Why the Internet Sided With Johnny Depp

She’s begging for total global humiliation. She’s gonna get it… I have no mercy, no fear, and not an ounce of emotion or what I once thought was love for this gold digging, low level, dime a dozen, mushy, pointless dangling overused flappy fish market… I’m so fucking happy she wants to fight this out!!! She will hit the wall hard!!!”

Johnny Depp texted this to his agent in August 2016 about his then-wife, Amber Heard. Now, it seems his wishes have come true. Last week, a jury awarded Depp $15 million in his defamation suit over a 2018 Washington Post op-ed, where Heard identified herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” (The judge reduced the amount to $10.35 million, because of the state of Virginia’s cap on punitive damages.) On social media, people have overwhelmingly sided with Depp. Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok remain filled with misogynistic hatred, contempt, and disgust toward this woman.

This is just what happens when a woman accuses a rich and powerful white man of sexual and domestic violence. Such a woman must be a perfect victim—or maybe simply perfect—to avoid becoming the target of a smear campaign against her on the Internet.

The legal travails between Depp and Heard began in 2018, when Depp sued The Sun for libel in the UK. The British tabloid called him a “wife beater” after Heard initiated divorce proceedings and obtained a restraining order against him in May 2016. The judge, Andrew Nicol, ruled that “the great majority of alleged assaults of Ms. Heard by Mr. Depp have been proved to the civil standard” of being more likely than not to be “substantially true.” It is striking—and telling—that Depp lost the libel suit in the UK, where the burden of proof is on the defendant to show they haven’t committed libel, rather than on the complainant to prove their accusations.

The details of the alleged incidents are harrowing. According to the 2020 ruling, Depp was first violent toward Heard early in 2013, when he began to drink and take drugs after a period of sobriety. He allegedly responded to a misunderstanding by slapping her repeatedly across the face, eventually knocking her to the ground. Heard says that Depp cried after doing so and told her that he sometimes snapped into a character he called “the monster.” He promised it would never happen again. It allegedly happened again in March 2013 when Depp became jealous that Heard had hung a painting by her former partner. Depp allegedly tried to set the painting on fire and hit Heard so hard that blood from her lip ended up on the wall. She also says that he grabbed her, shook her, and shoved her into the wall. Depp referred to it afterward via text message as a “disco bloodbath” and a “hideous moment.” He texted a friend in June that year: “Let’s burn Amber!!!… Let’s drown her before we burn her!!! I will fuck her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she’s dead.”


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