Depp vs. Heard: hype about a show trial

0
51

The legal battle between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, broadcast live on the web, dominates social media. What role does the media spectacle play for the public and how does it affect victims of sexual violence?

Slaughter live online: Amber Heard vs. Johnny Depp

The defamation trial of Hollywood stars Johnny Depp and Amber Heard has become a controversial topic on the internet. The guilt and innocence of the ex-couple is hotly debated online. Unlike the court, social media influencers and their followers appear to have already made their judgments. The fact that so many people have a clear opinion about this celebrity mud fight is probably mainly due to the fact that the process is streamed live on the Internet.

It all started with an opinion piece that Amber Heard published in the Washington Post in 2018 amid the #MeToo movement. In her article, she wrote about domestic violence that she experienced first-hand. Her ex-husband Johnny Depp was not named in it. But the Pirates of the Caribbean star sued Heard in 2019 and turned the tables by claiming she framed him, saying she was the actual perpetrator. Heard responded with a counterclaim. Word agains word. Millions of dollars in damages are at stake. Now the trial is entering its final stages in a Virginia court this week. A verdict is set for May 27.

Johnny Depp accuses his ex-wife Amber Heard of Making false statements about domestic violence in the Washington Post in 2018

The “curse of the cameras”

Viewers can follow the mud fight worldwide free of charge on the “Court-TV” internet television channel. Some see it as an amusing feud between Hollywood millionaires, others an intolerable farce.

The “curse of the cameras” is at the core of the problem, says Cologne media lawyer Lucas Brost in DW- Interview. “The images stick – a crying Amber Heard or a smiling Johnny Depp. That evokes special emotions and reactions in the population.” 

From a German perspective, the process is “a very serious violation of personal rights,” said Brost. He sees it very critically that such a process reaches the media public, that PR teams are working, that media interpretation sovereignty is being fought for and that there are massive prejudices. “So the public forms an opinion that in the end has nothing to do with what the court might decide.”

Every emotion causes endless comments online, says media lawyer Lucas Brost

A public procedure should guarantee the greatest possible transparency in the USA. “The approach is understandable, but – as this procedure shows very clearly – it goes far beyond what it should be intended for. Because the media presence acts like a fire accelerator.” Every facial movement can be directly commented on and “in the ether”, says Brost, referring to the multiple sharing of the process on social media channels.

“Pendulum of the public swings in favor of Depp”

Brost suspects that nobody will benefit from this public process. Amber Heard in particular is a shame about the live broadcast. “The public's pendulum is swinging in favor of Johnny Depp.” However, the process is not a career booster for the Hollywood star, because piquant details come to light that get stuck in the public mind.

A supporter of Amber Heard stands outside the courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia where the trial is taking place

Numerous memes, parodies or content consisting of video snippets of the negotiation and taking sides with one side or the other and making the process ridiculous are now also circulating on the Internet. This creates the impression that the trial is a media spectacle that serves only entertainment. The US sexual sociologist Nicole Bedera fears that the trial could have far-reaching consequences for victims of sexual violence. 

p>

  • Cancel Culture: These artists are boycotted on the internet

    Johnny Depp: outlaw or honor?

    Johnny Depp (photo) is to be honored for his life's work at the Spanish film festival in San Sebastian – despite allegations of domestic violence. Since July 2020, a court has been dealing with the allegations made by his ex-wife Amber Heard. As long as there is no clarity, one should not honor Depp for an entire career, so the criticism.

  • Cancel Culture: These artists are boycotted on the internet

    R. Kelly is avoided

    R&B star R. Kelly has influenced many artists with his music. Now he has to answer in court for sexual abuse, among other things. A large part of the public has now turned against him – he is ostracized on social networks.

  • Cancel Culture: These artists are boycotted on the internet

    Does Nena believe in conspiracy theories?

    The German singer has come under criticism for statements against corona measures: During performances, she encouraged her fans to disregard hygiene and distance rules. The singer claims that she is not a pandemic denier. But recently she celebrated with well-known conspiracy theorists. The consequence: two organizers have already canceled their concerts this summer.

  • Cancel Culture: These artists are boycotted online

    Never work with Woody Allen again

    Woody Allen abused their adopted daughter Dylan – actress Mia Farrow has accused her ex-husband since 1992. Although there was never a court verdict in this case, it remains in the public mind. In 2021, the HBO docuseries “Allen V. Farrow” drew attention again. Colleagues then distanced themselves from the director, and Amazon canceled a production contract.

  • Cancel Culture: These artists are boycotted on the Internet

    Known allegations against Michael Jackson

    Also in the case of Michael Jackson, allegations of abuse have overshadowed his artistic life's work for a long time. The allegations, which were last brought up again in the film “Leaving Neverland” (2019), were presented more forcefully and emotionally than perhaps never before: Radio stations around the world then deleted the songs of the former “King of Pop” from their programs.

  • Cancel Culture: These artists are boycotted on the internet

    Peter Handke's Serbia scandal

    These accusations were nothing new either: in his works and in his performances, author Peter Handke plays down war crimes that Serbs are said to have committed during the Yugoslav war. The debate became heated when Handke received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2019. The Swedish Academy should urge him to apologize, according to public demands. Handke made no concessions.

  • Cancel Culture: These artists will boycotted on the internet

    Au revoir, John Galliano

    In the spring of 2011, the Parisian luxury label Dior terminated the long-standing collaboration with its chief designer. Anti-Jewish and racist insults in front of a Paris bistro shocked the public at the time. Dior advertising face Natalie Portman, herself a self-confessed Jewess, turned away. However, Galliano did not remain banned for long: he made a comeback at Maison Margiela in 2015.

  • Cancel Culture: These artists are boycotted online

    Twitter protest against J.K. Rowling

    280 characters were enough for J.K. Rowling to discredit himself. She repeatedly tweeted about how biological sex is superior to social sex – statements that hit and hit trans people particularly hard. The headwind on the net is enormous, queer associations continue to storm against the Harry Potter author. But Rowling sticks to her statements.

  • Cancel Culture: These artists are boycotted on the internet

    Dozens blame Kevin Spacey

    In the course of the #MeToo campaign, allegations against Kevin Spacey were also made. A colleague claimed to have been molested by Spacey when he was a minor. He then tweeted that he did not remember the incident. Allegations and lawsuits from dozens of other alleged victims followed. Spacey has since avoided the public eye. Netflix has removed him from its House of Cards series.

  • Cancel Culture: These artists are boycotted on the internet

    Melanie Martinez Discussion

    The US version of “The Voice” helped Melanie Martinez to worldwide fame in 2012. Five years later, in 2017, a former friend took to Twitter to allege that the singer had a history of abusing her. Angry discussion erupted online. However, there was never a court case.

  • Cancel Culture: These artists are boycotted on the Internet

    Gina Carano fired

    Under the hashtag “FireGinaCarano”, the production company Disney+ was called upon in 2020 to fire the actress (“The Mandalorian”). Among other things, Carano had spread the conspiracy theory about fraud in the US election on social media. When she suggested in 2021 that conservatives in the US would be treated like Jews under the Nazi regime, Disney actually fired her.

  • Cancel Culture: These artists are boycotted online

    Harvey Weinstein: The Fallen Movie Mogul

    This scandal triggered the #MeToo protests in 2017: More than 90 actresses, including Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek, accused Weinstein of sexually harassing or abusing them. The Oscar Academy then fired him, even his own production company separated from him. In 2020, Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

    Author: Marlon Jungjohann


The social media pillory is merciless

The damage caused by influencers is immense, she says in a DW interview. “Influencers tend to benefit from a snowball effect of the algorithms. It can make it seem like once a lot of people support Johnny Depp, the majority of users on the web are on his side. And that's before Amber Heard could even comment.”

Amber Heard and her supporters are regularly subjected to shitstorms on social media

There have already been shitstorms on the internet against people who took Amber Heard's side. As a result, many people felt that they were no longer able to express themselves, according to Bedera.

Victims of sexual violence were among those intimidated by such campaigns. Some of them identified themselves with Amber Heard. Bedera also fears that such a show trial could prevent victims of sexual violence from taking legal action against perpetrators in the future, or they could even conceal their traumatic experiences altogether.

“Himpathy” on Social Media

But how does such a discrepancy arise? Why are people more likely to side with Johnny Depp? Why does the hashtag #IStandWithAmberHeard only have 8.6 million views on TikTok while #JusticeForJohnnyDepp has around 15.7 billion views?

There is a certain image of a “perfect victim” in public that does not correspond to the real experiences of a victim of sexual violence. This gap leads to greater empathy for men who are accused of sexual violence.” Philosopher Kate Manne calls this phenomenon “himpathy”, meaning the excessive empathy shown towards men at the expense of women in such a context “, says Bedera. She wasn't surprised that Johnny Depp received more sympathy than Amber Heard by broadcasting the trial live. “With these prejudices, which come into play when such a trial is broadcast live, the man concerned is almost always favoured, especially if he is a perpetrator.”

Johnny Depp attracts a lot of sympathy on social media channels

Depp vs. Heard's verdict not over

The dispute between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp has been going on for years. For a distanced assessment, the legal disputes of the past would also have to be taken into account. Yes, Bedera is certain that the media attention that the case is now attracting is unique. “It is very unusual that there are hashtags that are used billions of times.”

With In any case, the case will probably not be completed after the court hearing, as sociologist Nicole Bedera and media lawyer Lucas Brost agree. Such proceedings, which involve violence and celebrities, often have a major social impact ;”The Depp vs. Heard case will keep us busy for a long time,” predicts Bedera.