Amber Heard took the stand today in the fourth week of her ex-husband Johnny Depp’s defamation suit against her. Heard has been subject to intense online hazing and hatred throughout the trial, which is being live-streamed across the internet. Though the case surrounds an op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post, she has been relatively close-lipped publicly about the details of her relationship with Depp until today.
In her testimony, Heard detailed the early years of her relationship with Depp, which began on the set of the 2011 film The Rum Diary. Throughout the filming of the movie, which shot almost three years prior to its release, Depp and Heard were both in relationships – him with longtime partner Vanessa Paradis, and Heard with ex-wife Tasya Van Rees – though that didn’t stop the actor from inviting Heard back to his trailer to listen to music and read poetry. At one point, Heard described Depp “playfully” kicking the back of her robe up when she was walking around on set, as well as forcefully grabbing her by the face and using tongue during an on-screen kiss (neither of which were called for in the scene itself). In the first year or so of their relationship, Depp showered Heard with gifts, including a horse, and the two bonded over similar tastes in jazz.
On the stand, Heard alternates between conversational and teary-eyed. Compared to Depp’s sleepy, slow recollection of events he mostly didn’t recall, she is clear and direct. Her speech is populated with qualifying phrases (“I know that might sound crazy,” she said, in reference to a jar of cocaine that Depp allegedly had at one point) and jokes (“I’m an actor, not a mathematician,” she clarified when she couldn’t remember an exact length of time). Regardless, her testimony paints Depp as an erratic, often-violent addict, often berating or hitting her, and once holding their dog out of a moving car.
Whether or not Heard’s testimony of Depp’s violence is to be believed is a matter for the jury, but that hasn’t stopped fans and non-fans alike from weighing in. “OMG I’m behind BUT her ‘crying’ is the worst ‘acting’ EVERRR!!” read a comment in the live-thread, among thousands of others expressing similar sentiments. On Twitter, many are comparing Heard to Jussie Smollett. As the trial stretches into a month, even those hesitant to explicitly take sides are prime to make light of its proceedings, citing both actors’ “craziness.” (Drew Barrymore recently apologized for talking about her obsession with the trial on her daytime talk show, calling it a “seven-layer dip of insanity.”) The “meme” potential of the trial is particularly perverse, as it all dances around the violent details at its root.
Only a few years ago, #MeToo cases were treated with the utmost gravity. What happened here? Perhaps it’s that the Depp/Heard trial is live-streamed daily on YouTube, and that weeks into its proceedings, more of the observations are about the theatrics of the trial than the case itself. Commenters treat the affair like they would the Oscars, or the VMAs, or a Monday night episode of The Bachelorette: they form knee-jerk jokes, nitpick the smallest details, and twist every new piece of information into evidence of the opinions they’ve already formed about their favorite characters. The people watching this trial are not crime scene investigators or lawyers; they are regular people, making light and having fun.
But it isn’t all that funny, or really all that crazy, beyond the scope and publicity of the affair. It is – above all else – a huge fucking bummer. Though Depp fans may never take Heard’s word as truth, no version of this story has a winner, or a punchline.