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At last, the bizarre three-ring circus that was the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial is over. The weeks of lurid testimony painted a bleak picture, no question. But descriptions of that picture are all over the place. There will be appeals, so we surely haven’t heard the last of the couple.
Indeed, Heard appeared on the Today show just this morning as part of a “no apology” tour. She deflected some fairly hard-hitting questions from Savannah Guthrie — and Guthrie made a strange choice as interviewer for some, considering her husband consulted for Johnny Depp’s legal team.
During the interview, Heard doubled down on accusations she’d made during the courtroom proceedings, and dismissed some of her more controversial taped remarks as taken out of context. At points she seemed to admit being physically violent during her relationship with Depp, though always, she said, in self-defense. She also said she wondered why she had been pilloried as a bad actress during the trial for her Hollywood work, but then called a fantastic actress by the same people for supposedly role-playing as a victim.
If this most recent interview was intended to clear things up, it certainly fell short. Many viewers will have come away from it feeling even more confused than ever.
Meanwhile, Depp and his very vocal coterie of supporters also continue to make headlines. During the trial, Depp’s sometimes shocking behavior toward Heard was thoroughly described, and text messages wherein he told friends he wanted to “burn” Heard and then “f**k her burnt corpse” were read out. Yet the crowds gathered outside the court could have been mistaken for a gaggle of star-struck Pirates of the Caribbean super-fans. There they were, waving homemade posters pledging their love and support of a man who is really a total stranger to them, known only through his charismatic onscreen portrayals. Were these folks truly unable to untangle the clearly troubled flesh-and-blood person from the parts he plays?
This sorry spectacle underscored, for me, our unwillingness as a society to think deeply and independently anymore. There is no room in a modern life dominated by social media for nuance, or gray areas. You are either all-in for Fox or for CNN, and view absolutely everything through one of those polarized lenses. To cross over is to lose your identity, your membership in the club of the like-minded. In a conflict, therefore, one person must be the knight in shining armor, the other the devil incarnate. In the Depp-Heard case, some seriously unsavory details emerged about both accuser and accused. The dirtiest of laundry (literally) was aired, and neither of them came out unscathed. But to talk with many people, you would think there had been a clear-cut hero — and a majority would name their “friend” Jack Sparrow.
There has been much talk about the possible negative impact of this trial on women who may now be afraid to come forward with reports of abuse. I hope this does not happen. It has historically, and tragically, been much too difficult for women to be believed. Many too many abusers have walked, and continue to walk, free. But this particular, very ugly, situation, involving two famous and apparently toxic people, should not discourage those seeking justice for themselves or a loved one. We should be able to tell the difference.
So let’s roll up the big top. Show’s over. Nothing more to see; let’s move along. This doesn’t need to become a search for “the good guy” or a role model. All men are not Johnny Depp, nor all women Amber Heard. We are instead flawed, complicated humans with our own unique stories. And a brighter future is only possible if we accept the necessity to think with nuance.