Amber Heard fired her PR team late last week, upset that the Virginia defamation trial between her and ex-husband Johnny Depp has resulted in a slew of negative coverage.
Good: I’d be pissed about the coverage if I was her too. You can’t skin a cat on the Internet (don’t do that?) without running into a longform thread about inconsistencies in her case, or YouTube compilations of stars turning their backs on her. On TikTok, one half of the world’s worst lesbian couple weighed in: “I have [bipolar disorder], I’m in a healthy, well-functioning relationship with the love of my life, I’m gonna be a mom soon. Amber Heard is an abuser, that’s why she’s abusive. Not because she has BPD. Mental illness is NEVER an excuse to be abusive.” Agree with the latter point, in theory, but also why do you give a shit?
It’s not so much that Amber Heard’s PR has failed – though they have – but that Depp’s team has soared. His team under Slate PR also represents Jared Leto and James Franco, for example, two men who have never been in trouble and have been allowed to keep working. The coverage of Depp, in turn, has been widespread and fawning. There are a stupid number of court fancams.
Much has been written about the fervor of Depp’s fans and the cringey supportive tweets making the rounds, but in the start of the trial’s fourth week, people who have previously had no reason to weigh in have begun to speak up. Why, for instance, is Lis Smith, a walking PR embarrassment, defending Precision Strategies, Heard’s former PR firm, saying, “[they’re] one of the best crisis firms –– but they can’t rewrite the history of what’s happened.” Okay? Thank you, Lis Smith, now back to whatever it is you do for Cuomo.
There’s not even a benefit to staying (relatively) neutral: on her show last week, Drew Barrymore joked about the trial, saying, “It’s like one layer of crazy, it’s a seven-layer dip of insanity. I understand all the feelings, but they are actually offering up this information that nobody had to know. This is crazy!” It’s a relatively innocuous joke, not in great taste, though not mean-spirited either. But Barrymore had to walk back her comments, apologizing in a bizarre video on Instagram. “I can be a more thoughtful and better person moving forward because all I want to do is be a good person and I very much appreciate the depth of this and I will grow and change from it,” Barrymore said. (“Here’s to all of us embracing teachable moments and the aspiration [to] know better and do better and be good people in this world,” commented Evan Ross Katz, for whatever reason.)
But Barrymore was right: this trial is crazy. The only reason we know that the trial is crazy is because Fairfax County allows televisation. Perhaps this is the greater pundit-ification of everything, the way in which everyone becomes an expert on any given topic for all of thirty hours, like the brief period of time in which everyone knew how prop firearms worked in the aftermath of the Rust shooting. Initially, the case wasn’t supposed to be this public, and only through the insistence of Depp’s now-fired lawyer Adam Waldman has information grown more and more available.
That Heard has now hired Shane Communications may help rehabilitate her image over the trial’s final few weeks, but the bulk of the damage has already been done. The publicity of the trial has bounced the verdict into public opinion, such that it’s possible that even if Heard is victorious in the courtroom, her career will suffer. Depp fans have made note of Heard’s stinginess in her charitable donations, that this is proof of her rampant dishonesty. But years in court for an actor without several tentpole films under their belt get expensive, and Heard is definitely paying.