In the days since the conclusion of the weeks-long Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial, which set a precedent that a person cannot speak or write about experiencing domestic abuse—even if they don’t name the abuser—without fear of being bankrupted and publicly shamed, we’re already seeing the chilling effect of the verdict.
Defenders of Depp are now calling on Brad Pitt and Ryan Adams to sue their former spouses, Angelina Jolie and Mandy Moore, for defamation, as Jolie and Moore have previously testified to Pitt and Adams’s abuse in published articles. And it’s not just celebrities who may be impacted by the Depp-Heard verdict—over the course of the trial, one advocate told Rolling Stone, hundreds of survivors sought help in retracting statements they gave to the press and withdrawing from court cases against their abusers.
Many are calling the verdict a reversal of the #MeToo movement. If #MeToo was driven by the downfall of powerful celebrities accused of abuse, the Depp-Heard trial, in its uplifting of a powerful celebrity accused of abuse, signals a return to the dark ages.
In a New York Times piece published yesterday, culture critic A.O. Scott does a spectacular job at putting the trial in the context of the #MeToo movement, demystifying the reason that so many #MeToo proponents sided with Depp and ultimately suggesting that it’s somewhat hyperbolic to call the trial a “reversal” of #MeToo—not because the trial won’t have dire consequences, but because the #MeToo movement wasn’t actually that successful in the first place.
From the story:
In the #MeToo era there are men who have gone to jail, lost their jobs or suffered disgrace because of the way they’ve treated women. The fall of certain prominent men — Harvey Weinstein, Leslie Moonves, Matt Lauer — was often welcomed as a sign that a status quo that sheltered, enabled and celebrated predators, rapists and harassers was at last changing.
A few years later, it seems more likely that they were sacrificed not to end that system of entitlement but rather to preserve it. Almost as soon as the supposed reckoning began there were complaints that it had gone too far, that nuances were being neglected and too-harsh punishments meted out.
Scott’s analysis offers profound insight into the way our perceptions remain distorted by the patriarchy, and spells out the reason that a dozen of your role models—and probably some of your friends, too—gave Johnny Depp’s celebratory Instagram post a like.
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