Harmony Albarran
Staff Writer

As fact gives way to fiction, our world welcomes unfit narrators to bring fairytales to life. At least, that’s what can be said after receiving the twisted results of Depp v. News Group Newspaper Ltd.; it seems the modern world has cast away fair judgements, allowing character ruination to occur within a Tweet, and relying on social clichés to fake storybook endings.

The libel case incited many to take sides between Johnny Depp and ex-wife Amber Heard, whose claims regarding Depp sparked The Sun’s 2018 headline calling him a “wife-beater.” The trial tasked Justice Andrew Nicol with the duty of seeking truth and deciding whether or not the headline defamed the actor in accordance with the 2013 Defamation Act. Instead, Justice Nicol chose to invalidate evidence and demonstrate what the head of Depp’s law firm called a “reliance on the testimony of Amber Heard” as well as a “corresponding disregard of the mountain of counter-evidence from police officers, medical practitioners, her own former assistant, other unchallenged witnesses, and an array of documentary evidence which completely undermined the allegations, point by point.”

When the UK High Court ruled in favor of The Sun, the damage to Depp’s career caused by their coverage of his alleged abuse was sustained — a ruling that calls to question where justice lies for someone who is neither saint nor devil, but whose image has been painted as the latter.

There was a time I believed Heard, too. I never tried to stay in the loop when it came to certain tabloid drama but, at the time Heard made her first set of accusations, I had grown conscious of the stakes of womanhood. According to the World Health Organization in 2017, about 30 percent of women who have been in a romantic relationship reported experiencing physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. About 38 percent of femicides occur by a male intimate partner. To me, supporting Heard had nothing to do with gender bias and everything to do with preventing another lost life. It was personal, just like it was for many others, and Heard betrayed everyone who believed her.

Those who followed the case were routinely greeted with insight to her strenuous relationship with Depp, perhaps too much for comfort. With each bit of evidence, the absurdities of the former couple’s behavior became clear, but growing concern mounted the minds of many as they wondered, like I did, if Heard deserved to champion the #MeToo movement (as she did in 2016). Worst of all, the events revealed to the Court penetrated our consciences. I remember one of the earliest dates I’ve gone on with my partner in 2018, years after Heard had filed for a divorce and restraining order against Depp. The theater was showing the second Fantastic Beasts film, and I had refused to watch it. In a hushed whisper, I asked, “Didn’t he abuse his wife?” and we chose another film. Until this year, I carried on with that belief.

Have I, and so many like me, been complicit in ruining an innocent man’s career this whole time?

The complications of this case made it difficult to rejoice in the public and judicial support offered to domestic violence survivors, especially when it seems the true abuser got to walk away free. Heard presented to the court 14 alleged cases of physical abuse from Depp; Justice Nicol claimed 12 contained sustainable evidence. The evidence at hand, though fleeting and mind-warping, included photographs of various marks on Heard’s body. During an eyewitness testimony, however, the front desk supervisor at Depp’s penthouse home in L.A., Trinity Esparza, claims to have noticed these marks after Heard had received visits from Tesla Founder Elon Musk. Many have concocted conspiracies detailing Musk’s involvement in what Depp, himself, claims was Heard constructing an “insurance policy for later.”

Regardless of the likelihood of such conspiracies, it’s clear that Heard maintained malicious intent against Depp. After a taped confession from 2015, in which Heard and Depp seem to be making a feeble attempt at patching up the cavernous wounds of their relationship, Heard is recorded saying, “I can’t promise I won’t get physical again. I get so mad I lose it.” She later attempts to sell a disgusting defense for her actions, asserting that Depp should, “Grow the f–k up,” and not flee the scene when things look like they might take a turn for the worst. Heard also states that she cannot remember the exact way she had assailed Depp, following with a broken explanation for her actions along the lines of “if you poke an animal enough, [. . .] it doesn’t matter how friendly it is,” it will lash out. For a so-called activist and supporter of those surviving domestic violence, Heard provides little sympathy when someone cannot handle her abuse.

For Depp, it seems one of the most physically taxing encounters with Heard lasted three days and resulted in a severed finger. Standing against accusations that state Depp had acted in a drug-induced rage and dealt physical harm to Heard.  He alleged that after Heard had thrown a vodka bottle at him, it had severed the top of his finger, making him aware that he was “some species of a breakdown, a nervous breakdown or something.” Following the injury, he reports he had used his bloodied hand to write things along surfaces that stated he no longer wanted to live. His injury helps to discredit Heard’s claims that he beat her, as he eventually developed MRSA in his hand and was immobile in that regard.

Depp has been reported to have called his relationship with Heard “a crime scene waiting to happen,” no doubt foreseeing his eventual demise. For Depp, his demise would come at the expense of his career. In November, Depp posted a small statement on Instagram detailing his resignation from Warner Bros. and his role as Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts, stating, “The surreal judgement of the court in the UK will not change my fight to tell the truth, and I confirm that I plan to appeal.”

The verdict brought a separate fate for NGN, which released a statement claiming “The Sun has stood up and campaigned for the victims of domestic abuse for over 20 years.” This is a noble position to take, if it had been taken honestly. Perhaps Pinnochio himself dictated the headline, watching his wooden nose grow as it occurred to him that a world in which the tabloid demonstrated correct forms of support for victims of domestic abuse exists only in fantasy. In fact, months prior to this statement, The Sun had issued an apology for plastering words taken from author J.K. Rowling’s ex-husband across a front cover, offering an inside look on what a domestic abuse charity, Refuge, claimed to be: “national media coverage to a perpetrator of domestic abuse to attempt to justify his actions.” Needless to say, there’s reason to class The Sun’s “support” as nothing more than performative.

This type of half-hearted alliance can most commonly be seen in the mainstream media. As opposed to 2016, individuals on social media platforms utilize the apps to express support for Depp, whom they’ve determined as the true victim. Especially after Heard’s former assistant, Kate James, removed herself from anonymity to allege that “[Heard] referred directly to a violent rape that occurred to [James] 26 years ago, and she twisted it into her own story, and she used it for her own use.” Upon hearing this, I was outraged. For me, and many like me, these claims seem to insinuate the years that Heard has co-opted and manipulated the pain suffered by women. Nevertheless, it was Depp who paid the price after falling from the public’s favor years ago due to the irredeemable nature of “cancel culture.”

What occurred in the UK shows no resemblance to a fairytale ending, leaving domestic violence survivors waiting for a truer win in court. What could’ve been a watershed case for male victims of domestic violence, left many in awe. How are we to protect and support these victims, when even a figure like Depp, aided with worlds of money and evidence, cannot achieve justice?

Feature Image: Courtesy of Andreas Rentz / Getty Images for ZFF / NPR

  1. Deborah Anderson
    November 22, 2020

    Thank you for speaking up. The number of travesties occurring due to this outrageous situation is mind-blowing. There can be no justice for male victims of DV when actual abusers hide behind toxic feminism. Remove the virtue signaling blinders and realize #MENTOO can be victims of DV.

    1. Maddy
      November 22, 2020

      Girl, there is no girl scout badge for lack of loyalty to your gender. There is no such thing as toxic feminism. Feminism is not synonymous with female superiority, it’s synonymous with equality. You’re basically saying a toxic “lack of discrimination”. I would question your authenticity. No one is debating whether men can be victims, he was determined not to be by a high court after he himself quested that litmus test. He has no one to blame but himself.

  2. Lisa
    November 22, 2020

    Anyone with any experience with DV can see that Amber Heard is a domestic abuser. It’s disgusting that she is not being held accountable.

  3. Barbara Ferguson
    November 22, 2020

    “Have I, and so many like me, been complicit in ruining an innocent man’s career this whole time?”
    Yes. Yes you have. However that does not mean you cannot make it right. Read the transcripts. Write more about what you learn. Send it out over social media. Amber fans and stans need to be educated. There was no “mutual abuse”. She put a cigarette out on his face, for God’s sake! She has a record for DV as well as a sealed juvie record! Elon Musk showed up in public with Amber, sporting a black eye and bruises, as did Cara De Lavigne and other romantic partners. Johnny Depp has -NEVER- had any accusations of abuse uttered about him. None of his ex-partners ever have anything bad to say about him. Only Amber, and only after he refused to her terms for divorce. She targeted, him from the beginning, love-bombed and remade herself in his image and gaslighted him the entire time they were together. There are even schools of thought that say she was trying to get him to commit suicide or murder him and claim self defense. Is that true? I don’t know, But it has come up in conversation. She’s a narcissistic sociopath, and needs to be held accountable.

    1. Maddy
      November 22, 2020

      Nothing you’re describing was actually proven by the evidence and THAT is why the verdict was decided in favor of the defendant. The claims cannot be defamatory if they are proven to be true, and they were. So there is no need to keep harassing a victim across social media, if you have that much anger and aggression, take up jogging or something. This really isn’t healthy to keep holding on to such animosity for a woman who just had the strength to come forward with her story. Please don’t start chiming in about have I read the tapes, have I read the transcripts, yes and yes. It was a perfectly fair verdict based on the evidence & testimony & I do not want to rehash it over and over like you all do. So please, just accept it and if you need to do more for victims, then volunteer at a woman’s shelter. Yelling about this on the internet isn’t helping anyone.

  4. Mea
    November 22, 2020

    Thank you so much! We need a new revolution to burn down the narrative, that only women can be victims and only men can be abusers. The true and good intention to support abused women, help them speak up in a protected atmosphere turned into a toxic mantra “BelieveAllWomen”. Men are being sacrificed, and whatever they say, do or present as evidence, the toxic mantra already poisened society, press and courts. Time for a cleansing and change of narrative: abuse has no gender. Abusers need to be held responsible for their crimes, regardless of gender or sex. Victims need to be supported, regardless of gender or sex. This is the only way to get justice back for women and men. May Johnny Depp´s case be the one, that opens the gates for a change and brings awareness to male survivors of abuse. Expose toxic feminism as what it is: toxic.

  5. Maddy
    November 22, 2020

    Aside from lacking in form and flow this writing is most absent of journalistic integrity. While I suspect you hoped to come across as impartial, the only clear takeaway was an overwhelming bias which downplays crucial direct evidence while emphasizing insignificant details such as your personal feelings about “mainstream media” or as I like to call them, actual journalists. The focus of this piece was to give you a vehicle to pass your own moral judgement on Amber Heard, a domestic violence victim. That status has now been established by a high court at Johnny Depp’s request. Good writing, no matter the genre or style, requires brutal honesty and self-awareness, both which are severely lacking in this piece. If you want to pursue this as a career, I hope you strongly consider that your rarely have the luxury of hand-picking your own audience and without an audience, why bother?

  6. wendy
    November 23, 2020

    #JusticeForJohhnyDepp
    #MenToo
    #AbuseHasNoGender

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