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What does the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard case tell us about society?

As the multimillion-dollar Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard defamation case reached its 15th day, it has also landed at its toughest juncture. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve heard Depp, the former Pirates of the Caribbean star, give his side of the story, but now Amber Heard’s turn has unearthed another side to an extremely messy story. 

Following Heard’s new shocking claims of domestic and sexual abuse at the hands of her ex-husband, including an alleged forced “cavity search” for drugs, what started as a defamation case has taken a much darker turn. It has shed light on the behind-closed-doors workings of the celebrity world and modern society’s penchant for voyeurism. However, before we get into that, we need to revisit why this is even taking place. 

Depp is suing Heard for $50 million amid claims of defamation over an opinion piece she wrote in The Washington Post back in 2018. In the article, Heard argued that she had become a public figure who represented the struggle against domestic abuse. Notably, she did not name Depp in the piece but had filed for divorce and a restraining order against him two years prior in 2016, claiming that he physically assaulted her.

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As their very bitter fallout was already playing out in the public eye, people assumed that Depp was the unnamed assailant. Denying all claims of abuse, the actor argues that the article caused irreparable damage to his career, which it undoubtedly has. Things then reached fever pitch when Depp’s lawyer publicly stated that Heard’s allegations were a “hoax” and, as a result, she countersued Depp in a $100 million defamation case of her own. So now, the world is locked on the Fairfax County Courthouse in Virginia.

The trial has quickly become a morass, from which those officiating it and those watching from afar are flushed with new claims each day in what is already one of the most grievous celebrity cases in history. 

If it wasn’t clear already, particularly in the post-MeToo world, Heard’s allegations of abuse at the hands of Depp have to be taken very seriously and believed until the court has finished its cross-examination. If false, she’ll be guilty and punished accordingly. Aside from this, there are the claims that detract from Heard’s wider dispute, such as her allegedly defecating in Depp’s bed in response to an argument they had, which slightly brings into question her reliability, but again, that is for the court to decide. 

As for Depp, there’s no way he can come back from this unless pretty much everything Amber Heard has said is a total fabrication. He’s shown himself to be an out of control mess, a drug addict who is as dependent on those around him. The anecdotes that have been dredged up totally undermine his standing as one of the modern era’s most coveted stars and reflect what he really is and has been for a long time.

Depp is a washed-up cliché. He’s been affected by an extended stay in the sun, and clearly, his behaviour has been left unchecked for too long. The portrayal of him by Heard and her team is that of caricature, and he has no place in the hearts of audiences anymore.

Whilst the most apparent takeaway from the Depp v. Heard case is that those we covet as stars are often not who we think they are or want them to be, there’s another tacit point that we should all think on. 

Whilst both parties are clearly in the wrong to varying degrees, instead of happily lapping up each new nugget of dark, and, quite frankly sad information, we need to remember that these are people’s lives and not some Hollywood drama. Would we want people to be peering so forensically into our lives? No.

There’s a dreadful irony to all of this; it was us who put them here in the first place. Juicy gossip is a currency that needs to be pulled from circulation. Yes, the pair have done this to themselves, but society has been complicit in raising the stakes.

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