Monica Lewinsky has declared in a new comment that she’s staring at the trial of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp as “courtroom porn.”
“The obsessive babble surrounding the Depp-Heard trial is just a small example of the ever-expanding, increasingly sophisticated quest for glee and titillation,” she wrote in the Vanity Fair article, noting how viewers feel entitled to opinions to submit to the process. “Regardless of who the jury’s verdict favors – whether it be defendant Heard or plaintiff Depp – we are guilty.”
Her comment, published Tuesday, shared her two cents on the high-profile case as someone who’s no stranger to the ugly side of media attention.
Former White House intern Lewinsky was once at the center of a political sex scandal involving former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, and she recalled the “cruelty” of the news cycle.
“Having been the victim of this kind of cruelty, I can tell you the scars never fade,” she wrote, asking readers to define what is “too far” or “too much” as they watch the process.
In the high-profile courtroom spectacle, Depp and Heard went toe-to-toe in a libel match. The ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ star first sued his ex-wife for defaming him with her 2018 op-ed for The Washington Post, in which she alleges she suffered from domestic violence. Meanwhile, Heard countered for $100 million.
As the “celebrity circus” stalked the courthouse for six weeks, Lewinsky watched the trials with “guilty fascination,” combing through their social feeds or browsing the media.
But this cherry picking, which she attributes to modern news consumption across apps and platforms, causes people’s media consumption to be “biased, curated and superficial.”
“We’ve become so attuned to this tight, cynical cycle of social media encounters that we don’t view the process as tragic or pathetic, but rather a pure car wreck: approachable, cheesy, and instantly gratifying,” she said. “Such scattershot consumption has not provided any real understanding. Instead, we experience only apprehension, knee-jerk outrage and tickles.”
She then scrutinized the reactions, saying she wasn’t “surprised” that the gruesome online jokes made Heard the villain more often than Depp, or that the surrounding discourse was mostly aimed at “the woman.”
“And me should not I was surprised (but I was) that job proposals for the process were sent to me shortly after my search,” she continued. “But they were less about Depp and Heard; more seemed to idolize Camille Vasquez (Depp’s attorney) for her ‘performance’ in questioning Heard.”
She remarked, with a poignant quip, that “girl-on-girl action” is on “Misogyny’s greatest hits album.”
“This legal spectacle would be sad enough if it only impacted the personal lives of Depp, Heard and their loved ones. It would be sad enough even if we just thought about how this has impacted domestic violence survivors or those who have sought strength in the #MeToo movement,” she explained. “But it’s the larger impact on our culture that worries me the most: the way we’ve fanned the flames of misogyny and separately the celebrity circus.”
Lewinsky, who works as an editor for Vanity Fair, called the courtroom hit a “soap opera” and also nudged audiences, who ranked Depp and Heard, to try and explain one as “more triggering” than the other.
She poses a series of questions, including whether people who serve as “virtual judges” are allowed to create memes making fun of the “already suffering” A-listers just to give the “dopamine hits ‘ to follow, follow, or like a laugh.
“The way we have contemptuously co-opted the process for our own ends is a sign of how many of us, the hybrids of social media, have continued to devalue our dignity and humanity,” she said. “While we have observed this story, what does our opinion entitle us to? Does it entitle us to say who we “believe”?”
However, it begs the question, “But does it entitle us to be cruel?”