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In 2016, after being married for just over a year, Amber Heard filed for divorce from her then-husband Johnny Depp, citing irreconcilable differences. Heard was granted a temporary restraining order against Depp after alleging he had physically abused her throughout their fifteen-month-long marriage. The following year, Heard wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post titled “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”, in which she discusses being abused in her lifetime and urges others to fight against sexual violence perpetrated against women. Depp sued Heard in 2019 for $50 million on claims of defamation despite never being mentioned by name in the piece. Depp lost this case and requested an appeal but was denied. In April of 2022, Court TV announced that they would be televising the $100 million libel suit between Depp and Heard. This televised trial of public figures granted everyday citizens a look into a libel case with domestic abuse being claimed by both parties. Immediately after the first hearing, thousands of videos containing uninformed opinions began circulating around social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram that would continue to be made throughout the trial. Following the verdict, journalist Jon Lafayette reports that “the verdict in the … trial drew more than 500,000 viewers to Court TV, the largest audience since the network was relaunched by the E.W. Scripps Co. in 2019.” It is arguable that Court TV’s decision to televise the case was in some part informed by their need and want for higher viewership. Televising the case of Depp vs. Heard and other celebrity trials surrounding domestic abuse can create an environment for victims that discourages speaking out, getting help, or seeking justice.
Course Project 202280 CMM 337 02
Primary Advisor's Department
Stander Symposium, College of Arts and Sciences
Institutional Learning Goals
Critical Evaluation of Our Times
"The Sensationalization of Domestic Abuse: Televised Celebrity Trials" (2023). Stander Symposium Projects. 3079.
Presentation: 9:00-10:15 a.m., Kennedy Union Ballroom