The fight to clear Johnny Depp’s name exposes an altogether nastier agenda | Catherine Bennett | Opinion

Two weeks into the Johnny Depp libel listening to, a subset of supporters arrived with a large cell Fathers4Justice advert studying, over an image of the actor and his ex-wife Amber Heard: “Ditch the Witch”.

That these US celebrities are lengthy divorced and had no kids collectively, and that the case issues the accuracy of a newspaper report within the Solar, made it, within the eyes of Fathers4Justice, the right second to specific their disapproval of forthcoming reforms to UK divorce legislation. If Amber was, as they imagine, imply to Johnny, then divorce shouldn’t get simpler. Or one thing.

Though the Depp-divorce connection most likely escapes nearly everybody outdoors the embittered Batman suit-wearing neighborhood, their confusion is comprehensible. If the boys noticed an ideal woman-persecuting alternative, it was most likely as a result of Depp’s libel case had already, courtesy of the excessive courtroom, developed into slightly competition of misogyny. Though his attorneys would presumably wish to take all of the credit score for the best way the actor’s concern for his good identify has been repurposed as a demolition of his ex-wife’s popularity, they should have relied on the choose, Mr Justice Nicol, to agree that protracted deal with Heard’s conduct was justified in a case regarding Depp’s alleged violence (which he denies) in the direction of her.

Did Heard inform the reality about Depp? Dangle on: to start with, the courtroom must know who defecated within the marital mattress, about Heard’s associates and lovers, how a lot she drank, what she did if he wasn’t affectionate, whether or not she – or her sister? – threw up at Coachella and whether or not she was, as has been urged, herself a violent particular person. Whereas judgment has but to be delivered, Depp’s defence workforce might hardly have made it clearer to these considering of reporting home violence that they could first wish to contemplate very fastidiously any of their very own, unrelated, transgressions and missteps, any poor decisions that may, to an knowledgeable lawyer, render the concept of their victimhood preposterous.

Admittedly, the vivid element demanded by Depp’s workforce can also be what offered a drama-starved nation with the compelling theatre of the previous two weeks. Simply as the tip of Michaela Coel’s TV drama I Could Destroy You coincided with an impending pantomime scarcity, the Depp present opened, providing, amongst its many distractions, doomed-couple scenes that appeared like a mash-up of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Look Again in Anger and Amy Herzog’s more moderen, and bloodier, Belleville. What ought to certainly, given the origins of this authorized motion, have been an examination of 1 character’s conduct has been prolonged, presumably by some legally respectable course of, right into a lurid two-hander. Studies on this case shouldn’t, however repeatedly do, recall Kenneth Tynan’s ecstatic assessment of John Osborne’s Look Again in Anger: “He reveals us two engaging younger animals engaged in aggressive martyrdom, every with its tooth sunk deep within the different’s neck and every reluctant to interrupt the clinch for worry of bleeding to loss of life.”

The distinction between the historic rows and taunts – “pumpkin head”, “Tasya van Pee”, “Amber Turd” – and the ex-couple’s refined method in courtroom has solely added comedy to a drama with its origins in a restraining order and wider implications for victims of home violence. “When one’s aspiration is to be a fantastic gentleman, to be a fantastic southern gentleman,” Depp stated, contemplating his behaviour, “that doesn’t exclude you from the household of people who’ve moments of frustration.”

It should sadden many followers of the southern gentleman to search out it doesn’t exclude him, both, from the household of people who obsessively blame girls for his or her misfortunes. And even those that agree along with his authorized workforce’s insinuation, that regrettable character traits may put an individual past home abuse, have motive to fret that, whatever the verdict, this trial has been extra dangerous to Depp’s popularity than a transitory Solar article. Does it assist his prospects for him to have supporters just like the Ditch the Witch ensemble and a lawyer, Adam Waldman, who tweets “in memoriam” beside the names of witnesses who displease him? After Cherie Blair was named as a supporter of Heard, Waldman tweeted , with a logic worthy of Fathers4Justice: “As Iraq might let you know, if the Blairs are concerned there couldn’t presumably be a hoax on the middle of it.”

Adam Waldman, certainly one of Johnny Depp’s attorneys, outdoors the excessive courtroom in London. : Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Photographs

You do marvel if Waldman, with this sparky strategy to a case about alleged home abuse, is conscious that it’s extensively recognised as a severe crime, all of the extra so since new violence figures testify to horrifying experiences in lockdown. As Heard was giving proof, Refuge reported that in June calls and contacts have been virtually 80% increased than typical.

It might in fact be that by promoting his facet’s unpopularity with some distinguished girls, focusing consideration on Heard and thereby, inevitably, changing a libel case right into a #MeToo sequel, the fiendishly good Waldman will certainly assist Depp to recuperate his southern gentleman id and overlay photos of his consumer sleeping on a ground, or shedding it in a kitchen, which this very motion has helped to disseminate. If nothing else, he and Depp (of the unforgettable tray of tampon-accessorised stimulants) could finally show more practical as well being educators than Nancy Reagan’s “Simply say no” anti-drug marketing campaign. Not often has decadence seemed such laborious work or so unrewarding.

There’s a Muriel Spark brief story, You Ought to Have Seen the Mess, during which a lady’s revulsion from dysfunction and filth indicators her pathological detachment. The Depp trial is like the other: a path of waste, breakages and blood-, crap- or food-smeared rooms indicators full detachment from actuality, principally from their unlucky workers. Heard’s sister says of 1 trashing: “By the afternoon it was cleaned up, as if nothing had occurred.” At this level within the case of Depp v Information Group Newspapers, I’m on the facet of the cleaners.

Catherine Bennett is an Observer columnist

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