Amber Heard is the Donald Trump of the #MeToo Movement
The ease with which Heard positioned herself as the false victim and with which we attacked Depp shows much work is yet needed to believe, accept, and support male survivors of domestic violence
Two weeks ago, it became apparent that Amber Heard -who famously proclaimed in 2017 that she would be donating all of her $7 million dollar divorce settlement from Johnny Depp to two charities, the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a donation further stipulated in the Depp/Heard divorce settlement and therefore legally required of Heard- never actually made the multi-million dollar donations she so eagerly and publicly promoted, to her benefit of course.
The CHLA’s official donor’s honor roll lists Heard in 2018, reflecting her promise of a few months earlier as the Depp/Heard divorce was being finalized, but removes Heard completely from their list in 2019, their latest one available, where Heard would still appear if she had actually made the multi-million dollar donation in question, or even still had any real plans of ever eventually making it. (The ACLU, which initially announced Heard’s donation on their website, writing of it as though it was a given, doesn’t provide such a list to reference to confirm the donation.) CHLA lists “donors who have made lifetime gifts of $1 million dollars or more, included the hospital in their estate plans or made planned gift commitments” permanently, so that Heard’s hypothetical gift or planned gift or actual gift would still earn her a place on the honor roll these subsequent years later.
But Heard’s name is missing, something that cannot be overlooked and that CHLA has ever issued a correction for. More details are sure to emerge during Depp’s upcoming defamation trial against Heard, especially if Heard ever eventually complies with the court-issued subpoena seeking said information, but the fact stands on its own now and already provides one of the most resounding and significant indications of Heard’s duplicitous nature and dishonesty.
Who cheats charities out of donation money anyways, especially while knowingly basking in the glow of the positive perception garnered from said fake donation(s)? (If you’re thinking someone heinous like Donald Trump and the Trump family and their fake charitable foundation, you are thinking correctly and I’m right here with you.)
Unsurprisingly, Heard and her lawyers recently fought hard in court to maintain Heard’s missing donations and all associated financial records hidden; they were denied, however, and sanctioned for their ludicrous attempt to uphold Heard’s double role as both self-promoting hypewoman and privacy role model. Heard is expected to produce her donation receipts, as per the court order, something a person who actually made such a generous and selfless contribution should have no problem doing and should never have fought so hard to keep hidden in the first place. As of right now, however, those receipts are still missing, and Heard has produced nothing.
It’s the type of amazing fiasco that any investigative journalist or curious writer would be thrilled to explore and uncover, except that noticeably absent to this day are any major media reports questioning where Heard’s receipts are, and what other inconsistencies one can find in her fantastical story of abuse at the hands of one of the world’s most famous public figures.
Save for a few pieces, including this one, and the voices of Depp fans everywhere who have taken to social media to ask the questions writers and journalist seem unwilling to pose, no major publication or platform reported on what is a significant piece of telling evidence in a case that has spanned various years, jurisdictions, cultural movements and hashtags. (Truthfully, had you heard of this at all prior to me pointing it out here?)
Omissions are premeditated, and it is hard to reconcile this particular one with the fact that, by contrast, back in 2016–18, when her donation was still a promise and some -mistakenly- believed a fact, writers for all major publications were quick to offer laudatory articles that closely followed Heard’s public relations messaging, helping cement Heard, The Advocate, in the public consciousness. The then newly-minted media darling Heard used her newfound acclaim -and victimhood- to front as one of the most public faces of the #MeToo movement, and subsequently, to serve as ambassador and speaker for various entities, organizations, and companies, many of whom rewarded Heard handsomely financially for her time, image, and story.
To date, Heard is still represented by the prestigious Harry Walker Agency, which represents public speakers the likes of the Sussex's, Meghan and Harry, demanding thousands of dollars for her speaking engagements because few things, after all, are more compelling than the woman fighting bravely and publicly against the Harvey Weinstein of piratedom, an 80’s and 90’s heartthrob with one of the most storied, enduring, and profitable careers in the movie industry.
With the public primed to believe survivors, especially female ones, after the famous Miramax boss’ demise, Johnny Depp, the man who is Captain Jack Sparrow, soon found himself moored again, his Black Pearl snatched away in the form of cancelled contracts and rescinded offers by a culture eager to atone, fittingly so, for its past blindness to survivors’ stories.
It was a perfect moment for Amber Heard and the #MeToo movement she knowingly manipulated and exploited, but one that should not and cannot last in the face of overwhelming evidence against her.
The list is long, but the evidence is there and publicly available thanks to the Virginia court system (feel free to Google “CL-2019–2911 Fairfax County Depp v Heard” for more). This evidence includes things like graphic images of Depp’s severed fingertip, well-documented in official Australian hospital records, where it was urgently reattached with great pains. The then-couple were in Australia while Depp filmed an installment of the “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Multiple witnesses, including Depp’s and Heard’s shared on-call physician and nurse, attested to Heard being responsible for the injury, which resulted when she launched a magnum bottle of vodka in Depp’s direction (he had asked her to sign a postnuptial agreement just prior; she apparently did not like this request).
There are numerous character statements, overwhelmingly against Heard, from multiple people both within and well outside the Depp/Heard bubble, all of whom largely attest to Depp’s inherent kindness and calmness, which stands in stark contrast to Heard’s aggressive hostility and volatility. Indeed, the only people apparently willing to speak exultingly of Heard in court were her sister Whitney and their close circle of friends, all of whom benefitted at one point or other from Heard’s marriage to Depp and whom, one can reason, are probably not so thrilled that these benefits ended alongside Heard’s marriage. Amongst the perks Heard’s associates enjoyed as part of Heard’s marriage to Depp -and possibly the most desirable- was being invited to live rent-free in one of several adjoining penthouses Depp owned in the luxury Downtown Los Angeles Art-Deco building, the Eastern Columbia. Depp and Heard lived in one of these penthouses.
There are witness declarations, too, from building attendants at the Eastern Columbia to Heard’s own stylist, asserting under oath that they never saw Heard with any bruises or cuts on the days she says she was so physically battered she feared Depp would accidentally murder her. Video evidence corroborates their assertions that Heard appeared in good health, if often jovial, in what were otherwise meant to be devastating moments. One can count the LAPD’s own domestic abuse unit amongst these witnesses, after they too were called in to investigate a potential incident in the Depp-owned penthouse the couple shared. The officers concluded that no crime had occurred, as they found noting that would indicate that Depp had acted as Heard claims.
But perhaps most telling of all are the audio recordings -recorded mostly by Heard herself, ironically, at various points throughout their marriage- in which Heard’s volatility, rage, and abusive nature are fully on display. These recordings are triggering and disturbing, but crucial, as they make it irrefutably clear whom the abuser is. Spoiler alert: it’s Amber Heard.
“I fucking was hitting you!” Heard shouts at Depp in one audio recording, after first mocking him for calling his bodyguard to help him leave the situation and then gaslighting him for saying that Heard’s closed-fist blows were punches, which she refuses to acknowledge. Heard, more concerned with semantics than with apologizing for her violent actions, continuously belittles Depp as she admits to striking Johnny, but remains staunchly unwilling to accept that her violence hurt him, physically and emotionally.
“I don’t know what the fuck motion of my actual hand was, but you’re fine! I did not hurt you!… I was hitting you!” Heard continued. “But I’m not sitting here bitching about it, am I? You are! That’s the difference between me and you: you’re a fucking baby!” (“Because you start physical fights?” Depp manages to interject, as gobsmacked as any of us right about now.) “You are such a baby!!! Grow the fuck up, Johnny!!!” Heard punctuates.
Any survivor, any casual observer, for that matter, can readily identify the malicious and dangerous narcissistic behavior that Heard displays in these interactions, which is strikingly identical to the self-righteous and boisterous posturing of one Donald Trump throughout his entire public speaking history, but most recently especially during the presidential debates, the latest of which was against Joe Biden just one month past, as well as throughout his endless campaign rallies, which Trump continues to hold to this day. Like the classic narcissists they are, Heard and Trump never address the points being brought to them but rather attempt to steamroll over their perceived opponent with vague statements and insults. It is cheap talk without substance, a desperate attempt to maintain dominance while never actually bringing anything meaningful to the table. It’s a pattern that Heard exhibits repeatedly throughout all of their recorded interactions.
And still, for all their striking similarities and identical performances, and for the extremely disturbing nature of Heard’s admissions and language, it remains much easier in 2020, the year in which we should have all gone through transformative moral introspection and evolvement, to believe and accept that Donald Trump is an abuser, because he is, than to comprehend and acknowledge that Amber Heard is an abuser, because she is.
As evidenced by the reticence of many to write any stories questioning Heard’s MIA charitable donations, it remains unthinkable, to others unpalatable, to accept or even just consider that Heard, a woman, abused both Johnny Depp and the goodwill of all of us ready to listen to her and support her as a survivor of domestic violence. Nonetheless, it is an essential part of our cultural reckoning, learning, and evolution that we must face this uncomfortable truth in order to address the biases that Heard knowingly exploited, so that others don’t exploit them also and so that we may build a more equitable future.
It’s 2020 and we need to come to terms with the fact that Amber Heard is an abuser who, like Trump, uses her White privilege and -unlike Trump- her beauty privilege, as well as the deeply-embedded gender biases in our culture, to avoid taking and facing responsibility for her actions.
Let me be clear first, however, that I myself never expected to write a piece discussing men’s victimhood, not because I doubt that men can be victims, which is at least one of the issues at hand, but because as a feminist, keenly aware that the balance of power has always favored the masculine sex, I had and still largely have no interest in defending the pillars of patriarchal culture and the unequal power structure that have made women, historically, far more likely to suffer abuse at the hands of their romantic partners. (I am also not a “Depphead,” as Depp’s most devoted fans are often called, though I enjoy some of his work.)
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), which closely monitors these statistics, notes that an overwhelming 1 in 4 women will suffer domestic violence at the hands of their significant other. (It’s important to note that to the best of my knowledge these statistics are largely heretonormative, and unfortunately fail to account for LGBTQIA+ relationships in which the power dynamics may be different.) Moreover, 1 in 5 of these female victims will require medical attention as a result of this abuse. By contrast, the NCADV notes that 1 in 10 men are victims of domestic abuse at the hands of a partner, with only 1 in 20 requiring medical attention as a result of their injuries.
From this perspective, it is easy to see why there is so much culturally-ingrained desbelief against Depp, because historic power imbalances have always stacked the decks against women, including in abuse and domestic violence situations. What these numbers demonstrate too, however, is that, while far more uncommon, or far more underreported, domestic violence against men is real. It is an unforgivable disservice to male survivors everywhere for us to so blatantly and willingly ignore arguably the most famous and recognizable male survivor of our time, possibly of modern history.
Johnny Depp is brave for coming forward and willingly becoming the very public face of a demographic that our culture’s gender biases have always insisted cannot, should not ever admit to being abused, because it breaks old, sexist stereotypes about what it means to be a man. These prejudices maintain that a man can never be the victim in a power-dynamic situation, especially not the victim of a woman, because in the pervasive sexist line of reasoning that is more 1820 than 2020, a man must be both physically and mentally strong and imposing, certainly more so than a female counterpart. It’s the type of destructive gendered bias that feeds homophobic and transphobic thought, and yet, it’s exactly what remains in place in our culture, making it hard for many to accept that Depp is the victim here.
What makes Heard especially Trumpian and especially unforgivable is that, like Trump, who did not invent racism but understood its deep cultural presence, opting to tap into it and harness it for his personal gain and purposes, Heard was well aware of these gender biases too and resolved to explicitly exploit them for her own aggrandizement, primarily in the form of greater cultural relevance, which then translated to paid ambassadorships and speaking engagements, and more and greater movie roles. This is an especially heinous fact to accept about someone who also claims to be an LGBTQIA+ ally, a community that is most often targeted and disserved by the very biases Heard knowingly exploited.
Proof of Heard’s knowing exploitation of our culture’s gender biases is, again, in her own recordings. At one point in one of their many conversations, after Depp insisted and Heard admitted that she had been physically violent towards Depp, Heard, who never stopped trying to convince Depp that she was somehow his victim, mocks Depp. “There’s a very big difference between me and you!” Heard says, by which Heard means a physical difference that Heard is willing to bet would subconsciously influence any judge or jury in her favor. She was, she says, only 115 pounds at the time, with Depp ostensibly bigger, and she was, moreover, a woman, with Depp clearly a man, and that is enough, Heard knew, even in 2020, to lie and claim a victimhood that was never hers, and to -almost- get away with it.
“Tell the world, Johnny!” Heard shouts at Depp. “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!” Depp briefly interrupted Heard’s tirade to emphatically say “Yes!” when she mockingly imitated his proclaiming he was a victim of her abuse, but Heard was secure in her sexist calculations, and ignored him and pressed on.
The notion that women are automatically weaker, more fragile, and less physically imposing than a man are straight out of the sexist playbook and further inform homophobic and transphobic belief, and yet it is precisely these ideas that Amber Heard leans on when she tries to convince Depp there is no way she could have overpowered him (she had), and when Heard tries to convince the rest of the world of exactly the same.
There is much work to be done when we as a culture so willingly ignore and dismiss a survivor, and/or qualify or disqualify the validity of their claims, simply because of their sex and our fraughts beliefs of what being a man or a woman is. There’s even more work to be done when we have shown that we are not only willing to overlook someone and dismiss someone in this way, but then go even one step further in knowingly and publicly harassing this survivor simply because they don’t fit our desired image or self-imposed criteria of whom or what a survivor should or can be.
Enter the Animaniacs reboot on Hulu, and the article “He’s Radioactive: Inside Johnny Depp’s Self-Made Implosion” from The Hollywood Reporter (THR), to cite but just two examples. In an all-new episode of the Animaniacs, that lovable yet insouciant cartoon series originally from the 90’s, as the Warner siblings sing, Yakko Warner points to a mock movie poster of Depp where the movie title is “Johnny 2: Telling Lies,” before moving on to another one of Depp as a baby, pouting while sitting on the ground. (“You are such a baby!!! Grow the fuck up, Johnny!!!” Was Heard credited accordingly for her contribution?) And the THR article, it begins like this: “It wasn’t just erratic and violent behavior that wrecked one of the world’s most bankable stars. It was his unquenchable thirst for revenge.” If the title alone didn’t signal to you that this was written to drag Depp through the proverbial mud, the first line makes it abundantly clear that the author was out for blood.
It is impossible to conceive that any of Weinstein’s victims, all of whom are women, however many reservations someone may have had about the details of their particular story/ies, would ever be subjected to this intensity of brutal character assassination on such public platforms as a widely-streamed children’s cartoon series and/or a Hollywood trade magazine. The outcry would be severe, and swift. When it concerns the world’s most famous male survivor, however, we have allowed their public destruction to proceed and continue merely for having the audacity of speaking his truth and for trying to clear his name, all the while his abuser carelessly trots around Griffith Park on a pony as blonde as she is.
Something is incredibly broken with this scenario, and it isn’t Depp and his desire to set the record straight about himself and what happened and didn’t happen with his former partner. That we are having such a hard time accepting that Johnny Depp is a male domestic abuse survivor speaks directly to the deeply sexist, gender biases that permeate our society. It is these prejudices that we must ultimately work against, because it is these prejudices that impede us from achieving a more equitable world.
And while the issues that the Depp/Heard case raise go far beyond Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, it is still healthy and necessary to consider how our culture wants to handle an albatross like Heard. Some favor her vindictive effacement; I do not fall into this camp, because it serves no greater purpose. It is important to remember Heard and what she has done so as to not repeat the same mistakes.
However, it does serve a purpose to have Heard face concrete consequences for her actions, such as removing her from her role as Mera in the upcoming “Aquaman 2” movie sequel, a petition for which is already well underway online, because Heard defrauded not only Depp and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, but the entire #MeToo movement, abuse survivors, and anyone fighting for greater equality and the enlightenment of our culture. That’s a lot of people and a lot of progress to manipulate and hamper simply for a few movie roles and some paid speaking engagements. (Much like Trump, however, Heard shows no evidence of introspection or of a greater understanding of what her negative role is in this situation, which speaks directly to the disgusting level of privilege both enjoy.)
Amber Heard is an abuser, the Donald Trump of the #MeToo movement, and it’s about time we start believing male victims.