Hheard that nervous click-click? It’s the sound of celebrities hushed. removing your likes from the victorious Instagram statement Johnny Depp posted after winning his libel case against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, earlier this year. Approximately billions of words have been written about the case, so I’m sure I don’t need to recap. In short, though, Depp sued Heard over a 2018 op-ed in which he said she was a victim of domestic violence, but didn’t explicitly name him as the culprit. The televised trial was a sickeningly sordid spectacle: one lawyer described it as the “litigation equivalent of Squid Game”. Heard endured ruthless ridicule and left with her reputation in tatters, while Hollywood largely rallied behind Depp.
Now, however, it appears that attitudes towards Depp may be souring. Twitter sleuths have taken notice that more than a dozen celebrities appear to have “disliked” the actor’s Instagram post in the past two months. That list includes Bella Hadid, Halle Bailey, Amanda Knox (!), and a bunch of other people I’ve never heard of but who are apparently pretty famous.
What could be behind this Great Disgust? Probably the fact that more than 6,000 pages of court documents were recently opened, providing a lot of new and unpleasant information about Depp. Interestingly, Depp fans were responsible for showing this information to the public: crowdfunded fares required to seize the unsealed documents, which contain allegations that Depp and Heard’s lawyers managed to keep out of the trial. The idea was to dig up Heard, but their efforts seem to have failed: the documents are packed with unpleasant nuggets of information about Depp and illuminate the extent to which his legal team used misogyny as a weapon throughout the trial.
One of the most unsavory bits of information in the documents might be the claim that Depp’s legal team attempted to present. Heard’s “nude photos” in evidence and tried to bring up her “brief stint as an exotic dancer”. It is unclear which nude photos they were referring to, and they were ultimately disregarded at trial. But, in 2014, Heard’s iCloud account was hacked and hundreds of nude photos of her were posted online, causing her understandable distress. If Depp tried to bring these photos up in a televised trial, it sounds a lot like revenge porn: pure evil designed to humiliate Heard. It’s also a horrible reminder that if a woman doesn’t lead a perfectly chaste life, the world will find a way to present her as a “bitch” responsible for everything that happens to her.
It has been reported that in the open documents there were: text messages from Depp’s then-assistant about the time the actor allegedly “kicked” Heard on a flight; Depp’s legal team’s cynical attempt to implicate Heard in the death of a friend who died in a car accident; the fact that Heard voluntarily walked away from “tens of millions of dollars” she had rights in her divorce proceedings with Depp; a statement from Depp saying that Heard had never caused you physical or mental harm; disturbing text messages between Depp and musician Marilyn Mansonwho has been accused of abuse by more than a dozen women, all of which he denies; he claims that the photos and audio tapes sent by Depp had been digitally manipulated and edited.
While none of this makes Depp look good, it’s important to note that it’s not like he looks like a boy scout in the first place. This is a guy who lost a libel case against the Sun in 2020 after the newspaper described him as a “wife beater”. This is a guy who joked with a friend about how they should kill Heard. “Let’s drown her before we burn her!!!” he wrote. “Then I’ll fuck her burned corpse to make sure she’s dead.” Depp has a well-documented history of toxic behavior, and yet throughout the trial, there was a very long line of people ready to dismiss her bad behavior while jumping on any excuse to paint Heard in a negative light. Will the information in the court documents significantly change people’s minds about Depp and Heard? Beyond that some celebrities distance themselves from Depp, I doubt it. If the trial showed us anything, it’s that misogyny is more attractive to many people than facts.
Arwa Mahdawi is a columnist for The Guardian
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