MMM#12: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

Although it’s a little belated I thought I’d write briefly here about the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial which ended a few weeks ago and featured prominently in the news.

I looked at the news of the case only occasionally while it was ongoing rather than following it live as some people have done but I was interested by the amount of sympathy that was directed by many towards Johnny Depp, a man, over Amber Heard, a woman, which was in contrast to many cases of relationship conflict which tend to portray women in a more positive light.

Despite this being the age of culture wars and stark divides between people on a variety of issues, I was struck by how many people, regardless of their sex or political leanings, seemed to support Johnny Depp over Amber Heard. Who would have thought it would take a case like this for a consensus to be reached?

Of course, there were a few people who sided with Amber Heard and many more who were indifferent to the case and wondered what all the fuss was about.

I’ll admit that I was more on Johnny Depp’s side partly due to believing he had been a victim of the #MeToo hysteria but also because I have watched and enjoyed some of Johnny Depp’s films whereas the only Amber Heard films I knew were The Rum Diary (where she met Depp during the filming) and Aquaman and I’ve seen neither of them. Bias is always a danger in a case such as this as you can inadvertently mould facts to favour or disfavour whichever person you happen to be for or against.

Nevertheless, I understood people who took a more neutral position and thought both Depp and Heard were as bad as each other. Johnny Depp, given his excessive drug taking, is far from perfect and appears to be a poor judge of character. Who’s to say he won’t fall into another dysfunctional relationship?

It was encouraging to see women speaking out against Heard and the assumption that they should believe her because she was female although this may have been motivated by their fondness for Johnny Depp. Whilst looking at responses to the trial online I stumbled upon a woman who goes by the name ‘Colonel Kurtz’ (I’m aware that’s the character Marlon Brando played in Apocalypse Now), who has made videos defending Johnny Depp and, more controversially, the musician Marylin Manson who has been accused of sexual abuse by his ex-girlfriend Evan Rachel Wood.

I was particularly interested by this 1 hour 45 minute video that Colonel Kurtz made over a year ago in which she analyses a number of Amber Heard interviews to explore Heard’s possible psychological problems. This video also features the very creepy looking Elizabeth Holmes who was behind the Theranos scandal. Later I retweeted Colonel Kurtz’s tweet noting that people’s interest in Amber Heard was partly because Heard represented the reality of false accusations by women (in Kurtz’s opinion at least) against men which had been denied by the media.

The idea that psychologically damaged women could use #MeToo to peddle false or exaggerated accusations of abuse by men was not something many journalists were comfortable with. It was amusing to see the mainstream media contort themselves into trying to make Amber Heard the innocent victim being bullied and harassed by online trolls which was illuminating in how reporting is driven by narratives instead of facts. At the time of writing, Amber Heard has continued to portray herself as the victim in public appearances following the verdict being ruled in Johnny Depp’s favour.

That being said, there was an element of a media circus being created to air the couple’s dirty laundry for the audience’s amusement and for us to observe how messed up Hollywood celebrities really are. On the other hand, the broadcasting of the trial did show the benefit of being able to observe a legal dispute between a man and a woman which allowed the public to see how both parties presented themselves rather than having to rely on potentially biased accounts by the media. I believe that most of the support that Depp received was down to him coming across as more genuine than Heard as well as having a far more competent legal team.

The Depp/Heard trial can be compared to other ‘he said, she said’ trials for more serious offences like rape. In discussions over how to handle rape prosecutions, there is often a debate about whether accusers should be allowed to be anonymous while the accused is named or whether both or neither side should be given anonymity.

I used to think that both the accuser and accused should be given anonymity but I’ve started to think it would be better if neither party was anonymous since it allows a neutral observer to decide for themselves who they think is telling the truth. Inevitably, there will be people who instinctively side with one person over the other but it seems better than allowing such controversial cases to occur behind closed doors. I doubt the suggestion that anonymity should not be allowed in rape cases will gain much traction though since the old excuse of “this will prevent victims from coming forward” will be argued by the growing number of people who seem to think “accuser” always means “victim”.

If the Marylin Manson case features prominently in the news, it will be interesting to see if there is a similar reaction to what has occurred with Depp vs. Heard. However, since Manson is not as well known or as well liked as Johnny Depp, I don’t believe the same amount of support will be present.

If there is one positive outcome to the Depp/Heard trial, I think it is that a lot more people, whether they are men or women, have become more sceptical about #believeallwomen and #MeToo.