The Lesson from Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard
When I think of the matters that arose between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp, my brain goes blank. There is so much noise that it might as well be silence. If everyone’s speaking then no one is speaking. It is a fog made up of a riotous chorus. It sounds like the typical Nigerian choir, out of touch, out of line, and far from tune. In the end I am annoyed. I am angry at myself for being accessible. Shit can only find your doorstep if it knows your address. I am the one at fault. I am also angry at America. This is not what we asked for when we made them the world’s cultural super power. I’m here for sunshine and rainbows, for pictures of Blake Lively at the Met Gala. I’m maybe even here for the odd sex tape but I am not here for this. I am not here for mass shootings in schools. I’m here for levity, for joy, for laughter that starts in the tips of your toes and roars out of your lips. I’m here for amazement, for wonder, to be inspired, excited, for confirmation that it is good to live.
There are debates about who did what to who. People have picked sides, standing with Johnny, sitting with Amber. There’s talk of what this means for the me too movement, for women in general, for the abused. People say it will be harder for those suffering domestic partner violence to come forward that it will be harder for them to feel like they’ll be listened to, believed. I don’t know that this is true. I only know that I’m tired. I do not like to grapple with the heaviness of abuse, of trauma, of hurt. I only like to dance, to sing, to rejoice in the beauty of the world.
I wonder what went wrong. By our standards, by the world’s measure, they should be free of such filth. They are beautiful. They are successful. They’ve got talent, by the bucketload for him, by the thimble load for her, but talent is talent. It is a gift, fleeting and rare. Few ever find theirs, hone it, practice it, get good enough to make a fortune off it. They did. They should have been good, should have been able to dwell in the light, should have been happy but they weren’t. Now, I know things about them that I should never have known. I know now that he’s cruel. I know now that he’s broken, not just by what he claims happened to him in that relationship, but by everything that came before it. I know now that when it started she was broken, but now she’s ruined. The world cruel to women at the best of times, will be vicious to her now. All of her hopes and all of her dreams, dashed at the feet of one man.
The trial was odd. They said it was about defamation, and maybe it was at the beginning, but that’s not how it ended. It was a pile on, a trashing, a bashing. She was asked to prove that she’d been abused. He was asked to prove nothing. As soon as his flaws were revealed they were forgiven. We do not remember the things he said to his friends about her. They are excused. For her, the treatment isn’t the same. We remember every single thing she did. It’s like we created judgement just for her. When we saw pictures of his black eye we believed that she was the one responsible. We didn’t even need to be told twice. When she showed pictures of her bruises we said they were fake, painted on with blush and tone and colour. We didn’t stop to ask why the burden of proof on her end was higher.
Johnny won the trial. The jury has demanded that Amber pay him 15 million dollars for his trouble. When he sat on the stand and gave his testimony, I knew he was acting. Actors can’t help it. Talent reveals itself in everything. He couldn’t possibly turn it off. It’s the same way I knew Amber was acting when she took the stand. She’s an actress. She can’t help it. Yet, when the testimonies were reviewed, on reddit, on tiktok, on instagram, on facebook, on slack, on WhatsApp, we declared, based on nothing that she was the one acting, that she was the one lying.
What happened in that relationship? How did it last 5 years? What did she have on him? What did he have on her? Why did she stay? Why did he stay?
The world isn’t safe. It has no mercy, no patience, no kindness. It does not care that you suffer. Bad situations abound. They are common. There are strongholds we chain ourselves to for no discernible reason, crosses we carry without cause. Nothing and no one will save you. This is what this saga has taught me. If for whatever reason you find yourself in a state that’s untenable, leave. Don’t explain. Don’t look back. Don’t wonder.