Sexism and social media in the Depp v. Heard case


One thing is very clear from the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard trial: the extent to which people readily believe or disbelieve information about events they know little or nothing about.

Depp is suing Heard for alleged defamation in a 2018 Washington Post column where she identified herself as a “public figure representing domestic violence.” Heard counterattacks for alleged defamation in which Depp’s lawyer accuses Heard of perpetuating “a hoax of abuse”.

What really happened in the Heard-Depp partnership is not my focus here. Most people don’t really know, despite a televised trial. Nevertheless, definitive judgments about their relationship, who is at fault, and the personas of those involved abound.

A toxic mix of online content, sexism and limits in human decision-making has given rise to opinions about the case and related parties, including lawyers. The sentiments were rehashed in the court of public opinion known as 24/7 social media before the trial even began.

To better understand how people make judgments about others and events about which they know very little and how these judgments become the truth, it is important to consider the nature of social media and the common intent of its producers.

Social media is often full of emotional content. Emotion-based posts tend to garner more audiences, likes, and retweets than emotionally neutral posts. Such messages are also more likely to be perceived as true.

Much of the social media content in the Heard-Depp case has been designed to spark anger, sadness, outrage and laughter. Faced with constant exposure to emotionally charged material, critical reasoning is weakened. Emotion-based thinking can overwhelm rational thinking, consideration of multiple forms of evidence, and deliberative processing. Instead, people and events are viewed as black or white (i.e., good or bad, pure or bad). There is no gray.

People on smartphones.

Source: Golubovystock | The time of dreams

Not only is the social media content around this case emotion-based, it is also highly biased. Specifically, much of the content replicated societal messages and expectations about men and women, which also tended to be black and white.

There has been a barrage of content on social media depicting the parties involved as storybook characters. Women come out all good or all bad. Amber Heard has always been described as pure evil, a manipulative, cruel and lying sociopath.

Take the popular hashtag #AmberTurd associated with her name. On the other hand, one of Johnny Depp’s lawyers, Camille Vasquez, has always been described as an angel with a heart of gold. A hashtag frequently associated with her name is #Queen. Camille is the “good woman”, the savior, the virtuous.

Simplistic depictions of the good woman versus the bad woman have been around for centuries, from fairy tales (good witch-wicked witch) to the realm of psychology (bad mother-good mother). What we see playing out on social media are simply bad woman (Amber) versus good woman (Camille) archetypes.

The degree of attractiveness is another factor influencing public opinion. Research in social psychology clearly demonstrates that attractive people (in the conventional sense) are considered more honest than those deemed less attractive. Unless they’re too attractive and a woman (enters Amber Heard).

Extremely attractive women are viewed as suspicious, less trustworthy, and interpersonally aggressive. They are often seen as a threat to other women, which may partly explain the preponderance of women who have posted derogatory content on social media against Amber Heard.

In the same way that Amber Heard and Camille Vasquez are judged, Heard’s lawyer, Elaine Charlson Bredehoft, is the subject of much discussion on social networks. She has been referred to as “Karen”, which has become a versatile derogatory term for any white woman deemed objectionable for any reason who has a “crush” on Depp.

Sometimes it feels like watching gladiatorial matches on social media. #TeamJohnny fans charge “savage” Camille with essentially obliterating Amber and Elaine. The movement, gesture and facial expression of each woman are analyzed, commented on and sorted. Each movement is associated with good or evil, guilt or innocence, competence or incompetence.

In a world where people rely on snippets of video, audio, memes, tweets, posts, and comments that are often pieced together in ways that manipulate public opinion, it’s easy to get carried away. by frenzy. At the start of the trial, my social media feed was full of video clips from the trial.

I found myself questioning the veracity of Amber Heard and taken by the testimony of Johnny Depp. His looks, charm, humor and sexiness combined with the celebrity factor make him incredibly compelling as he opened up about his traumatic childhood on the helm.

Yet we know a lot about abuse, bias and the impact of social media on opinions and behaviors. Abuse, for example, often happens behind closed doors. Abusers often present themselves as cool and level-headed while abused ones often don’t; most people don’t believe victims of abuse and this is especially the case for women who present themselves as strong and confident.

Most of us know little about Amber Heard, Johnny Depp, or their lawyers – who they are, how they live their lives, and the intimate aspects of their relationship; and likability impacts perceived credibility and Johnny seems to have the upper hand in this area.

The point is, we should all be concerned about how humans consume social media and its implications. Relying solely on memes, tweets, Instagram videos, Facebook posts, and YouTube comments for facts is limited at best and dangerous at worst. The calls for the death of Amber Heard and her baby are an example of such danger.

In addition, texts, videos and audio are subject to manipulation. The photos, audio and video content are skillfully stitched together to appear as one to prove a point, no matter how inaccurate. And the resulting creation in the form of a TikTok or Instagram video is sometimes set to music for added effect.

Bruno Mars Talking to the moon song (to convey the supposed affection between Vasquez and Depp) and the theme music for the show by Larry David Calm your enthusiasm (to express the incompetence of Heard’s lawyers or Heard’s alleged blunder) are significant. The abundance and reach of social media content, which often replicates societal attitudes and expectations, including sexism, makes it difficult to counter.

It’s time for us to take a collective pause and reflect on the information that’s being passed to us, how we digest that information, how it impacts our thoughts and behaviors, and what we perpetuate in our streams that act. like isolated echo chambers to counter the alternatives and more complete ones. pictures of life.


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