The Johnny Depp-Amber Heard Trial: Insufferable Celebrities or Post-Modern Martyrs?
Why So Many Americans Are Invested in the Depp-Heard Decision
There’s nothing like a juicy celebrity defamation trial to take our minds off gas prices, war in Ukraine, and nearly daily mass shootings. Especially when the celebrities have lots of money and little self-control. Yummy.
Ordinarily, such trials end, and so does our interest. After all, there’s no shortage of celeb misadventures, bitter rivalries, and ego-flexing to glom onto. But that’s not what happened here. The end of the trial was only the beginning of a disturbance in the Force of pop culture as hordes took to the airwaves, blogs, and social media to cackle, gloat, and wring hands about Doomsday. Sure, Jeff Goldblum, sometimes “A butterfly can flap its wings in Peking, and in Central Park, you get rain instead of sunshine.” But sometimes it flaps its wings and all we get are people flapping their gums. Sound and fury—signifying nothing.
How the Depp-Heard Trial Is Like the Bible
The Depp-Heard trial is exactly like the Bible. (Have faith, dear reader, I’ll get there. )
The U.S. is about 65% Christian, yet only about 20% of Americans have read the entire Bible—and that number includes non-Christians. Being generous, that means 45% of Christians haven’t read the Bible, the words that they claim come directly from the God they worship and which contains directions for how to behave. They base their moral, and often political, opinions on a moral system they’ve only been told about from others.
I’m not really talking about religion (however one arrives at their faith is their business). We could say the same about most Americans: 57% haven’t read the U.S. Constitution, the document that defines America. We invoke the Civil War all the time in today’s politics, yet only half of Americans know when the Civil War took place, and 82% don’t know exactly what the Emancipation Proclamation did. But everyone has opinions about what America is and should be, even though they haven’t read the document that we fought two wars over.
Which is what’s going on with the Depp-Heard trial.
The case is about whether or not Amber Heard defamed Johnny Depp based on a short opinion piece (that never mentions his name, but the inference is clear) that appeared in The Washington Post in 2018. First, do you have an opinion about the trial? Second, have you read her opinion piece? (You can read it here.) If you answered yes to the first, but no to the second—that’s how the trial is like the Bible (or the Constitution). So many people have heatedly expressed their firm opinions about the trial without ever having read the actual words. For them, the trial was merely a means to express their personal biases. Mostly, their hatreds.