The Depp-Heard trial was a lightning rod for misogyny

The outsized anger at Heard’s claims of abuse against the famous actor should be cause for concern

Ariya Tabassum Abdullah
Published : 27 Dec 2022, 03:20 AM
Updated : 27 Dec 2022, 03:20 AM

The media circus surrounding Johnny Depp's defamation trial against former partner Amber Heard took up a shocking amount of public attention this year. Many people are sick of hearing about it, and, to an extent, so am I because the discourse surrounding it has been tiresome and disgusting. Specifically, the public’s reaction towards Amber Heard has been difficult to watch. Few men accused of similar violence have been publicly mocked the way that Heard has.

My intention is to critique the response to the case rather than its specifics, but it should be noted Johnny Depp lost his libel case against The Sun UK when he challenged their assertion that he was an abuser. UK courts are much more amenable to defamation claims than American ones, but Depp was unable to convince them that the claims of abuse against him were fabricated.

Depp also has a history of violent behaviour and has reportedly assaulted crew members and been violent towards other partners. He has also defended and has remained friends with other alleged and known abusers such as Marilyn Manson and Roman Polanski. But the actor and his fans maintain that it was Heard, not Depp, who was the abuser in their marriage.

The US defamation case was different. It was televised and the ruling came from a jury that wasn’t sequestered and was, instead, exposed to a massive public backlash against Heard, which may have contributed to their perceptions of the case.

From the very beginning, Heard has been the subject of intense mass scrutiny, with users on TikTok, YouTube and Twitter spearheading a smear campaign against her. YouTube reactors who normally watch TV and movies jumped on the bandwagon to scrutinise footage of the trial to play at being amateur sleuths. Many on TikTok even mocked Heard’s crying on the stand as she testified about experiences of sexual assault. Some even went so far as to use makeup to recreate pictures of a bruised Heard to “prove” that her injuries were fake. 

This outpouring of vitriol may seem aimed at Heard, but it is hard to believe that it isn’t a reflection of the violent misogyny directed at all women, particularly those who spoke out against rape, domestic violence and sexual assault during the MeToo movement.

Some people have made Heard out to be an icon of this movement, which many viewed with fear and hatred to begin with. The response to the trial makes it feel as if those opposed to the movement are trying to make an example of her, punishing her for daring to speak out. Since the trial, there has been more vocal scepticism of stories of abuse from other celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Evan Rachel Wood, Melissa Benoist, Megan Thee Stallion and FKA Twigs, despite evidence to substantiate them.

Most of these women are white and all of them are famous and well-known, so I can’t help but wonder what happens when ordinary women come forward with their experiences of domestic violence? Will they be publicly mocked, socially ostracised or professionally blacklisted like Heard was? Will they be seen as conniving and manipulative witches that have sought to ruin an innocent man’s reputation? Will they be branded as liars by their own communities? If even a rich white woman cannot seek justice with all the money and fame in the world at her disposal, what hope is there for the rest of us? 


“Ellen Barkin Testifies 'Controlling' Ex Johnny Depp Was 'Always Drinking,' 'Threw Wine Bottle' at Her”. People. May 19, 2022.

“Johnny Depp Settles On-Set Assault Lawsuit”. Vanity Fair. Jul 12, 2022.

“Johnny Depp defends Roman Polanski”. Digital Spy. Jan 30, 2010.

“Marilyn Manson: The Monster Hiding in Plain Sight”. Rolling Stone. Nov 14, 2021.

“’He’s Radioactive’: Inside Johnny Depp’s Self-Made Implosion”. The Hollywood Reporter. Dec 9, 2020.

This article is an opinion piece written for Stripe,’s page on society and culture from a youth perspective