How Twitter Turned on Amber Heard

Actor Amber Heard is not faring well in the Twitter court of opinion, having reemerged as a polarizing figure amid the defamation case filed against her by ex-husband Johnny Depp.

Depp, 58, is suing Heard, 35, for $50 million after Heard wrote a personal op-ed in The Washington Post discussing domestic and sexual violence. Depp claimed the piece, which does not name him, falsely portrays Heard as the victim of his abusive behavior.

The case began on Tuesday in Fairfax County, Virginia, and saw testimonies from Depp's sister Christi Dembrowski and childhood friend Isaac Baruch.

Amber Heard leaves courthouse
Amber Heard leaves the Fairfax County Circuit Court in Fairfax, Virginia, on April 12, 2022. Heard is being sued by her ex-husband, actor Johnny Depp, over an op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post in 2018. SAMUEL CORUM/AFP via Getty Images

This unfolding episode is the latest in a long, bitter saga between the former couple, from a highly-publicized messy divorce to Depp's failed libel case against News Group Newspapers (NGN) after U.K. tabloid The Sun dubbed him a "wife beater."

When Heard was granted a restraining order against Depp in 2016 after claiming he had struck her face with a phone, she was subjected to online backlash from fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean star.

This was, however, countered by outpouring support from Twitter users who pointed out a systemic disbelief of women who come forward with stories of abuse.

A Newsweek review of tweets using the terms "Amber Heard," "Johnny Depp," or both posted in 2016 and "liked" at least 100 times found approximately 36 tweets either supporting Heard or criticizing Depp. Only two expressed some partiality towards Depp's side.

That balance has now flipped. Of over 500 tweets with more than 100 "likes" posted since Tuesday and explicitly taking sides in the trial, at least 502 posts vocally backed Depp. About seven tweets advocated for Heard.

Newsweek has contacted representatives for Depp and Heard for comment.

Depp v Heard

"I can't believe people need video evidence of Johnny Depp being abusive for them to believe Amber Heard," said one tweet posted in 2016. "LISTEN TO WOMEN."

"Johnny Depp will be forgiven by the media immediately, but Amber Heard will be called a liar and a gold-digger for a very long time," another user wrote.

After Depp sued management company TMG for mismanaging his funds in 2017, court documents during the proceedings alleged the actor's staff and security were aware of incidents of domestic violence towards Heard.

Twitter users subsequently torched Depp over these revelations, among them Donald Trump Jr., who gloated at the reports after Depp joked about assassinating then-president Donald Trump.

Johnny Depp leaves theFairfax County Circuit Court
Actor Johnny Depp leaves the Fairfax County Circuit Court after the first day in the lawsuit between him and his former wife Amber Heard, in Fairfax, Virginia, on April 12, 2022. SAMUEL CORUM/AFP via Getty Images

In 2018—the year Heard penned her Washington Post op-ed and Depp sued NGN—Twitter users discussed a perceived lack of accountability for Depp, drawing on his British GQ magazine cover shoot, recurring role in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise, and appearance at Comic Con (where Heard was also present.)

That year, Disney confirmed it had dropped Depp from his role of Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. After the actor lost his libel case in 2020, Warner Bros. asked him to step down from portraying Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts.

Though from 2019 onwards, Twitter shifted its tone.

In his defamation lawsuit against Heard initiated in 2019, Depp called Heard's accusations "an elaborate hoax," adding they had been "refuted" by two police officers, multiple third-party witnesses, and 87 surveillance camera tapes.

According to court documents, Depp also submitted a photo of his severed finger, an injury he said was sustained after Heard threw a vodka bottle at him.

In 2020, footage of two dramatically differing depositions from Heard and Depp—recorded in 2016 and 2018, respectfully—surfaced online. Both parties separately leveled allegations of violent behavior against each other.

In the same year, the Daily Mail shared audio recordings of arguments between Depp and Heard, in which Heard admits to "hitting" Depp and said no one will believe him if he refers to himself as a victim of domestic violence.

"Tell the world, Johnny," she can be heard saying. "Tell them Johnny Depp, I, Johnny Depp, a man, I'm a victim, too, of domestic violence."

Internet users soon rallied behind Depp, resulting in numerous viral tweets supporting the Edward Scissorhands actor.

Many tweets called for Heard to be fired from Aquaman productions and dropped as a L'Oréal spokesperson. Hashtags like #JusticeForJohnnyDepp and #AmberHeardIsAnAbuser were widely used.

Twitter users also expressed concern that Heard's allegations will discredit survivors of domestic violence, as well as the #MeToo movement. Depp and Heard's ordeal additionally sparked a conversation about the stigma surrounding male survivors of abuse.

"Given the recent revelations about the Johnny Depp / Amber Heard situation I just want to apologise for ever shit talking Depp as a domestic abuser, seeing as how it looks like he was actually the victim of domestic abuse," one person tweeted. "Heard did a lot of damage lying about that."

Amber Heard speaks with lawyer
Amber Heard speaks with her lawyer Elaine Bredehoft during the defamation trial initiated by her ex-husband Johnny Depp at the Fairfax County Circuit Court April 12, 2022, in Fairfax, Virginia. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

"When Amber Heard accused Johnny Depp of Domestic Violence, all she had to do is, write an OpEd for world to believe," wrote another. "But Depp had to produce 87 surveillance videos, photographs, 17 depositions & witnesses to prove that it is actually he who was victim and not her!"

A Twitter user who identifies as a Johnny Depp fan and a feminist posted: "Amber is completely taking advantage of a movement. today's society isn't used to men being assaulted, but it should start. that is the reason men never tell their stories."

Near Consensus for Depp

With the start of Depp's defamation case against Heard, the hashtag #JusticeForJohnnyDeppVirginia2022 emerged on Twitter. There was a near-consensus among Twitter users to side with Depp against Heard.

"Cancel culture really is the weirdest thing," one person said in a post retweeted 2,760 times. "Will Smith is cancelled for hitting Chris Rock at the Oscars but Amber Heard isn't being cancelled for abusing Johnny Depp??? What a world."

"there we go, Amber Heard's team playing the 'Amber is so teeny tiny so [small] she could never hurt Johnny Depp if she wanted to" card," another wrote.

"MEN CAN BE ABUSED BY WOMEN TOO. STOP INVALIDATING MALE DOMESTIC ABUSE VICTIMS."

As the high-stakes defamation case continues, there has been much anticipation as to who will take the stand next, with Tesla CEO Elon Musk, as well as actors James Franco, Paul Bettany and Ellen Barkin named as prominent witnesses.