The cat is wearing a blonde wig. From the bottom corner of the frame, a tiny plastic hand emerges, attached to a finger, which touches the muzzle of the orange cat. The video then he cuts to another image of the same cat, who now appears dressed up in a black wig and bandana; the voiceover says: “I was leaving the bedroom. He slapped me in the face and I said, ‘Johnny, you hit me’“. I’d been avoiding the video for days, ever since I’d read about it Rolling Stone. It seems that before disappearing the clip has gotten millions of views on TikTok. But now I found it in my carousel of suggested videos on Instagram, where the algorithm understood that I love cat videos, but not that I hate. when on social media accusations of domestic violence are ridiculed.
Since April began the libel trial between Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Hearda particular form of stan culture. Depp sued Heard for fifty million dollars, claiming an article written for the Washington Post in which the actress claims to be a “public figure representing domestic violence“damaged his reputation and career (the article did not mention the actor by name). Depp has denied the allegations and the trial jury is considering a counter-complaint from Heard. As the case moves towards the conclusion, the trial scenes went viral on social media, and in particular on TikTok, where users they reconstruct or ridicule the testimonies. The audio of the clip described at the beginning of this article is taken from Heard’s testimony. Another video, showing the actress on the stand, is superimposed on a clip in which Kim Kardashian exclaims “i know cringe” to the Saturday Night Livewhich currently has more than five million “likes”.
It is not the first time that the communities of fans cross processes in which celebrities are protagonists. The first case probably dates back to the crowds of supporters who showed up in Santa Barbara, California to support Michael Jackson in 2005. In some cases, the interest of fans has brought the attention of the public to little told stories, such as that of Britney Spears, which took a turn thanks to the #FreeBritney movement. But there is a particularly disturbing element in the attention paid to the trial between Depp and Heard. It is one thing to support a celebrity involved in proceedings, it is quite another to create memes that mock those who report being beaten by their partner.
Comments on unpleasant topics find fertile ground on Internet, and TikTok is no exception (for what it’s worth, the platform appears to have removed some of the videos that use Heard’s testimony audio). People make fun of politics and politicians on any subject. But using this case to make videos for the purpose of getting clicks is a particularly despicable thing, perhaps because the goal seems to be to target a person and a situation specific. Although most of the teasing is apparently directed at Heard (a disturbing trend within the trend), both the actress and Depp claim they were harmed in this affair. It would be too much to ask, then, how did the Guardianfrom “treat a serious matter seriously“?
Much of the memes surrounding the trial were made by Depp supporters, who demand that the actor be treated fairly, and then try to discredit Heard. But, as he writes The Cut“as overwhelming as the evidence may seem in court, social media tells a different story “, with Instagram memes and YouTube comments going out of their way to present Depp as a victim and Heard as a staged actress. The trial will be decided by a jury, but in the meantime on TikTok the hashtag #justiceforjohnnydepp has exceeded ten billion views, while #justiceforamberheard has collected 39 million. After years of #MeToo, there is “a woman who recounts, in excruciating detail, the violence she allegedly suffered from an extremely famous man – underlines Claire Lampen of The Cut -. How come, in 2022, so many people they seem to hate her for this reason?“.
Part of the answer may lie in the fact that despite not forgetting anything, the internet has a distorted memory. If you are a celebrity, fans may want to remember your role in Pirates of the Caribbean and ignore everything else. How could they remember that you were once married to a figure they admire and forget that you are a person. There seems to be one ingrained misogyny – and, more generally, a deep-seated distrust of women who report abuse – in the treatment of Heard by social media. But beyond that, there is also another moral: the people who choose to report will not be believed and maybe they will be laughed at. Online life is capable of making celebrities appear only in the form we want to see them. It makes them unreal. He can turn Depp into a braggart adventurer and reduce Heard’s tearful testimony to a soundtrack for TikTok. It’s a trend we didn’t need.
This article originally appeared on Wired US.