May 6, 2022

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

[Johnny Depp] is suing [his ex-wife Amber] Heard for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court after she wrote a December 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post describing herself as ‘a public figure representing domestic abuse.’ The article never mentions Depp by name, but Depp’s lawyers say he was defamed nevertheless because it clearly referred to accusations she made in 2016 during their divorce proceedings…

“Much of the trial has focused on whether Heard was in fact abused, something Depp denies. Heard took the stand for the first time Wednesday. She also described a time she said she was sexually assaulted by Depp… Heard said Depp’s violent episodes were usually triggered by some combination of jealousy and drug or alcohol use.” AP News

Depp concluded a grueling four days on the witness stand Monday, telling jurors in a calm voice that he filed his libel lawsuit against his ex-wife because it was his best chance to reclaim his reputation… He continued to deny that he ever hit Heard, and accused her of hitting him and throwing items including paint cans and vodka bottles at him. And jurors heard an audio clip of a conversation between Depp and Heard in which she seems to taunt him and suggests he won’t be believed or respected if he were to publicly cast her as an abuser.” AP News

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From the Left

The left worries that the case will be used to push back against the MeToo movement, and is dismayed by social-media attacks against Heard.

“There is compelling evidence that Depp acted violently towards Heard. In the UK trial, Heard submitted witness testimony; contemporaneous text messages, emails, and diary entries; and photographs of her bruises. Taken together, they demonstrated a clear pattern of abuse, most often when Depp was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In order to fake them, Heard would have had to spend years plotting to besmirch Depp’s name… There is also compelling evidence that Heard behaved violently towards Depp over the course of their relationship…  

“The ambiguity of this case is essentially offering cover for a Me Too backlash. For those who feel that the Me Too movement went too far, siding with Depp over Heard becomes a chance to position their opposition to the movement as a principled support for male abuse victims rather than a reactionary misogynistic fury…

“It’s also worth noting that Depp is the only true A-list sex symbol to face the wrath of Me Too. While many very famous and beloved men were accused of doing awful things to women in 2017 and 2018, Depp was the only one who is both a three-time Oscar nominee and a two-time People’s Sexiest Man Alive. The culture has spent decades admiring Depp’s talent and beauty and charisma, and all of that admiration doesn’t just go away now. Depp’s fans have made a powerful emotional investment in him, and many of them are willing to leap on any little moment of ambiguity in this case as proof of Depp’s innocence.”

Constance Grady, Vox

“The deeper you dig into this story, the more it reveals an absurdly toxic marriage between two people who are viciously unloading their dirty laundry in broad daylight for the leery, cynical celebrity press. But I don’t think anyone could’ve expected the groundswell of digital solidarity around Depp’s dubious guiltlessness, particularly among young people. Search for ‘#JusticeForJohnnyDepp’ on Twitter, and you’ll see what I mean. Millions of people have come to the same conclusion: Heard is a sociopathic schemer on the level of Amy Dunne, and Depp was unwittingly caught in her web.”

Luke Winkie, Slate

“The case should provide a sobering look at domestic violence and how it affects both men and women. Instead, the trial has turned into a circus of misogyny and delusion. I am an abuse survivor, and it’s particularly damaging to see social media pile-ons focused on a woman who didn’t even initially name her abuser… Alongside the frightening level of sexism, there’s a jocular vibe surrounding this case that’s disturbing. These are two human beings talking about one of the darkest parts of their lives, and we’re treating it as entertainment…

“Domestic violence is not funny. It shouldn’t spur popularity contests. It shouldn’t create an industry in which people are vending merchandise on Etsy, in which Rolling Stone reports that sellers are making items such as pins, T-shirts and coffee mugs featuring the phrase ‘Justice For Johnny.’ It shouldn’t be a spectacle in which a woman shows up bringing two emotional support alpacas to the courthouse to cheer Depp up. It shouldn’t prompt writers to publish articles with lines like ‘The Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial is the entertainment we didn’t know we needed in 2022.’”

Patricia Grisafi, NBC News Think

From the Right

The right generally sympathizes with Depp, and argues that male victims of abuse should be taken seriously.

The right generally sympathizes with Depp, and argues that male victims of abuse should be taken seriously.

“Johnny Depp lost everything — his wife, his family, his career. But his lawsuit in Virginia might see him claw back at least his reputation. Depp is suing his ex-wife Amber Heard in a $50 million defamation suit, and what’s unfolding in the courtroom is a tale of a wife who was perhaps just as abusive as her husband, and a profile of a marriage that was chaotic, strained, and dangerous… Perhaps Hollywood and the world were too quick to take Heard’s side and too quick to side-line Depp on allegations alone…

“Depp, whatever his participation in this mess of a marriage, should not have experienced the public pillorying, the defamation of character, and the loss of career and income that he was subjected to. Women are subjected to an outsized measure of domestic violence, but that does not mean that abuse does not also go the other way. The revelations of this trial, and the continued realizations that many of the men who lost careers, livelihoods, and reputations at the hands of those screaming MeToo, could have a lasting impact on how America understands abuse.”

Libby Emmons, New York Post

“While I can’t speak to this particular case, the trial has certainly evoked a larger conversation about domestic violence and the ways in which it, and public allegations of it, can derail relationships, careers, and mental health…

Abuse should be taken seriously, regardless of the victim’s sex. However, men often don’t disclose or report these experiences out of fear of not being believed, being victim-blamed, or being assumed to be the instigator. One can only hope that public attention surrounding the Depp trial will impart the importance of protecting oneself and believing male victims, too.”

Debra Soh, Washington Examiner

“Both Depp and Heard clearly had deep and traumatic problems that affected everything — from their habit of drinking heavily to the way they interacted with each other. And unfortunately, they’re being forced to relive it in a very public manner. Which one of them is telling the truth? That’s for the jury to decide. But for now, we know this: They deserve our pity, as do most of the souls unfortunate enough to end up in Hollywood.”

Kaylee McGhee White, Washington Examiner

Some argue, “If Depp had simply allowed the moment to blow over, he could have recovered. Hollywood understands better than most institutions that relationships can be complicated… Depp’s claim that Heard libeled him in a Washington Post op-ed is absurd. The piece in question not only didn’t mention Depp, it didn’t even discuss him. The closest thing to a reference to him is this sentence: ‘Then two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.’…  

“It’s clearly true that she ‘became a public figure representing domestic abuse,’ and Depp won’t be able to demonstrate otherwise. The rest of the piece is about Heard’s experiences before she met Depp, her complaints about the entertainment industry, media persecution, Donald Trump, federal legislation, etc. Proving that Heard was making a false and malicious claim about him will not be possible. His prospects of winning the case are roughly zero.”

Kyle Smith, National Review

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