This doesn’t mean that the case is entirely straightforward. Heard has admitted hitting Depp, and has been recorded insulting and belittling him. The couple’s marital counselor testified that they engaged in “mutual abuse,” saying of Heard, “It was a point of pride to her, if she felt disrespected, to initiate a fight.”
Some domestic violence experts consider mutual abuse a myth, arguing that while both partners in a toxic relationship can behave terribly, one usually exercises power over the other. But even if you believe that Heard acted inexcusably, the idea that she was the primary aggressor — against a larger man with far more resources who was recorded cursing at her for daring to speak in an “authoritative” way — defies logic.
Indeed, one of the most salacious details from the trial — the one that’s been used to jeer at Heard across every form of media — might just as easily fit into a story of her victimization. Depp, you may know by now, accused Heard or one of her friends of defecating in her bed as an act of revenge, and his bodyguard said she’d confessed to a prank gone wrong. Heard testified that one of their dogs, incontinent since eating Depp’s weed as a puppy, defiled the bed. “It was not really a jovial time, and I don’t think that’s funny, period,” she said. “That’s disgusting.”
If she’s telling the truth, one has to marvel at how thoroughly Depp and his team have sullied her name. When Depp testified, the hashtags #AmberTurd and #MePoo shot across the internet. The image of Heard, a woman whose brand is bombshell blond glamour, is now linked, perhaps permanently, to excrement. If she’s not a psychopath, she’s the casualty of a truly sadistic reputational hit job.
It’s worth noting that in 2020, Bot Sentinel, a group that tracks online disinformation and harassment, was hired by Heard’s lawyers to analyze the social media campaign against her. “Everyone thinks that any activity against them is bots or whatever,” the group’s founder, Chris Bouzy, told me. But in this case, some of it was — Bouzy estimated that there were 340 “inauthentic” Twitter accounts devoted to defaming Heard and amplifying petitions calling for her to be fired from acting and modeling gigs. “A small number of accounts can drive conversations on Twitter,” he said.
Yet even if trolls and bots helped juice anti-Heard mania, there are obviously plenty of real people participating in it. Some of them are obsessive Depp fans; as Kaitlyn Tiffany wrote in The Atlantic, there’s a history of online communities fixating “on theories that the male objects of their fandom were being manipulated and tortured by less-famous, female romantic partners.”
There seems, however, to be a broader misogynist frenzy at work, one characteristic of the deeply reactionary moment we’re living through. “She will hit the wall hard!!!” Depp wrote in the email to Carino. Looks like he knew his audience.