Televised Dry Horrors
It played out like an oddly cast courtroom drama with A-list actors. Johnny Depp starring as an aging movie star with a crippling drink and drug problem and his stunningly beautiful, high cheek-boned, bat shit crazy ex-wife Amber Heard, twenty two years his junior, fighting over a defamation case, but essentially their dissolved and twisted marriage. This was reality TV at its finest, screening live almost every day for six weeks, backed up by hours of content and commentary from teenagers on TikTok. It was Law&Order meets Judge Judy on the set of Big Brother.
"Tell the world, Johnny. Tell them, Johnny Depp. I, Johnny Depp, a man, I'm a victim too of domestic violence, and I, you know, it's a fair fight. And see how many people believe or side with you.'" Amber Heard
Depp came to clear his name, accusing Heard of fabricating domestic violence claims which he had previously been found guilty of in a London High Court. He sued Heard for $50 million, and Heard countersued for $100 million. Today, Depp was cleared of wrong doing and awarded $15 million in damages by the seven string jury, while Heard was awarded $2 million in compensatory damages.
What would this second case have been, if it weren't for treasure chests full of money? Gravity of the claims aside, it all sounded rather like childish playground taunts, "I know you are, you said you are, but what am I?".
The real winner was the media, who feasted and profited on the sordid tales of a toxic relationship that never should have been. It was a Daytime Emmy Award contender in reverse - instead of the cast, set and production costing millions, it was low budget, almost zero overheads, with the acting and cinematography paid for by the actors themselves.
In the witness stand, Depp cut a lumpen, beefy shape, donning tinted Elton John glasses inside as if announcing a mammoth hangover after a long, dark night. If this really had been a TV production, he'd have been zipping up into a sweaty fat suit each day to cover his impossibly ageless Hollywood-standards body, and touched up with yellow and blue makeup and cheek prosthetics to give that sagging, sallowed appearance, but it was all reality. Like televised dry horrors.
Heard's legal counsel painted Depp as an abusive and violent monster out for revenge on his victimised wife, and, in retort, Depp's lawyers laid out a landscape of a hysterical and vindictive wife trying to further her career.
That there was co-abuse in a verbal and emotional sense is clear, and there's no disputing that both parties were guilty of doing terrible, terrible things to each other. I think the kids' book "Pig the Grub" sums it up well, they "would play with all kinds of unspeakable muck... And do things to make you scream 'Don't do that yuck!'.
Depp, who referred to himself once as a "poor old junkie", frequently used the term “monster” to describe his behaviour when relapsing out of a drug addiction recovery or drinking heavily again. There were numerous tales from witnesses of the actor repeatedly passing out in an inebriated stupor or face planting into sand. Disturbing scenes were recounted - creepy messages written with his severed bleeding finger reminscent of The Shining, video footage of him stumbling through a kitchen in a rage and chugging back liquor one sunny morning, a story of him needing to sit in a sterile room for days trying to come off prescription pills and booze. Heard apparently was asked to sit with him in this room -as enticing as that sounds - but declined, to Depp's consternation.
Yet, in spite of the revelations, Depp was utterly charming. He appeared relaxed, affable and considerate. The internet freaking loved him. He was not only cleared of domestic violence in this trial but he also won the popularity contest in the virtual playground of social media. He's the "King of the Castle" and Heard, the dirty rascal (#amberturd).
Heard, whichever side you want to believe, was a thoroughly unlikeable and miserable "character" in the "show". She said cruel things to her husband, was unreliable and unconvincing in much of the questioning. She was diagnosed as having borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder by an eloquent and attractive psychologist. She may have pooped in the marital bed. She cried at the wrong times, even blew her nose suspiciously, in the end she came across as overreacting, over-acting, too cold and too crazy to be believed.
Instead of styling herself as the stereotypical doe-eyed victim in blush pink we were all expecting, Heard dressed for court as a no-nonsense barrister. On many occasions, she channeled mobster Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction - severely cut black suits, high-necked blouses and leather bolo neck tie. Weirdly, she counterbalanced her"lawyer by day hitman by night" look with a perpetual pantomime sad clown face and House-on-the-Prairie wrap-around braids. Like Depp, she also appeared to be wearing an unflattering (slightly) fat suit.
Heard completely missed the boat in impressing the superficially fashion conscious audiences, such as myself. There were no iconic feminine outfits, flirtacious necklines or dipped or daring hems. Throw us a Jackie Onassis pink tweed twin set or a Liz Hurley safety pin dress, a Breakfast at Tiffany's tiara and gloves or some golden hair worn loose in old world film star waves! She even fired her PR team mid way through the case - when really what she needed was a stylist (cue: costumes department!).
One of the most popular news headlines to arise from this case was the question over whether Depp had been responsible for getting Heard her role in Aquaman. Why this was relevant to the outcome of the case escapes me, but I've seen that movie (twice actually - Jason Momoa is breathtaking) and it's clear that the only acting credentials her character needed were exceptional good looks and very thin legs. No doubt her pretty face/long leg combo was pushed to the front of the queue because she was dating Depp, but again that's on her ("step inside my sterile drying out room Babycakes...").
It's hard to imagine what roles she will land now, and whether she even has $15 million in her coffers to pay Depp in damages is in question. When their marriage finally dissolved in 2016 (not a moment too soon), Heard was granted a paltry $7 million in court for their marriage settlement. $7 million? That's keep your day job, clean your own pool, sort of payout in Bel Air terms. A contemptible peanut.
So the moral of the story is: pre-nups really do work, if marriages between poor old junkies and crazy people don't.