Johnny Depp and Amber Heard discuss the worst of their relationship in a Virginia court. The details are grisly, and yet—or perhaps because of it—millions of viewers can’t look away. Most people forget the most important detail.
Every weekday morning, hundreds of screaming fans gather outside the County Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, waiting for the moment when a blacked-out SUV pulls up. They hold up signs they have painted themselves, and they always have their mobile phones out. With a bit of luck, the windows of the incoming car will roll down and the object of their affection – Hollywood star Johnny Depp – will wave at them. One could easily forget about the spectacle, which is why Depp drives to the courtroom. And why he sits there, day after day, with his lawyers.
Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard: A spectacle in court
No, it’s not a pop concert that takes place every day in Fairfax, but if you look at the crowds of fans, it would be easy to believe. It is the defamation trial of two ex-husbands who accuse each other of violence. But the spellbound gazes of the spectators are not only in Fairfax. Because the whole procedure is recorded with cameras and broadcast live to the world via various YouTube channels. We see Amber Heard sobbing on the witness stand and detailing how her ex-husband allegedly abused and beat her. And you can see Depp’s lawyers pointing out contradictions in Heard’s testimony while the actor keeps his head down. It goes in quick succession, like in the best courtroom film.
You catch yourself analyzing every facial expression, every gesture, in your head “Objection: Hearsay!” calls out, is outraged when defense counsel’s questions are not answered accurately and instead evasions are sought. The fact that the process is so exciting for the uninvolved viewer is not only due to the famous actors, but also to the fundamentally different way in which the legal system in the USA is structured. Because lawyers and defense attorneys try to convince a twelve-member jury. Twelve people from the people who ultimately decide guilty and not guilty. The emotional strategy is therefore at least as important as the one based on facts.
There are also two fan camps that continue the dispute online. The Depp camp is significantly larger and louder, but Amber Heard also has supporters on her side. There is hardly anyone who has not yet heard about what is happening in Fairfax. And it seems so easy to form an opinion. Thanks to the transmission via YouTube and the constant reporting, everyone who wants to is in the picture. Depp vs. Heard – this is the O.J. process for anyone who loves O.J. Simpson and the Glovesklat have not seen live.
And yet, with all the entertainment, a stale aftertaste remains. Because what happens in the courtroom shouldn’t be entertainment. Whoever ends up victorious, one thing is clear: blood spilled in Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s toxic marriage. There were attacks, there were public smear campaigns on both sides. It seems as if the real issue is being downplayed: domestic violence. Because even if it may seem like it while watching on YouTube: This is not about the escapades of two superstars, but about a topic that affects far too many people all over the world. Especially now that the corona pandemic has caused the numbers to skyrocket. Experts speak of a “shadow pandemic” because reports of increases in domestic and sexualized violence – mostly against women and children – were piling up all over the world.
It is only human to follow the live videos with excitement and to worry about who is making what statement. The general public is given a glimpse into a celebrity relationship that they would otherwise never get. You look through a big keyhole and get an idea of what it’s like to be in a relationship as a dork-caliber superstar.
And yet the underlying theme is deadly serious – and completely devoid of Hollywood glamour. A fact not to be forgotten in all the spectacle.