The big celebrity story of the day and possibly for weeks to come is Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard. Technically it’s Johnny Depp vs The Sun but it’s really about Johnny and Amber, their toxic relationship and even uglier divorce. According to Amber, Johnny abused her and was especially violent when he was using drugs. Johnny insists that she’s lying and is suing the Sun for calling him a wife beater, counterclaiming that it was Amber who was violent during their marriage. His legal team says that he’s there to clear his name and restore his reputation. Her legal team says that Amber had a restraining order against Johnny back in 2016 and she has since then tried to move on but he won’t let her because he keeps dragging her into court to revisit the trauma he allegedly inflicted on her. Thousands of text messages are being presented into evidence, some of them favouring his argument that he was the victim and not her and others supporting her accusation that he has a drug problem. Voice recordings taped during their arguments that his side thinks will vindicate him and prove his contention that she was the one who was abusive will also be played. Amber and the Sun may be countering that with testimony from domestic abuse experts to speak about how victims’ behaviour is shaped by their abusers. Johnny’s bringing in his own reinforcements in the form of Vanessa Paradis and possibly Winona Ryder.
All of this is happening in court, in the most public way – which is an extraordinary development where celebrity culture is concerned. As we know, celebrities try to avoid open air conflict as much as possible. Especially celebrities with as big of a profile as Johnny Depp. But both Johnny and Amber so far seem steadfast in their respective self-righteousness and willing to be front and centre in defence of it against each other. And on top of all this, his actual on-paper fight is with the Sun, one of the most controversial publications in England.
This is loud and it’s messy and it’s nearly unprecedented. At a time when headlines are fleeting, when few things seem permanent because of the speed of the news cycle and the overwhelming amount of information downloaded onto us every day, we are watching unfold what could be a major event in cultural history, one that could shape how we perceive and internalise celebrity going forward. Pay attention then to not just what goes down in that courtroom but how what goes down in that courtroom will be shared, received, analysed, and then shared again. It will tell us a lot about Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. But it will also tell us something about ourselves.
Yours in gossip,