Amber Heard-Johnny Depp trial spawns memes which are disturbing

The tip jars had been my tipping level. They popped up in a TikTok video displaying a Starbucks drive-thru with competing jars arrange on the pay window, one saying “Johnny Depp (Jack Sparrow)” surrounded by hearts and stars and one other saying “Amber Heard” surrounded by frowning faces and a drawing of a turd. In the video, you’ll be able to hear somebody say, “Go, Johnny!” after a greenback is positioned within the jar along with his title on it.

The video reveals a lot of what’s improper with the general public’s consumption of the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial, wherein Heard took the witness stand Wednesday. It’s a disturbing case wherein each events have made accusations of home violence. The trial facilities on a 2018 article Heard wrote for The Washington Post telling her story of getting been abused by an nameless associate — broadly perceived to be Depp. 

We don’t know the reality on this state of affairs. Both sides have made upsetting accusations. The drawback is the reflexive assumption that Depp is being wronged.

Depp denies all claims of abuse and is suing Heard for $50 million, looking for to show she broken his profession with the Post piece. Heard has additionally denied allegations of abuse, and her authorized crew has countersued for $100 million, alleging that Depp has carried out a “smear campaign.”

The case ought to present a sobering have a look at home violence and the way it impacts each women and men. Instead, the trial has changed into a circus of misogyny and delusion. I’m an abuse survivor, and it’s notably damaging to see social media pile-ons targeted on a girl who didn’t even initially title her abuser. It jogs my memory that when ladies allege abuse, they’re usually put by means of the wringer — well-known or not.  

Alongside the scary degree of sexism, there’s a jocular vibe surrounding this case that’s disturbing. These are two human beings speaking about one of many darkest components of their lives, and we’re treating it as leisure. There’s the willful conflation of an actor, Depp, along with his most well-known and beloved function, Captain Jack Sparrow, the charismatic pirate — blurring the strains between his actual life and the general public’s fantasy. And there’s the poisonous fandom gone amok as folks mindlessly cheer on a person who has already misplaced a libel trial in opposition to the British tabloid The Sun after it known as him a “wife beater.”

We don’t know the reality on this state of affairs. Both sides have made upsetting accusations. The drawback is the reflexive assumption that Depp is being wronged, together with the gleeful method social media is harassing the girl who accused him of violence. Social media customers even harassed a medical psychologist testifying on behalf of Heard, filling her skilled Google profile with one-star evaluations calling her a “liar” and “evil.” 

It’s disheartening and sickening to see the meme-ification and commodification. Domestic violence is just not humorous. It shouldn’t spur reputation contests. It shouldn’t create an trade wherein individuals are merchandising merchandise on Etsy, wherein Rolling Stone studies that sellers are making objects equivalent to pins, T-shirts and occasional mugs that includes the phrase “Justice For Johnny.” It shouldn’t be a spectacle wherein a girl reveals up bringing two emotional help alpacas to the courthouse to cheer Depp up. It shouldn’t immediate writers to publish articles with strains like “The Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial is the entertainment we didn’t know we needed in 2022.”

And then there are the memes. So many memes.

Memes that contain feces and intimate physique components and different lewd references to the lurid testimony, most of them placing Heard in a extremely unflattering gentle. 

Memes making gentle of Depp’s drawback ingesting by joking in regards to the quantity of wine he consumes. The phrase “mega-pint of wine” — an unlucky flip of phrases by Heard’s lawyer — has been shared broadly on TikTok and Twitter.  

Memes celebrating Depp’s violent textual content messages about Heard. (Depp has mentioned he’s “not proud” of getting written these texts and claims a few of them had been “dark humor.”) 

Memes about Jack Sparrow triumphing over Amber Heard, as if the defamation trial had been a “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel.

Amber Heard testifies in Fairfax County Circuit Court in Fairfax, Va., on Wednesday.Elizabeth Frantz / Pool by way of AP

The memes are grotesque. They present us that celeb tradition blinds us and allows poisonous conduct, from on-line bullying of anybody who questions Depp to uncritical fan worship. And these reactions point out that ladies are nonetheless unfairly burdened with proving they had been abused on the similar time additionally they should show they had been “perfect” victims. 

Of course, that is hardly the primary time accusations of abuse have made for social media fodder. But whereas different circumstances involving high-profile celebrities have generated their share of memes and fan help, the Depp and Heard trial feels totally different due to how prevalent the Depp brigade is and the way antiquated the rhetoric about home violence has been. It’s like #MeToo by no means occurred. 

We can by no means actually know what occurred in Depp and Heard’s relationship, however how the general public is consuming this trial is displaying us the darkest components of ourselves — and the way we nonetheless don’t perceive the dynamics and nuances of home violence. Often, abusers can have histories of violence, however that’s not all the time the case. Abusers could be form to others whereas they concurrently torment their companions. They could be charismatic, good, humorous and engaging. They could be males, ladies or nonbinary.  

And survivors could be reluctant to come back ahead with their abuse tales for various causes. Men usually don’t wish to be seen as victims or disempowered, whereas ladies are scared they are going to be disbelieved after which harassed. Perhaps one constructive results of the general public response to this case is that extra males will likely be empowered to share their experiences with abuse. But, as gender justice advocate Farrah Khan instructed Vice, the trial additionally “has the potential to scare victims and survivors of abuse from speaking out because they fear backlash similar to what Heard is getting right now.”

While it’s very potential that Depp and Heard each contributed to an abusive partnership, social media customers don’t appear to need to think about this messiness. They appear to favor the story about their pirate hero, the one who makes quips on the stand, the one who has entertained them for years and made their lives extra pleasurable. Heard, a queer lady who spoke out about home violence, is a destroyer of their beliefs: loopy and conniving. If Depp is Jack Sparrow, Heard is Amy Dunne from “Gone Girl” within the court docket of public opinion.

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