Miles Klee reports on the bizarre social media hype around Johnny Depp's lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard. It's a wild brew of hysteria, misinformation and misleadingly-edited clips ("Depp DESTROYS Heard Lawyer With Quip"), a coverage both driven by Depp's histrionic stans and preying on them for laughs.
Writes Klee, with incredible bravery:
This is the kind of scrutiny that obsessive viewers usually bring to TV and movies. It reminds you that they view this lawsuit in terms of performance, not evidence. Should Depp be a compelling enough presence, they seem to believe, the ruling will swing his way. Theatrical control is, of course, an element of legal arguments and examinations, particularly where two actors are involved. Yet Depp's audience chooses to focus on furtive gestures so distant from the technical merits of his case as to have no bearing on the outcome. It's the only way they have to engage with the drama without facing the likelihood that when all is said and done, Heard and Depp will be right where they were at the outset, mutually disgraced and exhausted.
All the Depp/Heard rageposting is a good example of "bullshit" in the formal sense—truth or falsehood being simply irrelevant to the feelings provoked.
Legal experts say Depp is unlikely to prevail. After all, the Virginia lawsuit is similar to one he recently lost in England, whose plaintiff-friendly libel laws obliged The Sun newspaper to prove its claim he was a wife-beater. There, the court found that Depp had assaulted Heard on 12 occasions and tossed his case. In Virginia, it is his job to prove that she is lying—and more besides. It's not enough to show she is a worse abuser than he. He must convince the government to punish Heard for implying he abused her even once.
Responding in kind appears to be Depp's problem. But when Heard traduced him in print, responding in kind would surely have been a better idea than … all this.