Depp-Heard trial set a precedent that we should follow

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For years, social interactions between men and women have become fractured, where the wrong word or glance could end your life as you know it.

Men have been on the short end of that measuring stick, but women have also suffered as we redefined love, attraction, abuse, affection, and misunderstandings. The vitriol and malice became more potent in the #MeToo era, culminating with the human sacrifice of Brett Kavanaugh. Little did the high priestesses of the “Believe All Women” cult realize that this was the beginning of the end, as they cannibalized themselves with false accusations and targeted acts of revenge.

Whether we admit it or not, Johnny Depp benefitted from the backlash against this toxic movement of gender grievance. Depp was one of the first men who didn’t slither away in shame and panic at the first pointed finger, the first misplaced accusation. The fact that he had an incredibly high profile was an added bonus. There is comfort in familiarity, and in fame.

But it wasn’t just men who rallied to Depp’s defense. Women who were horrified at what Christine Blasey Ford was allowed (actually, encouraged) to do to Kavanaugh saw an opportunity to support a man who – while hardly as blameless as the Supreme Court justice – fell short of the stereotypical abuser that the movement feeds on. We were happy to starve the #MeToo monster, depriving it of another life, another reputation, another opportunity to seek vengeance on an entire gender.

While Amber Heard did manage a small victory with the jury award of $2 million, no sane person could deny that the victory was an almost total one for her ex-husband. Johnny Depp will likely never receive any of the $8.5 million verdict announced last week, unless Heard finds a way to “donate” or “pledge” it to him on an installment plan. But it’s fairly clear that he did not sue his ex for the money. He sued her for a chance to tell his story, in all of its gore and glory. And that was priceless.

Some of my friends observed that there were no winners in this case. I beg to differ. If your reputation is, as Shakespeare wrote, that immortal part of yourself, the fact that a jury of your peers rescued it from a premature and unwarranted execution is worth something.

Some of my friends also said that Depp and Heard were equally vile and deserved each other, which is interesting because he never wrote a column attacking her. He, in fact, asked for a clause in their divorce settlement seeking reciprocal silence. He didn’t want her to speak about him, and he was prepared not to speak about her as their paths diverged. She broke that mutual covenant, and so she is the reason we are now saddled with a public image of two broken people.

In the end, this trial was a social cleansing, a moral enema if you will. It set a precedent that I hope the rest of us will follow the next time we find ourselves at the other end of a pointed finger. Whether we deserve the accusations is, of course, subjective. Each case rises and falls on its own facts.

But the facts in this case were that Depp decided he wasn’t going to be shamed into silence, even if that meant that the stories which would inevitably follow would embarrass him at least as much as they embarrassed his antagonist.

The facts in this case were that a person who felt cheated at a game refused to take his marbles and go home, and instead stayed on for another round, and another.

The facts in this case were that someone who had already lost a lot but stood to lose much more made a calculation that half a glass was better than none, and that a stained and spotted virtue was preferable to its total loss.

This trial gave other people permission to say “enough is enough.” It might be too late for the bodies that were crushed under the weight of the #MeToo movement, bodies and personalities that were erased and consigned to oblivion.

It might be too late for Al Franken, who never should have resigned. It might be too late for Aziz Ansari, who never should have apologized for having consensual sex with a confused fan. It might be too late for Garrison Keillar (for Lord’s sake, the Prairie Home Companion guy?) who was somehow portrayed as a sexual predator by one co-worker.

But maybe the next time someone, man or woman, thinks about sending a lie around the world, they’ll check and see if they have a spare $8.5 million in their bank accounts.

Copyright 2022 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]