Amber Heard Trial Backlash Draws Comparisons to Britney Spears

The onslaught of criticism Amber Heard has faced during her trial against ex-husband Johnny Depp has sparked comparisons to the public mockery Britney Spears was once subjected to during her own tribulations.

Heard, 36, has been sued for $50 million by Depp, 58, over a 2018 op-ed published by The Washington Post, in which the Aquaman star stated she is a domestic abuse survivor.

While Heard, who is countersuing for $100 million for nuisance, didn't name Depp in the Post piece, his lawyers have argued that it was clear she was referring to the actor.

Last week, Heard took the stand at Virginia's Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse, where she emotionally detailed the alleged abuse she had endured during her relationship with Depp.

Heard and Depp have accused one another of domestic violence. They each deny the allegations.

Amber Heard and Britney Spears
The criticism Amber Heard (L) has faced during the trial involving her and Johnny Depp is sparking comparisons to the mockery Britney Spears (R) once experienced during her own tribulations. JIM WATSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images;/Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

Hot on the heels of Heard's testimony came a barrage of disparaging social media posts, with the already-widespread vitriol aimed at the screen star only intensifying. Posts branded Heard dishonest and abusive, and her testimony was mocked.

The reaction has sparked others on social media to point out that critics will likely stand to regret their words, given the way history looks back on singer Spears.

Despite the sweeping adoration now expressed for Spears, she experienced several years of mockery and belittling at the hands of the public before getting there.

During the mid to late aughts, Spears became the butt of many a joke as she suffered a public meltdown amid mental health concerns. Over a decade later, as she fought to be released from her conservatorship, a once guffawing, finger-pointing public extended its arms offering a warm embrace—and seemingly forgot its past treatment of her.

Comparing Spears' experience to Heard's current treatment, one Twitter user opined: "Amber Heard is becoming a punchline in the same way Britney became one back in 2007. We can't wait another decade until people start looking back with regret and compassion. How is this even happening again?"

"It's honestly laughable to see people lament how society treated Britney Spears & Lindsay Lohan, then turn around & call Amber Heard a liar/golddigger/abuser," said another. "We are witnessing one of the most misogynistic campaigns in modern history all because people get their news from YouTube.

"Gen Z mocks baby boomers for being indoctrinated by Fox News all while believing everything they see on TikTok. The #MeToo movement is dead because people want to believe that women are evil liars, because that would make us equal right?"

Another commented: "in a few years, people will realize how badly media and society treated amber heard during this trial, just like we did last year with britney spears and her conservatorship back in 2007. because it isn't the first time nor the last one that society mocks a woman's abuse"

Taking a broader look at the reactions, Law360 reporter Lucia Osborne-Crowley tweeted: "Johnny Depp won't see your posts turning Amber Heard's graphic rape allegations into a humiliating meme, but your friends who have survived sexual violence will."

After observing the wave of videos that have flooded the social media landscape mocking Heard's testimony—during which she alleged violence and sexual abuse—actor and writer Tova Leigh took to Instagram to share an impassioned post.

Stating that she was "disgusted by the hateful content" aimed at Heard, Leigh wrote: "No matter who you believe, this case reveals domestic & sexual abuse that should not be taken lightly.

"Yet I've seen countless videos bordering on character assassination that not only make fun of AH personally, they also mock sexual trauma and question how anyone could possibly be [sexually assaulted] by someone like JD.

"Remember that next time someone assaults you, if they're sexy enough you should feel flattered—it's a dangerous narrative to support."

Branding the "mental" and "crazy" tags publicly assigned to Heard as misogynistic, Leigh added: "People should be ashamed of themselves for jumping on the bandwagon in the name of engagement. And to be clear, I'm not here to tell you who to believe I'm here to ask you to see the bigger picture.

"There are people out there who've been waiting around for years for a case where the woman lied. For them it has nothing to do with justice, and everything to do with the dust settling on the Me Too movement. Because of course if one woman lied, then they (we) all did, and while it's 'not all men'—it's always all women."

Speaking Out

Leigh later told Newsweek that while she had not been initially following the trial, the reaction made her feel compelled to speak up.

"I saw people using sound clips from her testimony where she describes rape and sexual assault to create comic videos, many of these people were women and it was shocking to watch," she said. "I couldn't believe they were making fun of sexual violence or any violence for that matter.

"The fact they didn't believe her didn't matter in my opinion. Sexual violence is not a joke, imagine all the victims of sexual assault watching people making rape jokes, it is so wrong."

Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp is suing his ex-wife Amber Heard for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court after she wrote an op-ed piece in 'The Washington Post' in 2018 referring to herself as a "public figure representing domestic abuse." Above, Depp is pictured arriving in the courtroom at the Fairfax County Circuit Court in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 3, 2022. JIM WATSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Along with the flood of criticism has come a proverbial line in the sand drawn among those who are "#TeamJohnny" or "#TeamAmber" with little to no room for nuance. This, Leigh told Newsweek, impedes the possibility of in-depth conversation on the matter.

"What's clear is that people don't learn from the past in a sense that this 'all or nothing approach' doesn't allow meaningful conversations to take place," she said. "If you hurry to label people as either pro or against whatever the matter is, you create a society that has two extreme opposite opinions about everything and the people who have the middle opinion (the shades of grey) get silenced.

"I think people will regret making rape jokes. Those videos will be out there forever and victims will see them."

Ultimately, while such online activity may feel like a harmless sport to those taking aim at celebrities living through real-life issues—whether they're to be believed or not—Leigh believes the consequences could run deep.

"The whole point of #MeToo and #BelieveWomen was that every woman has a story to tell yet so few women ever get justice, one of the reasons being that women simply are not believed," Light explained. "Some people have been eagerly waiting for a case where a woman lied so that they can say, 'See?! Women lie,' because of course [if] one woman lied (and it doesn't even have to be that she lied about everything), then that must mean all women lie all the time.

"And I know not everyone agrees with that. But looking at rape rates versus rape conviction rates (worldwide), it's clear that we still have a long way to go in changing victim-blaming culture and how was treat women who come forward to talk about their experiences."

Amber Heard alleges domestic abuse
Evidence showing pictures of Amber Heard appear on a screen during a defamation trial at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 5, 2022. JIM LO SCALZO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images