To make excuses for myself, it was a court case, and my perspective wouldn’t have made a difference — I’d have just been one of the thousands or more yammering on the internet about a trial. I’d been through this before, in the OJ Simpson case, where the cacophony of noise did not contribute to justice, but almost certainly skewed the fickle court of public opinion in unfavorable ways.
I’m speaking of the Amber Heard trial, which was decided yesterday in favor of Johnny Depp. I’ve avoided news of the case because enough snippets had leaked through to leave me sickened. On YouTube and social media, it was made clear that Depp was the affable rogue who made light of Heard’s case; Heard, on the other hand, was the conniving sociopath who could turn on the waterworks at an instant’s notice, and then, moments later, revert to stone-faced heartless bitch. Obviously, she was lying. Obviously, Captain Jack Sparrow was a misunderstood rascal.
Except…whenever I watched a clip of the trial, what I saw was a woman in pain, controlling herself because she didn’t want to play into the public perception of women as hysterical, while Depp was just an asshole. Even more poisonous was the Depp camp, which seemed to consist largely of the usual bros who were gleeful about an opportunity to shriek insults at a woman while not getting the usual social opprobrium. It was a repulsive spectacle. While I averted my eyes and avoided the trial news as much as I could, Rebecca Watson dug deeper, and I agree fully with her take.
Now the case has been settled. Depp won. This is going to have serious consequences.
…on Wednesday after a jury in Fairfax, Virginia, found Amber Heard guilty of defaming Depp in a 2018 op-ed for the Washington Post, in which she identified herself as a public face of domestic abuse survivors, without explicitly naming Depp. Despite presenting photos of her injuries, video recordings of Depp’s meltdowns, and witness testimony supporting her claims of abuse, Depp was awarded $10 million plus $5 million in punitive damages. Heard was also awarded $2 million for winning one point in her countersuit.
But in truth, the highly publicized trial was decided in the court of public opinion weeks ago. As it played out over the last few weeks, with people on social media overwhelmingly aligning with the beloved Pirates of the Caribbean star, millions of stans and even brands and celebrities have excoriated Heard and accused her of fabricating the allegations against Depp, causing hashtags like #AmberTurd and #JusticeForJohnnyDepp to trend worldwide.
“This is basically the end of MeToo,” Dr. Jessica Taylor, a psychologist, forensic psychology Ph.D., and author of two books on misogyny and abuse, tells Rolling Stone. “It’s the death of the whole movement.”
As the verdict came in, sexual assault survivors expressed their disappointment with the decision, even if they were not surprised by it. “I don’t think it’s unexpected. But it’s horrible,” says one survivor, who herself faced a defamation claim after coming forward against her own abuser (and requested her name be withheld for legal reasons). She says the claim was dropped, but that watching Heard be dragged through the mud during the trial brought back memories of her own experience, which she says was traumatic and led her to consider suicide.
“I feel really glad to think my case didn’t go ahead. And stupid to think I could have won it,” she says. “Men always win.”
And I kept my mouth shut throughout. I’m always disappointing myself.
Rebecca didn’t mention the one case that impressed me with her point, that I mentioned at the beginning: the “trial of the century”, the OJ Simpson murder trial, which OJ won, because “Men always win.” Even after brutally chopping up Nicole Brown Simpson, he got off.
Well, sort of.
We all knew he did it, and his behavior after the trial confirmed it. His career in movies was dead, and you can’t even watch his old movies anymore without cringing deeply. I’m sure not going to watch a Naked Gun movie, ever again. It’s a similar situation now; knowing that Johnny Depp is a wife-beating arrogant dudebro means I’m not going to ever be able to watch a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, or any movie starring Depp, without feeling a little bit of disgust at the main character.
Not that that could be the slightest consolation to Amber Heard or especially Nicole Brown Simpson. At least Heard has escaped without being stabbed to death. This verdict makes it a little less likely that other victims of domestic abuse will get away with their lives.