Since April 11, many Americans have felt compelled to take a peek behind the curtains of the toxic marriage between Hollywood celebrities Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. The patterns weren’t pretty.
Their ugly past played out on television, with destructive and disgusting detail. I didn’t watch a minute of it, but obviously it was difficult to ignore. Friends on Facebook wanted to weigh in. Cable news channels reported every revelation with fervor. Updates were readily at my fingertips, even when I didn’t want them.
The spectacle came to an end Wednesday, when a Fairfax, Virginia, jury reached a verdict in Depp’s lawsuit against ex-wife Heard. Stating that Depp had proved all the elements of defamation, the jury awarded him $15 million in damages; Heard was awarded $2 million as a result of her countersuit.
Let’s remember what really matters
OK, cool. Now what?
We go back to worrying about the baby formula supply? Rising gas prices? Do we sympathize with parents living in poverty and wringing their hands about how to pay bills and feed their children? Will we remember that families are still grieving about the lives lost in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas?
It’s called perspective, and in many ways, we’ve lost it. Listen, I’m the queen of pop culture. I love a good celebrity story or scandal. I watch reality television. I often write about depressing and disturbing things, so when I want to unwind and clear my mind I often turn to entertainment.
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But that trial wasn’t entertainment; it is real life. The allegations of abuse were staggering. The allegations of alcohol and drug-fueled rages were downright scary. The testimony about feces in the bed … I don’t even have words for that.
I don’t profess to know all the evidence presented during trial, but I do know that what we witnessed was two broken people playing out their deepest flaws for the world to watch. Civil lawsuits are filed and litigated every day. But two wealthy celebrities countersuing each other for their alleged grievances seems so … shallow.
‘Disappointment … beyond words’
“The disappointment I feel today is beyond words,” Heard said in a statement after the verdict. “I’m heartbroken that the mountain of evidence still was not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence, and sway of my ex-husband.”
I think back to the days of “21 Jump Street” Johnny Depp, the man with a smile that could melt hearts. I still cherish his poignant performance in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” But over the years, I’ve also watched Depp clearly struggle with substance abuse and emotional issues.
The reality is we will never know what happened between them; they both seem unwell. Did they testify under oath? Sure. Were they both forthcoming and honest? Maybe. Are both of them at fault? Probably. Was justice served? I would say yes, simply because finally we can all move on.
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There’s so much going on in the world, and so much of it is heavy. School shootings. Racially motivated mass shootings. A war in Ukraine. A struggling economy. Pandemic fallout and fatigue. A fractured political system. It’s exhausting.
Sometimes we need an escape, and I won’t sit in judgment about that. We often turn to celebrities and athletes to entertain us and to help us elude reality. But none of this has been entertaining.
It has been tragic.
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard reduced us to the lowest common denominator of civility, humility and unity. And we didn’t look away.
Yet I’m hopeful that if nothing else, this case prompts a robust conversation about abuse (of men and women), addiction and accountability.