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Did Public Opinion Alter the Depp v Heard Case?

Trigger Warning: Mentions of abuse and domestic violence

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: This week, content creator is sharing her opinion on the Depp V Heard case, one of the most-watched cases of our generation.

Ellie explores whether or not the whole case was a trial by the media, and asks the question, could a jury truly remain unbiased in the face of such a heavily covered trial?

It's a great read, and we'd love to hear your thoughts on the trial in the comments below.

Now that the initial buzz of the Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard case has settled down, it’s time to talk about the impact of the media being so involved in a case like this.

Depp V Heard was a civil defamation trial that took place in Virginia from 11 April to 1 June 2022.

What is Depp V Heard?

Actor Johnny Depp alleged three counts of defamation against his ex-wife Amber Heard, claiming $50 million in damages; and Heard filed a counterclaim against Depp, claiming $100 million in damages.

This case emerged after Depp and Heard’s failed marriage, that lasted from February 2015 until May 2016, and ended with a restraining order and allegations of physical abuse, both from Heard’s end.

Following this, in 2018, Heard published an op-ed in The Washington Post claiming herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.”

An op-ed means 'opposite the editorial page' it is a piece of prose featured in a magazine or newspaper that does not reflect the views of the publication.

In Heard's op-ed, she discussed her experiences of domestic violence without naming Depp, but Depp's team argued had effectively led to guilt by association.

The outcome of this for Depp was astronomical, costing him the loss of iconic movie roles, and preventing him from landing others due to the huge public backlash against him.

The allegations against Depp were difficult for those who had idolised him in roles like Captain Jack Sparrow and Edward Scissorhands, but why?

Why are fans so devoted to an actor to the extent that they are truly shaken by his wrongdoings?

Trial by media

The harm in parasocial relationships and media involvement becomes apparent when we look at this trial, as seen by the huge input from those on social media.

Social media was overwhelmingly in favour of Depp, with billions of views on various hashtags in support of him, and countless campaigns rallying behind him.

The televised trial of two actors felt glamorised and it begs the question, was it justified?

To put it frankly, no.

For a court case to become so televised, so ‘memed’, it’s just harmful.

TikTok was overflowing with ‘aesthetic’ edits of Johnny Depp walking into the courtroom, with millions praising him for his mannerisms and his appearance, whilst tearing down Amber Heard for her own.

No matter your opinion on the case, questions arise surrounding the media's influence and whether or not they had somewhat swayed the trial, or at least the jury decision.

The public was enamoured by clips that portrayed Depp in a positive light, and dismissed the evidence against him- and his image really felt idolised in the court of public opinion.

The case was undeniably ‘memeified’, with Depp’s charisma and humorous responses against Heard’s lawyer instantly being picked up on; phrases like “mega-pint” being slammed onto T-shirts, leggings, and Facebook memes practically instantly.

And there’s plenty to be said about the “My dog stepped on a bee” meme, too. The way Heard’s mannerisms were hyper-analysed, mocked, and critiqued was quite honestly bizarre.

Her statements were laughed at, while she detailed some genuinely serious allegations of abuse.

Yet it seemed that the public had already made up its mind on whom to believe.

It’s undeniable that social media and TikTok harbour a clear bias towards Depp, despite both parties claiming serious allegations of physical violence.

Heard’s experience ties into the #MeToo movement, and many fear the outcome of the case and the critique of her character will likely affect this movement negatively.

Others fear it will spur “Men's Rights Activists” and further discourage women from speaking out about abuse.

It’s arguable that even if Heard’s testimony has been an elaborate ruse, the misogyny and bias surrounding this case have been overwhelming.

How do you feel about this case, and the memes surrounding it?

Do you think court cases should be televised in this manner?

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