In the defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, many are certain: Heard is a perpetrator and Depp is her victim. Analysis of a misogynistic campaign.
Fairfax – During cross-examination of Johnny Depp in the Virginia courtroom, the attorney conducting the interrogation read out a text message the Oscar-nominated actor wrote about his ex-wife Amber Heard: “Hope this cunt’s body is decomposing in the damn.” Trunk from a Honda Civic.”
The Depp and Heard defamation trial can be seen livestreamed on YouTube and the comments below the clip laughed at the text message. “LOL Honda Civic,” said one. Most of these comments are pro-Johnny Depp and anti-Amber Heard. The trial is widely followed in the media and online, with a flood of pro-dork articles, comments and hashtags. They spread the narrative that Depp should finally get “justice”: #JusticeforJohnny dominates the internet. And the facts that speak for Depp’s guilt are hidden.
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: What is the trial about?
The two actors are currently on trial because Depp filed a $50 million defamation lawsuit against Heard in response to a 2018 Washington Post op-ed in which Heard wrote about her experiences with domestic violence . While Heard didn’t name Depp in her article, Depp’s team claims that it was about him and that the article cost Depp his career.
Heard has since filed a counterclaim for $100 million in damages, which the jury will also consider. Both reject allegations of abuse. It’s not the first time Heard and Depp have found themselves in court. Depp and Heard’s difficult marriage ended in 2016 and has been a hit with the tabloids for years.
All against Amber Heard – and for Depp
Many viewers have already decided that Depp is the real victim. “I want to hug him and tell him everything will be fine,” it says on TikTok. Comments on the live stream of the trial refer to Heard as a “monster” and a “liar.” Viewers accuse her of being “manipulative, calculating and a con man”, of “faking” crying in the courtroom and of looking “smug”. The comments can be found all over Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. “He could have killed you, he had every right,” says one viral TikToker. One user called Heard a “crazy bitch” and explained: “Because she has a vagina and Depp has a cock, the woman must be right.”
The media coverage is also partly one-sided. US media, in particular, run articles and analyzes aimed at convicting Heard of lying. “All of Amber Heard’s allegations revealed to be false” is just one of many headlines on various online portals. The media adapts to the social media narrative.
German media also fall into this trap. After a psychologist hired by Depp’s lawyers testified that she saw clear indications of a borderline personality disorder in Heard, some German media ran the headline: “Psychologist in Depp trial: Heard has personality disorders”. The fact that this was an expert paid by Depp was only mentioned late in the text, if at all.
Everyone wants to read what is fraudulent and wrong about Heard. And not what is really happening.
Out of context audio brands Heard as perpetrator against Depp
In late 2018, after Heard wrote about her experience of domestic violence in The Washington Post, Depp’s then-attorney Adam Waldman – famous for his shady ties to Russian oligarchs and disinformation campaigns, including the 2016 US election – released a statement claiming , Johnny Depp is a victim of domestic violence. Depp would sue both Heard and The Sun for defamatory statements. The Sun had described Depp as a “woman beater”.
In January 2020, Waldman strategically leaked an edited audio recording taken out of context. In the recording, Heard allegedly mocks Depp for being a male abuse victim. In the full version of the audio recording, Heard is heard sobbing on the phone and telling Depp that she thought he was going to kill her. She only refutes his apology for his violence against her with her statement about Depp as a victim of abuse – which was that it was a “fair fight” so he was a victim too.
Depp vs. Heard: “A situation that undermines how abuse really works”
Depp’s fans, men’s rights activists and misguided feminists went wild for this shot. Johnny Depp became the poster boy for male abuse victims and Amber Heard for female abusers. Heard was now a perpetrator and Depp her victim.
It’s a situation that undermines how abuse really works, gender justice expert Farrah Khan told Vice News. Additionally, this behavior aims to discourage victims and survivors of abuse from speaking out because they fear a similar backlash to what is happening to Heard right now.
“We need to talk about the fact that people are quicker to say she’s a liar and he’s a victim than they believe women,” Khan said.
Evidence against Johnny Depp
Back in 2016, Entertainment Tonight ran an article with screenshots of text messages from Stephen Deuters, Depp’s personal assistant, to Herad apologizing for Depp’s abuse. “When I told him he kicked you, he cried. It was disgusting and he knows it.”
In the current Fairfax defamation trial, Depp was confronted with text messages in which he insulted numerous women, including his ex-partner Vanessa Paradis, with whom he has two children, as “whores”, “cum eaters” and “cunts”. In messages to actor Paul Bettany, he suggests burning Heard alive and raping her corpse. Depp was once again celebrated by the Internet for having commented on and destroyed this alleged evidence so skilfully. Expert Khan asks Vice: “The fact that he felt comfortable saying that via text message – what do you think he was saying to her face?”
In a secretly recorded video, Depp can be seen yelling drunk, smashing glasses, smashing doors and slamming cupboards. It proves Depp’s aggressive nature and also his alcohol abuse – he had claimed in court that he was sober. When asked about alcohol consumption, Depp replied: “Isn’t it always happy hour somewhere?” Depp fans also interpret such answers as “skillful destruction” by Heard’s lawyer.
Heard has been a court-proven victim since 2020
A court in the UK in the 2020 Sun defamation trial found Depp likely guilty of domestic violence towards Herad. The court ruled on the evidence that the tabloids’ allegations were “essentially true” – with 12 separate abuse allegations proven in them. Many of those interested in the trial were confused, as most of the reporting in this trial had also focused on Heard’s alleged lies and social media was dominated by Depp supporters.
Although Heard is now a court-proven victim, she continues to be portrayed as a liar. The smear campaign intensified – Bot Sentinel found 6000 fake accounts tweeting pro-depp/anti-heard posts and liking such tweets. The petition to fire Heard from the Aquaman franchise now reportedly has three million signatures, although many of those signatures have long been revealed to be bot activity.
Depp’s argument suffered severe setbacks
Depp has now dragged his ex-wife to Virginia for the defamation lawsuit against her, a state known for its litigation tourism due to its weaker free speech laws. Abusers have been known to use the Virginia courts to further re-traumatize and financially drain their victims.
As mentioned above, Depp’s argument has already suffered severe setbacks. Also, an important part of his evidence for him as a victim of domestic violence was the allegation that Heard had cut off his finger. This was exposed as a lie by his own texts to three different people. But if that’s not enough: there is a Audio, in which he admits he did it. But even that doesn’t matter to many.
Amber Heard doesn’t fit the image of the ‘perfect victim’
According to Khan, too often people demand that abuse survivors be the “perfect victim,” a mold that Heard doesn’t fit. Every laugh, every facial expression that doesn’t mourn enough, that doesn’t say “poor little mouse,” is interpreted by Heard as evidence of her false statements.
“We have this idea that the victims will never retaliate,” Khan told Vice. “They will take the hits and never reply back … They are expected to document the hits, but not in a way that makes it look like they misled anyone. They are expected to take the hit and not fight back – but protect themselves enough to report it.”
The “ideal victim” is typically a white, straight, cis woman who has only dated her husband,” Khan added. “A dutiful wife.”
Heard’s bisexuality was repeatedly used against her. Her alleged promiscuity and alleged infidelity during her marriage to Depp are also interpreted negatively. None of this has anything to do with whether Heard is a victim of domestic or sexual violence.
Future debates about violence against women and #MeToo should be prevented
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s trial is an opportunity because of Depp’s overwhelming support for misogynism in society, in the face of the debates about violence against women and #MeToo that they so hate, women on a large scale and in front of large audiences as liars and to brand the real perpetrators.
It doesn’t matter at all what else is brought forward in terms of evidence and testimonies in this process. The verdict of the public has been made, Amber Heard is at best as a questionable victim at best, at worst as a mendacious, calculating perpetrator. And in any case, victims of domestic and sexual violence lost. Because the Depp vs. Heard cause will be used as an argument for not believing women for a very long time. (Sonia Thomaser)
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