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Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s Defamation Trial Turns Heads in China

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Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand, chances are you are at least passingly aware that one of the most talked-about defamation trials of this century is currently underway in Fairfax county, Virginia. The dispute being litigated involves actors and former partners Johnny Depp and Amber Heard and stems from the latter’s 2018 opinion piece in The Washington Post claiming she was a victim of domestic abuse.

Although the op-ed didn’t specifically name Depp, it has arguably harmed his public image, leading to the 50 million USD lawsuit.

Depp’s legal team has claimed that the allegations have hurt the actor’s career and prevented him from closing a 23 million USD deal for a Pirates of the Caribbean sequel.

Amidst the hullaballoo, much of the world, including China, has closely monitored the drama. On Weibo, a hashtag related to the trial has garnered more than 150 million views.

During testimony on the afternoon of May 4, Heard publicly aired Depp’s addiction to alcohol and drugs — the real factors for his damaged career, in her words. The ongoing court case has yet to meet a resolution.

Many Chinese netizens, who found the drama between the Aquaman actress and Pirates of the Caribbean actor petty to begin with, were surprised that there even was a court case. “I thought this was a sitcom, but it turned out to be a legitimate trial,” reads one Weibo comment, which has been liked more than 1,000 times.

Another netizen, who has been following the court case closely, commented on Depp’s sloth-like speech: “Let’s be honest: Depp speaks so slowly, how could he win any fights?”

Although some have sneered at the court proceedings and found humor in the spectacle, a chorus of sympathetic voices and pro-Depp netizens have also chimed in.

“Divorce lawyer Ben Chew, whom Depp hired, gave a truly solid statement yesterday,” observed one blogger. “His testimony has a complete chain of evidence that can prove Depp’s innocence. Meanwhile, Amber can’t even come up with real evidence of Depp’s domestic violence against her. Depp will win for sure!”

The blogger went on to say that the whole drama has shaken his faith in the institution of marriage — not that that’s anything new. Chinese youth have harbored doubts about marriage over the past few years, with marriage registrations hitting an all-time low in 2021 despite the Chinese government’s efforts to encourage procreation at the campus level.

“A failed marriage drove Depp crazy and turned a goddess into a psycho,” said the blogger in another post. “That’s why I’m afraid of getting married. You’re not getting someone but losing them instead.”

Cover photo via Depositphotos

Inès Forman
    Inès Forman is a trilingual French Caribbean/Israeli who lived and taught in Beijing. She wrote and edited pieces for Black Livity China - a platform documenting Africa-China relations and the Black experience in China. She holds a Dual Master's in International Politics from Sciences Po Paris and Peking University (BeiDa). She is currently working on a novel set in Beijing and Guangzhou. She's also part of a rock/soul band (@thechouxfleur on IG).
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