How has the livestream of the actors’ legal dispute impacted public perceptions as well as survivors of sexual violence? The defamation trial of Hollywood stars Johnny Depp and Amber Heard has long been in the news, and as the trial comes to a close, there is heated online debate about whether either party is guilty or innocent. While waiting for the verdict, social media influencers and their followers appear to have made their own decisions. The fact that so many people have strong feelings about this celebrity slander is most likely due to the fact that the trial is being streamed live on the internet.
It all started with an op-ed written by Amber Heard and published in the Washington Post in 2018 during the #MeToo movement. She wrote in her essay about her own experience with domestic violence. She did not mention her ex-husband, Johnny Depp. However, in 2019, the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star sued Heard, claiming she had defamed him. He claimed that it harmed his professional reputation and accused his ex-wife of being the true perpetrator. Heard then filed a countersuit. It has since devolved into a battle of testimony, with millions of dollars in damages on the line. Closing arguments will be heard on May 27, and a final verdict is expected soon.
Viewers around the world have been able to follow the court battle for free on the digital broadcast platform “Court TV.” Some see it as a hilarious feud between Hollywood millionaires, while others see it as an unbearable farce.
According to Cologne-based media lawyer Lucas Brost, the “curse of the cameras” is at the root of the problem. “Pictures of a crying Amber Heard or a smiling Johnny Depp stick with you. This elicits specific emotions and reactions in the population.”
According to Brost, the trial is a “very serious violation of personal rights” from a German perspective. He is outraged that such a trial has been subjected to public scrutiny, that public relations teams are being used, and that there are conflicting interpretations of the process, all of which result in preconceived judgments. “In this way, the public forms an opinion that has nothing to do with what the court may decide.” In the United States, a public procedure is intended to ensure the greatest possible transparency. The approach is understandable, but it goes far beyond what it was intended to do, as demonstrated by this trial. The media presence acts as a fire starter. ” Every facial emotion can be directly commented on and “sent into the ether,” according to Brost, referring to the process’s widespread sharing on social media.
Brost speculates that no one benefits from this public procedure, with the live broadcast particularly damaging Amber Heard’s reputation. “The public pendulum is swinging in Johnny Depp’s favor.” However, the trial is not helping the Hollywood star’s career because sordid details have emerged that will be remembered by the public.
Meanwhile, numerous memes, parodies, and video snippets of the trial have circulated on the Internet. Influencers are either taking sides or mocking the trial, giving the impression that it is merely for entertainment purposes. Nicole Bedera, a sociologist who specializes in sexual violence, is concerned that the trial will have far-reaching consequences for survivors of sexual violence.
Supporters of Heard have also faced online backlash. According to Bedera, many of them now feel unable to speak out, particularly survivors of sexual violence who identify with Heard but are intimidated by such publicly scrutinized campaigns. Bedera is also concerned that survivors will be discouraged from pursuing legal action against perpetrators in the future. Or they may choose to remain silent about their traumatic experiences entirely.