Unless you’re a caveman, you’ve been exposed to some Depp v Hurd Trials over the past few weeks. Like many, I’ve avoided my eyes — with a guilty fascination — even as I’ve been following the slander fire. As we do now, we watch, read, or mediate bit by bit these private-to-public spectacles, fearing that sheer resentment and vulgarity might leave behind a virtual stench—or, just In my case, worried that prolonged viewing might trigger. (Not sure what I’m talking about? Google: 1998.)
Today, from the first televised trials (Nazi’s final solution architect Adolf Eichmann, 1961) to court television in the 1990s (Google: The People of California v. Orenthal James Simpson). Instead, instead of watching the coverage live (yes, John C. Depp, II v. Amber Laura Heard Available on Court TV’s website and via livestreams on YouTube), we sampled the trial’s intermediary accounts on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook; digging through memes, video clips, and TikTok. As a result, our consumption is often biased, curated and sketchy.
What’s more, we’ve become so accustomed to this narrow, cynical cycle of social media encounters that we see this trial as not tragic or pathetic, but pure car wreck: accessible, tacky and instantly satisfying . We ditch critical thinking and replace it with cheap stimuli. This casual consumption does not allow for true understanding. Instead, we just feel fear, subconscious anger, and excitement. It’s like going to the opera, reading a few subtitles in translation, but not knowing Italian.whatever it is, it Yes soap opera.
In this perfunctory, snooping way, I skim through testimony, through cross-examination, through summaries, not observing the trial, but through the distorted shadows of the trial as reflected in the lens of friends, experts, and eccentrics. The more disturbed I become about this behavior—even as millions of others do—the more I realize that distortion rather than objectivity has evolved into an acceptable lingua franca.
There is another complicating factor at play.Because we can also watch trials in real time on our screens, we subconsciously think that we have a correct Look and see. judge. Comment. We end up seeing this confusing cultural intersection of watching two people in a courtroom (courtroom) (we are used to seeing them as actors acting on the screen) where we usually want them to play roles character of.
This ambiguity of public figures and private lives affects us a lot—as bystanders, as audience. We end up torn between quasi-social relationships with celebrities (we confirm Talk to them; we pretend, oops, we actually Know them) and we need to see public figures taken off a notch or two – and publicly – in order to make our wounded selves feel better in comparison.As Aldous Huxley said Brave New World, we are hooked swoosh, A drug that we think makes us feel better but actually numbs us. (Of course, Huxley doesn’t blame us, because we have to brave our new world COVID variants, monkeypox, Ukraine, politics and the Holocaust.)
Courtroom porn is just fine.
I didn’t start grazing until the week before.I forwarded a line from the writer Ella Dawson (@brosandprose) gets a lot of attention.
Then I dive in.
I’m not surprised by these memes amber heard far more than those approximately Johnny Depp. I’m not surprised that the cruel and vitriolic words were directed mostly at women.And me should not I was amazed (but I was amazed) that soon after I searched, I started getting suggested posts about trials.But they care less about Depp and Heard; seem to worship more Camille Vazquez (Depp’s lawyer) cross-examined Heard for her “performance.” (Oh, did you think we wouldn’t have any girl-on-girl action in this trial? That’s on misogyny’s hottest album.)
It would be pathetic enough if this legal spectacle only affected the personal lives of Depp, Heard, and their loved ones. Sad enough, even if we only consider how it affects domestic violence survivors or those seeking strength in the #MeToo movement. My biggest concern, however, is the larger impact on our culture: the way we fan the flames of misogyny, and the flames of celebrity circuses.