JOHNNY VS. AMBER: THE U.S. TRIAL. The miniseries that nobody asked for

Was it really necessary to add another brick to this media hysteria?

Michalina Peruga

4 March 2023

A few months ago, the media was talking about only one thing – the trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. On Discovery+, you can see a two-episode miniseries about the case: Johnny vs Amber: The U.S. Trial. I have only one question – is it really necessary to add another brick to this media hysteria?

At the turn of spring and summer 2022, the Internet and tabloids were red-hot, and the several-week trial of Depp and Heard was followed by millions of people around the world. It all started a few years earlier. In 2015, the couple got married after several years of relationship after they met in 2009 on the set of Rum Diary. The marriage did not last long, as the couple divorced more than a year later. During the divorce case, Amber Heard talked about the violence she experienced from Depp. Some time later, the newspaper “The Sun” described Depp as a wife beater, for which the actor sued the newspaper. He lost the case because the court decided that the newspaper had the right to use the term because Heard’s allegations were justified.

The situation escalated in 2018 when Johnny Depp sued Amber Heard for defamation for an article she wrote (probably with the help of ghostwriters) in The Washington Post about the violence she experienced in her life. Although Heard does not mention Depp by name, the Pirates of the Caribbean star has argued that the ex-wife’s allegations have negatively impacted his career and resulted in him losing many film opportunities.

When in April 2022 the trial started in court, it was followed and commented on social media on an ongoing basis. The case attracted a lot of unhealthy attention and generated more social media posts than the war in Ukraine. The main concern of self-appointed judges and jurors hiding behind their smartphone screens was the degree of guilt of Amber Heard. The ubiquitous misogyny was revealed here in all its glory.

The attempt to capitalize on this tragedy did not end with the end of the trial in June 2022, when the court ruled that Heard defamed Depp. Since then, a lot of footage has been produced protracting the case, including the feature film Hot Take: The Depp/Heard Trial, in which the roles of Depp and Heard were played by Mark Hapka and Megan Davis. February also featured a two-episode miniseries Johnny vs. Amber on Discovery+, which was made before U.S. Trial. Both series were created by the same creators.

The first episode shows the whole thing from Depp’s point of view, the second – from Heard’s point of view. Of course, none of the most interested parties speaks personally, and their perspectives are glued together from the statements of lawyers and journalists participating in the trial. In the first episode of the documentary, members of Johnny Depp’s legal team talk about their strategy and the details of the client’s case. Unfortunately, the sections are not symmetrical. No one from her legal team attended Amber Heard’s episode two. Heard’s perspective is therefore woven from the accounts of third parties not directly involved in the case or knowing its details.

The biggest shot in the knee of this episode is the involvement of Lisa Bloom in it. This American lawyer is known for the fact that in her career she has represented women who have experienced violence and sexual harassment – victims of Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump. In 2016, she took on the role of an adviser to Harvey Weinstein when the first sexual harassment allegations surfaced over the years. Lisa Bloom defends Amber Heard in the documentary. Considering that Bloom has lost credibility, inviting her to participate in the production makes the series frivolous.

On the other hand, the lawyer explains very simply what Depp and Heard’s trial last year was. This was not a case of physical violence, of proving who was right, who was telling the truth, and who was lying. It was just a defamation lawsuit. This slightly changes the optics and the way of looking at the case in which everyone passed judgments so easily.

Johnny vs Amber: The U.S. Trial is a show that tries to be objective, but adds nothing new to a case that today is like a reheated (and stale) chop. It seems that the creators were simply trying to capitalize on a media case that enjoyed and still enjoys great interest. Does it make sense to prey on the misfortune of two obviously confused people?

Michalina Peruga

Michalina Peruga

Film scholar, art historian and lover of contemporary horror cinema and classic Hollywood cinema, especially film noir and the work of Alfred Hitchcock. In cinema, she loves mixing genres, breaking patterns and looking closely at characters.

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