thing to do is now.

  10. The number of terrible men who are now using defamation to attack their victims/others is shocking. From Marilyn Manson to Kyle Rittenhouse. And just the depth of people’s depravity in how they treated Amber Heard pisses me off so badly.

  11. This trial was a depraved and corrupt circus. I cannot believe it was allowed to be televised, and with all the misinformation and meme-ification online, that the jury were not sequestered. JD is a proven wife beater, with a history of violent, jealous and controlling behaviour going back decades. Not to mention his racism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

    Amber has just become a human target for people to justify their hatred of women. She will appeal, according to her lawyer, and I hope this time around the legal system doesn’t fail her.

  12. I avoided this spectacle as much as possible – read this article for some intelligent analysis. Thank you.
    I survived an abusive relationship. Fifteen years later, I’m still recovering from it. It was never a black-and-white situation where she was the abuser and I was the victim – it was much more complicated. Real life usually doesn’t behave like a Hollywood movie.

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