June 3, 2022

The Verdict in the Johnny Depp Trial is not the Win You Might Think it is. But it’s a Start.

Marc Esadrian

It has been a few days now since the verdict was delivered on the Johnny Depp v Amber Heard defamation trial, and I’ve been spending that time gathering my thoughts on it. While I’m happy he received a favorable verdict on all counts, there’s still a lot to this spectacle that troubles me. The Johnny Depp and Amber Heard conflict has been humming along—under the radar for most—over several years. Known at first largely to movie insiders and fans, the conflict grew in intensity and scope, culminating in two tense trials: one in the United Kingdom and the recently stratospheric trial in the United States that captured the attention of wider culture.

What was it about this trial that earned so much visibility? There are two main factors, in my view: the first being that two high-profile movie celebrities were engaged in a defamation struggle following their divorce, in which Johnny Depp sued his ex-wife for $50 million after she apparently claimed in a December 2018 op-ed piece of The Washington Post that she was a victim of domestic abuse, with a strong insinuation it was at his hands. Such news is fodder enough for tabloid magazines, entertainment news, and countless insider gossip, but it is the second ingredient that was most relevant: that Amber Heard, the defendant in this case, engaged in a cunning and libelous smear campaign to defame her ex-husband, invoking the spirit of “#MeToo” hysteria by claiming she was physically and sexually abused by him. The Johnny Depp v Amber Heard trial was therefore about much more than actors quarreling over domestic abuse or defamation. It became a high profile representation of a sickness in our society, one in which we, as a matter of political correctness, tend to “believe all women” and almost always see men as malevolent perpetrators.

This trial was realized as a moment in which our moral reasoning as a society stood up to stress test the perennial double standards we afford manipulative women who hide behind victim politics and the credence it affords them, especially in Hollywood. As the evidence—largely in the form of audio recordings—became known to the public, it became evident to those with reasonable objectivity that she was, in fact, the abuser, and that Johnny Depp, while troubled by substance abuse, was the real victim all along. The ultimate question was whether the public (not just Hollywoke) could bring itself to recognize this, and further, if a court of law with a seven-person jury could do the same…

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