Saturday April 30, 2022

If you are Team Depp or team Amber Heard, fighting a virtual war on their behalf is not at all worth it

If you are Team Depp or team Amber Heard, fighting a virtual war on their behalf is not at all worth it

Picture used for illustrative purpose only.

Sean O’Grady, The Independent

There are lots of things out there to feel justifiably angry about, deranged even. The war in Ukraine. Food banks. Seemingly ineradicable mysognism. Casual racism. Trump. The climate crisis. Partygate. Refugees. Justifiably agitated too, because all those things actually affect us all, directly or indirectly. Matters of life and death, sometimes. They’re part of the country we want – and the world we want to live in. We should care, we should rant on social media, we should use intemperate language in parliament, we should glue ourselves to the road.

But Johnny Depp and Amber Heard? I’ve never met them, you’ll not be surprised to learn. I don’t know anyone who has. Their lives don’t impinge on mine (an especially bizarre thought). What they do with their lives, public and private, affects me very little indeed. Maybe if they’re in a film or something – and I watch it – but that’s it. I feel very sorry for what has happened to them, the same as I might for any couple.

It looks traumatic and terrible, but I think we all know that it is inevitably going to be more traumatic and terrible with the cruel eye of the television camera bearing down on them, and their being the centre of global scrutiny on social media. It’s not helping these two people.

It seems very strange that quite so many of us are seemingly so upset about their troubled, to put it mildly, relationship. It is as if a child or close friend were involved; rather than a couple of strangers who happen to be strangers. It is unhealthily strange indeed, because so many have taken up completely partisan positions on them.

The fans feel their pain, not because they have to, as parties to the arguments, but because they want to – and they condition themselves to get emotionally hurt by reading about the case, and what others are saying about it, on Twitter or by watching the news reports.

For them, the Deppites and the Heardians, it feels as if a member of their own tribe or family – or perhaps even they themselves – are in peril in court, having the most intimate details of their private lives strewn out for the world to see. Their mental health is being prodded and poked, and their reputations for the rest of their lives at stake. I doubt that Heard or Depp welcome or value the “support” of their fans, as opposed to their lawyers.

Of course, it’s nothing very new or uncommon at all. We’ve become so used to the bitter wars of attrition over Prince Harry and Meghan Markle that we’ve forgotten what is in fact as stake (if anything). You’re either for Harry and Megs or for Wills and Kate. It’s like a game show – Pointless Royals.

Any word or act by either of the pairs is automatically used as ammunition in a never ending war that resolves nothing, not least because any resolution is out of the hands of the public. It doesn’t matter much where the Duke and Duchess of York live, what they name their kids – or what Meg’s siblings think of her.

This connection and investment in personalities infects politics from time to time, but it’s more comprehensible because Boris Johnson actually does matter.

It doesn’t make any difference to anyone but me, but I’ve avoided reading too much about the various Heard-Depp court cases because it seems both intrusive and irrelevant. It’s their business, and it just feels wrong to dwell on the more distressing aspects of their behaviour to one another.

People in relationships and families do all sorts of things to one another for all sorts of reasons that are good and bad, and the sterile, remote atmosphere of a court hearing isn’t the ideal place to capture their conflicting moods “in the moment”, or even to establish the facts. That is even more true of the grotesque versions that wind up on the web.

If you are Team Depp or team Amber Heard, fighting a virtual war on their behalf, I’d very respectfully suggest taking a few moments to consider whether the lives of strangers are worth getting that het up about. Then ask yourself if there aren’t more important things around to do something thing about.

And then go and vote next Thursday. It always makes me feel better.

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