The trial that saw famed actor Johnny Depp face off against ex-wife Amber Heard, which began on April 11 and ended on June 1 with the former winning and the latter being convicted of defamation, has been followed day in and day out by millions of people around the world, particularly on social media such as YouTube and TikTok. His victory represents a defeat not only for Heard (ordered to pay him more than $15 million), but also and perhaps most importantly for the #Metoo movement, and in general for all those who had decreed Depp's conviction because of his being a man, even before he was tried in court.
It all began in May 2016, when Heard, after just over a year of marriage, filed for divorce, accusing Depp of being an abusive husband. The divorce was finalized in 2017, the year the #Metoo movement was born after Harvey Weinstein's harassment allegations. It was just the beginning of Depp's growing exclusion from Hollywood: in an initial trial in November 2020, in which he sued the British newspaper "The Sun" for calling him a wife-beater, the High Court of Justice in London ruled that most of Heard's allegations were true.
Following this, Depp was expelled from the cast of the film saga "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," a Harry Potter spin-off in which he played the villain Grindenwaldt. Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (who, interestingly, played a role reminiscent of Depp's situation in the film The Hunt, where he played a teacher falsely accused of pedophilia) was brought in to replace him. The same thing happened with Disney, for which for years he played the role of Captain Jack Sparrow in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" saga: in April 2022 the company severed relations because it feared possible reputational damage.
This year's trial began with Depp accusing his ex-wife of defaming him in 2018 with an op-ed in the "Washington Post," in which Heard called herself "a public figure representing domestic abuse." In the article, she claimed to have experienced violence, and although Depp was never explicitly mentioned, the reference to her ex-husband was clear. Hence the lawsuit for damage to reputation and a demand for 50 million in compensation, to which Heard responded with a counter-suit for 100 million.
In the end, however, his lawyers showed how fallacious and contradictory Heard's versions of events were. In fact, she would have been the abusive one: according to Depp, Heard had cut off his finger during an argument, as well as defecated in his bed. His ex-partners Kate Moss, Vanessa Paradis, and Wynona Rider also came to his defense.
Eventually, the jury determined that both sides in the case defamed each other: she was forced to pay him about 10.35 million in compensation, plus another 5 million for "punitive damages," and he to pay 2 million. Outside the courtroom, numerous fans of the actor came for six weeks to demonstrate on his behalf, and cheered when the verdict was announced.
Beyond the quarrel between two stars who are both flawed (it is undeniable that Depp had serious alcohol and drug problems), the outcome of the trial dealt a blow to the galaxy of the most extreme feminists. Those who, under the guise of fighting the so-called "patriarchy," repudiate any form of due process, making sure that when a man is accused of violence by a woman he is automatically considered guilty, before receiving a fair trial. Not surprisingly, the actor said after the verdict, "I hope that my quest to have the truth be told will have helped others, men or women, who have found themselves in my situation, and that those supporting them never give up. I also hope that the position will now return to innocent until proven guilty, both within the courts and in the media."
In light of what he has had to endure in recent years, Depp had already made statements against the growing pervasiveness of cancel culture, because of which no one is safe. A position also shared by Tim Burton: according to the director (who made 8 movies starring Depp between 1990 and 2012) with today's political correctness it is no longer possible to say anything.
Feminists, who hoped for a victory for Heard, already appear to be on the warpath: after the jury handed down the verdict, articles appeared against an alleged "misogyny" that was supposedly behind Depp's victory. We find examples of this in the "Guardian" in the UK and the "Corriere della Sera" in Italy.
Amber Heard, however, has not enjoyed much public support, at least judging from the Web: on May 27, the hashtag #teamjohnnydepp reached 472 million views on TikTok, while the hashtag #amberisaliar hitted 145 million. Appeals also have popped up to exclude her from the cast of Aquaman 2, part of the recent "DC Comics" superhero saga, in which she plays Princess Mera. The petition on Change.org was reported to be at 4.4 million signatures as of earlier this month.
One wonders if it is right to go that far, as it would mean responding to the cancellation of one celebrity with the cancellation of another. Faced with an opponent who tries to get you out of the way, should you try to be better than him or respond eye for eye? In what is also a battle of values, should you always respect your own principles or is every means permissible to achieve the goal? These are difficult questions, for which it is not easy to find an answer.
In conclusion, the trial shows how the new drifts of political correctness are far less hegemonic than people believe, even among youth, and that if you combine cleverness and fortitude it is possible to stand up. A lesson to remember, because the #Metoo advocates will not give up so easily: they have lost a battle, but the war is still on.
Giornalista pubblicista, ha scritto per le testate Mosaico, Cultweek and Il Giornale Off. Laureato in Beni culturali (Università degli Studi di Milano) e laureato magistrale in Giornalismo, cultura editoriale e comunicazione multimediale (Università di Parma).