The judicial duel for crossed accusations of defamation that Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are fighting in a court in Virginia (United States) is exposing, in a very public way, the stormy and toxic relationship that the two actors had, briefly married between 2013 and 2016. The civil process, which resumes this Monday after a break for the last week due to a previous commitment by Judge Penney Azcarate, is generating enormous media attention and coverage live and free through YouTube . With two stars as protagonists and a barrage of crossed accusations about physical and emotional violence, substance abuse, and convulsive personality, it would have earned itself the title of sleazy. But the sleaze has skyrocketed, becoming not only one of the attractions of specialized channels such as CourtTv or Law&Crime, but also a phenomenon and trend on social networks and the internet.
From Twitter to Tik Tok through Twitch, Instagram, YouTube and even the digital craft market Etsy, judgment is trending. Everything is likely to become a meme, a comment, a livestream, a joke or a product to sell, even if the content that is created is addressing such serious issues as abuse, violence, mental problems or addictions.
In the same way that it happens in the court in Fairfax, which every day is filled with spectators looking for a seat in the courtroom and people who come hoping to see the protagonists, in that online universe the majority, both men and women, overwhelmingly support Depp in his version of events.
‘Standom’ and reaction to #MeToo
This taking of positions is exposing the phenomena of the Stan culture and the ‘standom’, terms that have their origin in an Eminem song that spoke of a fan and stalker but now in the digital world is worn as a medal of honor by the most committed fans with a star.
In many of the cases, infinity, the support to Depp is being shown with a demonization and ridicule of Heard. And it’s a deal where some observers are identifying a delayed negative reaction to the #MeToo movement, which helped raise awareness of the need to give victims a voice, listen and believe. It also sets off alarms.
“I see many people who say that he is an artist, he is eccentric, that he had a problem with alcohol and drugs…” Farah Khan, an activist against gender violence, lamented in statements to ‘Vice’. “We make room for people who have trauma and can use things to deal with [con sus problemas], but Heard is a whore, the worst of all things. And that’s why a lot of people don’t report it.”
Also Maureen Curtis, from the victim assistance organization Safe Horizon, has told the magazine ‘Rolling Stone’ that what is happening with the treatment of Heard on social networks, and especially on TikTok, is “totally demoralizing and insulting “For every survivor, for everyone, for everyone who believes that every survivor should be treated fairly and compassionately. It could lead to fewer survivors choosing to come forward,” she warned, “they don’t want to go through what she’s being put through.” 85% of the victims of what in the US is still branded as ‘domestic violence’ are women.
‘Rolling Stone’ sent TikTok several of the videos that have gone viral, recordings that in principle would violate community policies that prohibit content that promotes, normalizes or glorifies extreme violence or suffering. They are clips in which the actress is parodied by recreating, with people and even with cats, scenes of aggression while using the audio of a description that Heard made in her statement two weeks ago of one of the incidents in which Depp allegedly hit. The platform then removed them. By then they had racked up millions of views and comments. And many others continue to circulate.
The magazine also spoke with a girl or woman (who wanted to remain anonymous) who, despite acknowledging that she was not following the trial closely, has been making memes on her TikTok account and also uploaded a video with the audio of the statement of Heard when he saw that it was trending. “I’m not a fan of domestic violence, I’m a creator and this is for entertainment, it doesn’t mean anything,” she told ‘Rolling Stone’. “When you create content you have to be up to date on trends.”
‘The Washington Post’ has written that what is happening, both on Twitch and on the internet in general, is another neuralgic point of the current cultural moment, one derived from having “a constant drip of information practically connected to the palms of our hands”.
More testimony from Heard and Depp
After the pause of the last week the civil process resumes this Monday. In the next few days, Amber Heard is expected to testify again, after answering questions from her own lawyers in the last two sessions of the trial, she will now be subjected to questions from Johnny Depp’s lawyers.
According to sources cited by the ‘New York Post’, the actor, who has already testified for four days, will once again be called to the stand by his ex-wife’s defense. This has also included in its list of witnesses the actress Ellen Barkin, who had a relationship with Depp in the 90s, and in the libel trial against ‘The Sun’ that the actor lost, he provided a statement in which he accused him of being “ aggressive”.
According to the tabloid, Heard’s defense will also summon the actress’s sister, Whitney Henriqez.
Closing arguments in the trial are initially scheduled for May 27.