While the defamation case by actor Johnny Depp against his estranged ex-wife Amber Heard is still ongoing, social media seems to have already declared a winner. This case has somehow managed to overshadow nearly all other news stories, dominating all of the social media platforms. Reaction videos on YouTube, body language “experts” declaring the “liar” in countless TikTok videos, the live-streaming of the case being watched by million– the case is the news and also, the algo seems to love it.
All of this began as a consequence of Amber Heard publishing an op-ed in the Washington Post in 2018. Now, she is being sued for defamation. To a neutral observer, the case is about two deeply dysfunctional people who made it worse for themselves with their romantic relationship.
However, the case “bingers” have conveniently sided with actor Johnny Depp while trolling Amber Heard has become the new “cool.” The online movement supporting Depp has furthered this hate against Heard with hashtags such as #JusticeForJohnnyDepp on TikTok raking billions of views. On the same platform, there are also not-so-subtle hashtags such as: #amberheardcancelled, #amberheardsucks, and #amberheardistrash.
Well, it is true that male domestic violence victims are often disregarded due to toxic masculinity roles and sympathy for women but one cannot deny that the reason behind such massive support for Depp is also his star status and fame. It is definitely more than that of Heard.
The support for Depp is not all positive. In fact, it comes as a series of misogynistic tweets where his supporters completely refuse to believe that he has also been the abuser in the relationship. Putting in simple words, for the social media world it is the story of a hero who is being brought down by a bad woman. A dysfunctional relationship has been declared black and white by a series of Depp’s fans.
— Stephanie Rogers (@OneSassy16t929) May 26, 2022
— Yara Sa (@YaraAd_Sa) May 25, 2022
Look at her evil narcissistic smirk at she is a disgusting human being. Does she think this will make ppl like her or believe her? Hell no it only will make ppl hate her more#AmberHeardlsALiar #AmberHeardlsAnAbuser #JusticeForJohnnyDepp #AmberHeardlsApsychopath #DeppVHeardTrial pic.twitter.com/GSJL7Lc812
— cailey (@caileyzettek) May 25, 2022
The impact of this trial is not just confined to its outcome but goes way beyond. It is also about what message being sent by these vicious online attackers. A major problem with this case is that, even though the evidence doesn’t make either party look squeaky clean, the social media has already declared a hero and a villain. With that, it is very determined to drive that villain to the ground. In a report by NBC, Seth Lewis, the Shirley Papé chair in emerging media and director of journalism at the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, claimed that it can be hard to pinpoint one reason as to why the internet is sided with Depp. He said, “Sometimes things become popular because they’re already popular at a baseline level.” He further added, “I think we’re in this moment where people are fascinated by authenticity. It’s the reason people will find greater trust in what seems to be raw video footage on social media or on YouTube.”
Heard’s legal team has presented several pieces of evidence. This includes alleged 2013 text messages in which Depp said that he would subject her to a violent death. Depp reportedly texted a friend that he wanted to kill Heard and then have sex with “her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she is dead.” Also, there is an alleged video of Depp smashing kitchen cabinets while Heard tries to calm him. In an audio recording, she tells him to go put his “cigarettes out on someone else,” and he responds, “Shut up, fat ass.” Experts in domestic violence studies believe that even though both parties behaved violently, the fact that Depp testified first may also be influencing public sentiment in his favor.
It is not just the internet that can be blamed. “Believe all women, except Amber Heard,” Chris Rock remarked jokingly. A “Saturday Night Live” sketch last weekend turned one of Depp’s wildest accusations against Heard into a skit, where she was ridiculed.
This case is a live example of the power that social media has in today’s time. It does not need any judicial system to come forth with a judgment. As perilous as it may sound, no matter what the rulings might be, people have already made a decision.