The Civil Trial of the Century

The world likes drama and so, recently you might have heard about Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard Defamation court case or as dubbed by many "The Civil Trial of the Century". Indeed, the 6 weeks-long drama that was the trial between two of Hollywood's biggest stars ended up becoming one of the most popular topics on the internet. In between images of the ongoing Russian attack on Ukraine, the national abortion debate sparking protests around the US, and rising inflation, its video snippets coming from the same static, dark wood-panelled courtroom that are going viral.



The case began as a reaction to an opinion story Heard published in 2018 in The Washington Post amid the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, discrimination and assault. Her piece, which discussed domestic abuse she'd experienced, did not name Depp by name. Depp sued her in 2019, alleging Heard defamed him and that she had been the abuser. The next year, Heard countersued Depp.



Then they were in court, with a camera live feed streaming free to the internet from their proceedings in Fairfax County, Virginia, and millions tuned in. Some people watched because it was entertaining. Others cheered on their preferred side. Before the trial's concluding week, Saturday Night Live lampooned the case as a spectacle being put on "for fun." In reaction, critics have said they're disgusted by how casually audiences treated the case.


But that didn't stop people from sharing links, watching videos by the millions and tumbling further down the rabbit hole, remixing trial footage into their own brand of parody.



Yestereday this trial had finally ended and Johnny Depp was declared as the winner much similar to the Public Opinion. But it wouldn't have happened without the amazing work of Johhny Depp's Legal team that basically became superstars themselves over the days the trial was running and the one leading them: Camille Vasquez.

By its very nature, the Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard trial was a star-studded event. Despite this, neither of the two major characters were by far appearing as the main protagonist of this story. Instead, Camille Vasquez, Johnny Depp's lawyer, emerged as the unlikely star.

THE CASE

If you basically live under a rock or haven't been paying attention to social media, and don't know about this case,Johnny Depp and Amber Heard met at the sets in 2009 and began dating some years later. In 2015, they got married. In 2016, Heard filed for divorce and alleged that Depp had physically abused her throughout their marriage under the affect of drugs or alcohol. Depp denied the accusations and said that Heard was "attempting to secure a untimely monetary advantage by the ways of means of alleging abuse." Their divorce was finalised in 2017. Johnny Depp later sued Amber Heard for defamation due to an op-ed she wrote in the Washington Post in 2018. In the op-ed, headlined “I spoke up towards sexual violence — and confronted our culture`s wrath. That has to change,” Heard claimed that she turned into a home abuse survivor.

WHY DID THE CASE BECOME SO POPULAR

Celebrity breakups and divorces are always of particular interest to the general public. However, what started off as just a regular celebrity trial in the case of Depp and Heard, soon become the hottest topic on social media with hashtags, memes and TikTok/Reel trends dominating almost every user’s feed.

So why is the Internet so obsessed with the trial and why are most of them vouching for Depp?


There have been countless amusing moments during the hearing since the first day of the trial. For example, Alejandro Romero, a front desk employee at the building where Depp and Heard lived, came before the judge via video conference, and while giving his testimony, he managed to create amusement from the court as he vaped and drove during the hearing.


A few days ago, another amusing scene from the trial surfaced when social media users claimed that Heard posed for a selfie while sobbing during her evidence. While the viral video shows Heard halting, it's difficult to determine if it was on purpose. Part of all this fury might be attributed to Depp’s and Heard’s respective positions within some distinctively toxic internet subgroups. In words of a popular reddit post “Basically a lot of boring men think Johnny Depp is cool, [Zack] Snyder fans think Amber Heard’s issues with Depp have impacted the release of DC movies, Harry Potter adults are mad that Depp was removed from the Fantastic Beasts franchise after he was accused of domestic violence"



On Twitter, earnest posts about Depp abound with the hashtag #BelieveMaleVictims. The National Domestic Violence Hotline estimates that one in seven adult men in the US has been the victim of intimate partner violence, but says that men are less likely than women to report their abuse or seek out help. Supporters of Depp argue that his willingness to identify as a victim of domestic violence is a powerful gesture towards breaking that stigma.


“One can only hope that public attention surrounding the Depp trial will impart the importance of protecting oneself and believing male victims, too,”


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. In a trial this messy, there are a lot of ambiguities.


This is my biggest concern about this case, and I think it's something that's really gotten lost in the sensationalism around the trial, Right now, [Depp's] team is alleging that if a woman comes forward and identifies as a survivor in public, that that could count as defamation. Both Johnny Depp and Amber Heard admit that there was violence in this relationship. The question is whether or not there should be consequences for that violence. And that's the fight we're having in public right now.


we expect that victims fit a specific mould. We call it the perfect victim trope. And often we confuse victims' self-defence as a form of aggression. And this is really common in cases like this, where perpetrators will claim that they are the true victims. They do something that psychologists call 'DARVO.' 'DARVO' is an acronym that stands for Deny, attack and reverses victim and offender. And we're seeing it on display really clearly in this case, where Johnny Depp is denying — not that he was violent, he actually is still admitting that there was violence coming from him in this relationship. But he's denying that Amber Heard's story of it is trustworthy, and instead of saying that she drove him to violence.


In the end, perhaps that’s what’s most damning about the larger conversation around this trial: the inability to handle the ambiguities. Faced with a portrait of a relationship in which there’s compelling evidence of violence and toxic behavior on both sides, our culture seems unable to accept that we may simply be looking at a story without heroes. Instead, we demand a tidy narrative with a heroic redemption arc — and if the hero is a beloved, charismatic, and powerful white man, well, all the better.



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