The Culture Surrounding the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Trial


Kawai Tang from

The ongoing trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard has turned into a sickening form of entertainment.

Nearly all of America is watching former couple Johnny Depp and Amber Heard amid their lawsuit. Depp is suing Heard for defamation, saying that an Op-Ed she wrote in 2018 for the The Washington Post about being a “public figure that represented domestic abuse” ( ruined his career and defamed him. While Depp was never named in the Op-Ed, he and his lawyers believe that he was defamed nonetheless because the references to Depp were obvious. Depp is suing Heard for $50 million and Heard has responded by counter suing for $100 million claiming that she was defamed when Depp’s lawyer previously called her allegations about domestic abuse “fake” ( Both parties are accusing each other of domestic abuse and both are denying all allegations against them. The trial is being held in Fairfax County, Virginia because the online edition of The Post is published through servers located in Fairfax County. 

As the trial continues and is broadcast publicly, horrific details have come to light about the former couple’s volatile relationship. I am not taking a side or weighing in on who I think is guilty and who I think will win this trial. The dynamics of domestic abuse are complex and both parties have provided reason for their narratives of events to be questioned. However, I believe that it is possible for two people to meet, get married, and be totally wrong for each other and hurt each other in different ways deeply. It is disturbing how many are treating their situation and the trial as though it is entertainment. Actress Drew Barrymore joked about the trial on her daytime show and called it a “seven-layer dip of insanity.” TikTok and Instagram are full of comments under videos of the trial referring to the trial as a “show” and each week of court proceedings as a “season.” It’s atrocious how people are treating the trial as though it is a game where you have to choose sides based on who you think is winning. Videos on TikTok show baristas at coffee shops keeping tip jars for either Amber or Johnny (you place your tip in the jar corresponding to the side you are on). Video clips of the trial have been transformed into memes. The way people are creatively finding ways to derive entertainment from two people’s pain is so twisted. These are people’s lives. These are human beings.

The dynamics of domestic abuse are complex and both parties have provided reason for their narratives of events to be questioned.

The involvement of the public in this trial and the way people are choosing sides is reminiscent of how people would watch gladiators battle to the death in coliseums. The cheering, frenzied crowd, posters, and people camping outside of the courthouse to glimpse Heard and Depp is sickening. Stan culture has worked its way into the courtroom and it is terrifying. 

The ridicule both parties have faced is absurd. Johnny Depp’s manhood has been questioned for claiming to be a victim of domestic abuse as a male. Amber Heard has been dragged through the mud for her appearance, behavior, mannerisms, and much more. According to Jim Willshier, chief public affairs officer for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the social attitude surrounding this trial could make victims of domestic abuse more hesitant to speak out in fear of ridicule. It seems as though people are so desperate to find a hero in this story that they are neglecting the facts because they’ve already allied themselves with a side. 

Much of Hollywood is hesitant to rally behind either party until a verdict is reached. If anything, this trial revealed how our culture “seems unable to accept that we may simply be looking at a story without heroes. Instead, we demand a tidy narrative with a heroic redemption arc” ( In this trial, there are many ambiguities and evidence that both sides have caused harm to each other. As the details of this case continue to unfold, we as a society can only try do better in showing respect to both parties.