People seem to be forgetting that there are two people who are actually having to reminisce about the worst parts of their relationship.
Here’s an excerpt from Please Like Me, a social news group newsletter about internet culture week. You can register here.
The sheer number of TikTok creators, posting youTube comments and tweeting live about the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trials this week is staggering — and even brands are getting involved.
The defamation case against Heard currently on trial in a Virginia courtroom is the second time Depp has sued over Heard’s published allegations that he was violent and abusive during their relationship.
On the first day of the trial, Amber Heard’s lawyer, Elaine Bredehoft, said johnny Depp punched and kicked Heard during three days of blackouts in Australia. Depp argued that the allegations were untrue and that he had lost film offers and other job opportunities because of them.
The trial has become a viral moment, with millions of people online dissecting every word and serving as an online jury. And the seemingly overwhelming content on Depp’s side, driven by a huge fan base, seems to be a combination of OG actor fans, Harry Potter lovers and true crime enthusiasts. The Potterheads joined the mix after he appeared in two of the Fantastic Beasts films, while some of the criminal accounts were actually those obsessed with the Menendez brothers, who were convicted of killing their parents in the 1990s and have seen a recent resurgence of support on TikTok.
But referring to Heard and Depp, one seems to be forgetting that in the middle of this life there are two real people who are having to reminisce about the worst parts of their relationship. Even if we don’t know the full truth about what happened between them, we know these are people with complex, tumultuous relationships and now their closest moments are being tapped into for tweets, memes, and tags starting with #.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen fans and self-appointed detectives look at every detail of a public figure’s life for clues. We see it every day with people who are Kardashians fans, either trying to decode Taylor Swift’s conspiracies, or are obsessively investigating the Gabby Petito affair.
When it comes to Heard and Depp, there’s a big difference in how viral the posts go depending on who it’s supporting — on TikTok, videos with the hashtag #JusticeForAmberHeard have more than 21 million views, but videos under the #JusticeForJohnnyDepp have more than 5 billion. On Facebook, there were 1,667 posts this week using the hashtag supporting Depp, with a total of more than 7 million interactions (likes and shares), and the page for Heard had only 16 posts with 10,415 interactions.
Depp’s fans not only use Stan’s account but also use their own personal accounts to absorb what they see as misinformation. Some people analyze Heard’s appearance – for example, people have accused her of copying Depp’s outfits and say she may be forging her eyesight while wearing glasses after not wearing them the day before. There is even the theory that Heard’s lawyer is a Depp fan and that she is deliberately making Heard look bad.
Last week, Depp testified about seeing feces on the side of his bed, leading to memes about “Amber Turd” and the hashtag #MePoo trending on Twitter. I can’t imagine anyone who has ever spoken out about sexual harassment and assault as part of a #MeToo see what that parody hashtag trend would look like.
Among Heard’s supporters on TikTok, a viral video posted on @justiceforamberheard account was a clip from the trial that focused on a text Depp allegedly sent, which read “Burn Amber !!!.”
But the internet actually fixed a specific part of Heard’s opening statement after a cosmetics company joined, also through TikTok. Bredehoft held up a make-up set called an editing kit and said, “This is something that Amber carries in her purse for her entire relationship with Johnny Depp.”
A Depp fan posted a video editing the test, where they pointed out that the item Bredehoft was keeping appeared to be from Milani Cosmetics.
Milani then took a snippet from that video and created his own trending content. In it, someone parades to the sound of the viral backyardigans song while showing the brand’s tuner released in 2017, while Heard and Depp’s relationship ended in 2016. Depp fans saw this as proof that Heard had to lie, as that particular product didn’t exist at the time and she couldn’t use it to cover up her supposed bruises.
The video is currently Milani Cosmetics’ most viewed TikTok, with 5 million views. Previously, none of their videos reached 500,000 views (just one video reached more than 400,000 views at the time of writing).
A Milani spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that it could not officially confirm it was its product. “Our video is intended to verify the statement that our loyal fan base and eagle-eyed make about the product named in the test. Milani Cosmetics has no official position on the trial, evidence or future outcome of the case,” they said.
But the comments posted on the Milani Cosmetics TikTok account seem to say the opposite. The account responded to Depp’s fans and liked the comments, including a reading of “the latest Milani model – Johnny Depp.”
What was completely lost in the noise was that Bredehoft did not say the name of Milani Cosmetics. Instead, she explained that Heard learned different colors to use to cover bruises depending on their appearance. Milani didn’t invent color correction and there are plenty of other color editing products on sale before 2017.
“She’s become very proficient and you’ll hear testimony from Amber about how she had to combine different colors for different days of bruising,” Bredehoft said. As they are, as they grow with different colors and how she will use these to touch those things to be able to cover those things.”
A public relations representative of Depp sent Milani TikTok to journalists. In an email seen by BuzzFeed News, the PR expert asked to be identified as a “source close to JD” and claimed that what the lawyer said had been refuted. Milani Cosmetics said it was not aware of this.
By responding to that TikTok, Milani has transformed himself into the protagonist and acquired the power of TikTok that it probably sought for a long time. But it did this by taking part in an online hate training course focused on a woman who said she had been abused.
Depp’s campaign isn’t online yet – it’s also an event for live fans. The judge told the court not to camp overnight on court grounds and warned spectators not to make gestures or facial expressions.
But this hasn’t stopped fans from showing support in creative ways. A fan showed up with alpacas, telling the Washington Post that she took them with her to brighten up Depp’s day. Depp fans were also heard shouting “Witch!” and booing Heard outside the courtroom.
One Starbucks in Los Angeles displayed two jars of tipping, one labeled Johnny Depp and the other labeled Amber Heard, where customers could express their support. The Depp was full of bills, while the Heard was empty. BuzzFeed News spoke with Summer Canova, 28, who filmed TikTok showing the jars after spotting them and saying they made her coffee session more fun.
“I’ve kept up with the trial a little bit and I’m a huge Johnny Depp fan and I hope that he can find justice in this case,” she said.
After other Depp fans found Canova’s TikTok, it went viral. “It seems like most of the comments were Johnny fans supporting him,” she said. “But of course, there are some angry people who think this money-eating game is bad because it implies a domestic violence case.”
The former couple’s marriage counselor testified in court this week that there was “mutual” abuse and that both actors suffered abuse growing up. Fans and brands turn pain into memorable moments — like a hilarious game between good and evil, trying to figure out who’s right and who’s wrong, when we know that life and relationships are even more messy than that — only makes things worse. Everybody.