Why does the internet hate Amber Heard so much?

“But I think there’s also a deeper, digital-era problem here. [Amber] Heard is too difficult for the internet,“ writes Verity Johnson.

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“But I think there’s also a deeper, digital-era problem here. [Amber] Heard is too difficult for the internet,“ writes Verity Johnson.

OPINION: If you’ve been keeping up with … Who am I kidding? You must have been keeping up with the ongoing defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. It’s been sprayed so relentlessly over our screens that it might have well been delivered by water blaster. And it’s all about to re-start again this week after a hiatus.

If you actually read the court proceedings, it’s like watching someone live stream a dual vivisection. Both parties are having their grisly inner lives exposed and both look bad.

But online, Depp is undoubtedly “winning”. Every second TikTok shows him being charismatic in the dock or sharply handsome in old movies. Meanwhile, Heard is the evil white witch.

Well, that’s a nice way of saying it. A lying, abusive and gold digging #metoo era activist is how the internet puts it. Four million people have signed the petition to have her dropped from Aquaman 2. Hashtags for Depp have reached 3 billion views on TikTok.

READ MORE:
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* Man, it’s been an appalling couple of weeks to be a woman
* Judge rejects Amber Heard’s motion to toss out Johnny Depp’s defamation case
* Actor Johnny Depp loses libel suit over wife-beating allegations
* Exercise extreme caution when celebrity abuse cases end up in the media

So why does the internet hate Heard so much?

Many media see it as proof we still refuse to take female victims of spousal abuse seriously as a society. And Depp’s support is also a residual infatuation with a star who used to illuminate the dreams of our 16-year-old selves.

And yes, I think both of these things are true. We don’t understand domestic violence. We do still have a problem with believing female victims. (And male victims too). We do like Depp.

But I think there’s also a deeper, digital-era problem here. Heard is too difficult for the internet.

She’s messy because she seems both victim, and co-perpetrator, of abuse in the relationship. Even the sensible, thinking public struggles to accept that a victim can also be a co-abuser in a relationship. Let alone TikTok, which is a place for dance vids not rigorous analysis.

“Both parties [Johnny Depp and Amber Heard] are having their grisly inner lives exposed and both look bad.”

Jim Watson/AP

“Both parties [Johnny Depp and Amber Heard] are having their grisly inner lives exposed and both look bad.”

So she’s already too complex, pitiful and terrifying for the average commenter to dissect in 30 seconds. But it’s further complicated by the fact the internet sees her as a fake activist.

See, this current mess started because she wrote an opinion piece positioning herself as both a victim of, and activist for, domestic violence in The Washington Post. She wrote it as an official new ambassador for gender-based violence for the civil rights group, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

But then it was revealed that the ACLU only made Heard an ambassador after she pledged US$3.5 million to them. The ACLU also pitched the op-ed to The Post and ghostwrote it for Heard. And Heard then asked for the timing of the piece to coincide with her upcoming movie release.

Now if you’re cynical, and the internet is very cynical, it looks like she wrote this piece to give her new movie a boost. The internet takes activism seriously, and watches every self-proclaimed activist’s commitment with a forensic eye. So now they think she’s a false prophet desecrating holy digital ground.

But actually, this doesn’t mean she’s fake. It doesn’t mean she wasn’t abused. It just means that the internet doesn’t like what she’s done with her victimhood.

Verity Johnson: “And yet, isn’t it also the epitome of the internet-era to repackage every deeply personal trauma as #content?”

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Verity Johnson: “And yet, isn’t it also the epitome of the internet-era to repackage every deeply personal trauma as #content?”

She decided to talk about it at a time that suited her career best. Again, that’s messy. Victims aren’t supposed to turn their abuse into career jacks. And yet, isn’t it also the epitome of the internet-era to repackage every deeply personal trauma as #content? Especially if it’s under the holy guise of “using your platform”?

So no wonder they hate her. It’s an inarticulate howl of inexplicable rage at someone who is too complicated for the internet – but also a total product of it.

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