Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s defamation trial has been on everyone’s TV and is a much talked about event among the public. The jury’s judgement came after a six-week trial that captivated the nation, with millions of people watching as the two prominent Hollywood actors traded accusations of physical abuse, often in graphic detail, in court. It was one of the most high-profile civil cases to go to trial during the #MeToo era and reflects upon the critical matter of domestic abuse.
The Lawsuits and the Verdict
In a unanimous verdict, Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit was won, and ex-wife Amber Heard is sentenced to pay $15 million in damages. In Johnny Depp’s libel lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard, the jury ruled in his favour, proving that Heard invented claims that she was abused by Depp. The jury unanimously decided that when Heard claimed she was a victim of domestic abuse, she defamed Depp. To summarise the allegations, Depp had sued Heard for defamation after she wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post in 2018 in which she described herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” In regard to this, Heard countersued for $100 million, alleging that Depp’s attorney’s comment that her allegations were a “hoax” was defamatory.
After the rigorous battle of six weeks, Depp was awarded damages by the jury, who awarded him $10 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages. Depp received $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages from the jury, while Heard received $2 million in compensatory damages and no punitive damages as the jury found one of the three claims by Heard of Depp’s lawyer’s comment being defamatory as true.
Opposite Verdict of the UK lawsuit against Depp
Two years ago, Depp lost a libel action in the United Kingdom over claims that he assaulted Heard. In 2018, Depp sued The Sun’s parent company and the newspaper’s executive editor for branding him a “wife beater.” In 2020, Justice Andrew Nicol ruled against Depp, stating that the British tabloid had produced sufficient evidence that Depp had been aggressive against Heard in at least 12 of the 14 instances.
Even before the verdict came out, the public already made their decision by claiming Johnny Depp as the real hero. Media and Social media platforms like TikTok left no stone unturned to trivialise the sensitive matter of domestic abuse that the trial represented. Amber Heard’s testimony, her expressions and her evidence were mocked all throughout the internet as the public took upon the role of the jury. The hashtag #JusticeForJohnnyDepp has 9.9 billion views on TikTok. Only 37 million people have used a comparable hashtag for Heard.
#AmberHeardCancelled, #AmberHeardSucks, and #AmberHeardisTrash are all the hashtags that were used more prominently for Amber Heard. The outpouring of support for Depp has resulted in a slew of misogynistic tweets and postings directed against Heard, in which Depp’s fans overlook the fact that he was also the abuser in the relationship. If one may ask why such immense support has been shown to Depp, one can only speculate about the power and gender dynamics, star status and the psychological phenomenon of trusting the rare occurrence of a male domestic violence victim testifying.
Effect on other Domestic Violence Survivors
While both the teams are at the fault, the “guilty before proven otherwise” treatment given to a domestic abuse survivor woman was enough to deter many other woman survivors to stand up against domestic violence. After seeing Heard’s online persecution, women awaiting similar case hearings are considering ‘retracting or withdrawing’. Many claimed Heard not to be a perfect victim which reflects upon the stereotypical idea attached to looking like a ‘victim’.
Heard said in a statement on Wednesday, “I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women,” she said. “It is a setback. It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously.”
The outcome of the trial stretches far beyond the two individuals because it displayed how the media and the internet treated a woman who accused a man in power even before the verdict came out. While Heard could be equally responsible because of her defence, she is not the only one contrary to the portrayal by the general masses and media.