Against all odds, the messy, unnerving story of Amber Heard’s domestic assault accusations against Johnny Depp continues to get even more so, with Entertainment Tonight sharing exclusively obtained text messages it says document at least one prior incident of Depp’s violence toward her. Meanwhile, People has taken the bold step—unusual for such an A-list-friendly publication—of putting a photo of Heard’s battered face on its cover, which she says was taken after a separate incident in December 2015. And today, TMZ reports that Heard is balking at filing a police report because she still loves Depp and “doesn’t want to bury him.” It’s a still-unfolding drama that is sounding a long, sustained yeeeeeesh across the rooftops of the world.
As The Cut’s Allie Jones points out, People’s cover story is all but unprecedented, considering the lengths it usually goes to in avoiding dragging marquee names into tabloid scandal until they absolutely have to, for fear of spoiling the relationships that usually land them the publicist-approved, “exclusive” reveal. (Not to mention the subsquent fluffy “redemption” story.) By putting Heard’s bruised face and split lip on its cover—along with other photos from the alleged December assault, when Heard says she “truly feared for my life”—People has chosen to give Heard the benefit of the doubt, even as other publications, Depp’s friends and family, and thousands of random strangers on the internet continue to deny Depp could be capable of such behavior, and insisting that Heard is going to great lengths to destroy him.
Of course, if the multiple photos of Heard’s bruises aren’t enough to convince those defending Depp, nor the testimony from her friend to Page Six that “an intoxicated Johnny tried to suffocate her with a pillow,” it’s unlikely ET’s text message chain will either. Purportedly exchanged between Heard and Depp’s assistant, Stephen Deuters, in May 2014, they hint at a history of violence long before their marriage, and specifically a night where Depp kicked Heard—apparently while in some sort of state where he wasn’t aware of what he was doing. Here’s a transcript:
Deuters: Think he’s just texted you. He’s incredibly apologetic and knows that he has done wrong. He wants to get better now. He’s been very explicit about that this morning. Feel like we’re at a critical juncture.
Heard: Yes but I don’t know how to be around him after what he did to me yesterday. I don’t know if I can stay with him.
Deuters: He wants to see you so much. He’s distraught.
Heard: Obviously he has no idea what he did or to the extent that he did it. If someone was truly honest with him about how bad it really was, he’d be appalled ... I’m sad that he doesn’t have a better way to really know the severity of his actions yesterday. Unfortunately for me, I remember in full detail everything that happened.
Deuters: He was appalled. When I told him he kicked you, he cried. It was disgusting. And he knows it. ... He’s a little lost boy. And needs all the help he can get. He is so very sorry, as he should be.
Heard: He’s done this many times before. Tokyo, the island, London (remember that?!), and I always stay. Always believe he’s going to get better ... And then every 3 or so month [sic], I’m in the exact same position.
Unfortunately, ET says it was unable to verify whether Heard actually sent the texts, or whether Deuters had received them, or whether they had been edited at all, forcing it to pepper the report with the words “purported” and “alleged.” So once again, it’s damning evidence that nevertheless is easy for Depp defenders to dismiss as possibly forged—right alongside everything else that would once have been considered incontrovertible proof, until you just want to curl up in a ball and bellow yeeeeeeeeesh into the cold and merciless night.
How did we get to this point, where photographs of a woman’s bruised face, 911 calls from third parties, and text messages are greeted with automatic suspicion that they’re fake—that everything about this is fake? We just went through this exact same thing with Kesha: a woman says a man abused her, and because she can’t provide proper evidence, she’s accused of manipulating the system for personal gain by people who seem to believe a rape accusation is a fast pass to wealth and stardom. With Heard, now we seemingly have that evidence, and still it’s confidently waved away as fraudulent by the council of experts in the comment section. Obviously Amber Heard is faking because she wants the celebrity and privilege that comes with bringing down one of our most beloved actors, which is apparently far greater than the celebrity and privilege that came with being married to him.
Is it just a nation’s collective exhaustion with these kinds of scandals? Has the “trial by Twitter” of Dr. Luke, Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, and any other man whose crimes are widely suspected, but don’t leave much of a paper trail, turned everyone into a bunch of cranky, weary, “pics or GTFO” cynics whose first instinct is to distrust everything they see in their feeds? Have we really become so calcified toward anything smacking of a “social justice” crusade that we can look at a woman’s busted face and immediately say, “She’s just faking it for attention”?
And let’s say for a moment those people are right, and Heard isn’t telling the truth, and she is gaming the shudder-to-call-it-zeitgeist of calling upon the court of social media. Where exactly does that leave us, then? Forever uncertain, always suspicious, angry at everyone and everything, and completely paralyzed to offer a more useful assessment beyond YEEESH.
And with Heard apparently declining to press charges, and foregoing the only thing that might bring this whole thing to a conclusive conviction or exoneration, that’s pretty much all we’re left with. An inexorable, backbiting tangle of suspicion, accusation, and divisiveness that, no matter where it goes from here, will only make it even more difficult for domestic abuse victims to come forward, and permanently leave everyone unsure of who or what to trust. (Except for the media, as we clearly can’t. Hell, many of you still think we’re making all of this up because we crack jokes sometimes and we’re owned by The Onion.) Truly, ours is a yeesh without end.
Anyway, while all this is going on, Johnny Depp is out partying with his rock band.