Top Twitch Streamers Are Capitalising On Depp V. Heard Trial Trauma

Top Twitch Streamers Are Capitalising On Depp V. Heard Trial Trauma

If you’ve visited Twitch lately, you may have noticed that the most-popular “Just Chatting” category and the front page have been dominated by one thing: the defamation trial between actors Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. What started on April 11 as an in-court battle recounting a toxic relationship filled with abuse and trauma has since attracted top streamers like Pokimane and xQc, who are reacting to — and memeing — the trial. In other words, streaming the Depp v. Heard court case has become a growing trend on the Amazon-owned platform for creators big and small to maximise their viewership, some capitalising off the “entertainment value” of the salacious allegations.

Depp and Heard have history together, having been married from 2015 to 2017 before splitting apart. After their separation, Heard accused Depp of abuse all throughout their marriage, recounting parts of that trauma in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed without explicitly naming him. Since then, the two have been hurling multimillion-dollar lawsuits at each other, leading to the defamation trial that officially entered the Virginia court on April 11.

There’s a lot to parse through in the trial, from harrowing stories of physical and sexual violence to very intimate details about drug addiction. Alongside these serious topics, the trial has been punctuated by unexpected asides, like a testimony from a dude who was vaping while driving his car and Depp doodling during the proceedings. There’s an element of humour alongside the seriousness of the defamation case, which is where streamers have inserted themselves. Many of the Amazon-owned platform’s top broadcasters, from WoW aficionado Asmongold to socialist political commentator Hasanabi, have been streaming the case to tens — sometimes hundreds — of thousands of followers, creating content for their audiences to consume ad nauseam.

This has become the new meta, with streamers pulling in viewers by the thousands. Content creators on Twitch have put both actors’ names in their titles to garner curious viewers, going for variations like “Justice for..” whichever side they’re on and “Amber Heard vs. Johnny Depp Watch Party.” And as streamers attract folks to watch the trial with them, it risks becoming one big watch party full of laughs and memes at trauma’s expense. Streamers like Pokimane have had on-screen counters tracking certain behaviours in the court, such as Heard crying or Depp laughing. Others, including Rainbow Six Siege streamer shortyyguy, were debating their chatters about the merits of both actors’ — particularly Heard’s — testimonies.

Streamers may be using this cultural event to grow their followings, but some viewers — and other broadcasters, according to Launcher reporter and former Kotaku staffer Nathan Grayson — weren’t too keen on the trial becoming a “low effort” content mill. Folks took to Twitter to express their discontent at the apparent weirdness of the Depp v. Heard defamation case being seen as a kinda “sporting event” on Twitch in which streamers pick one side and trash the other. As of now, folks appear to be siding with Depp.

Richard Hoeg, a lawyer who specialises in digital and video game law and is the creator of the Virtual Legality YouTube channel, explained to Kotaku over email part of the reason why folks are enamoured with the Depp v. Heard trial.

“Almost everyone knows Johnny Depp either from his more avant garde work or from his late career Disney renaissance,” Hoeg said, who’s been streaming the trial himself with fellow YouTubers like California-based attorney Alyte Mazeika of Legal Bytes as part of a collective colloquially known as LawTube. “From there, the actual details involved are themselves more salacious than normal even for a case of this type, with cocaine, MDMA, alcohol, severed fingers, bloody writing on walls, hours upon hours of intimate audio clips, and two mutually exclusive descriptions of the world all fighting for attention. Outside of the OJ Simpson trial, we may have never seen a case with such a potent combination of celebrity and salaciousness.”

While he “doesn’t believe the trial was set up as a farce” despite its many comical moments, he’s worried that streamers could spread misinformation.

“I think there’s always a fear that people covering a news story could be doing it in a way that reduces the level of good information out there rather than improves upon it,” Hoeg said. “That’s why Virtual Legality and Legal Bytes work so hard to inform from the position of legal expertise (as well as to entertain). I also think there’s a risk from some quarters in terms of decorum. This is a real case, with very serious allegations by both sides, and there can be a tendency by some to treat it more like a soap opera or sporting event than a legal trial. But with that risk comes opportunity and I think this really is the future of ‘entertainment’ like this. Unfiltered streams of real world events with commentators helping folks understand what they are watching.”

The Depp v. Heard trial will take a short break starting May 9 but plans to reconvene on May 16, with an expected end date scheduled for May 27.

 

Comments

  • I’m more scared of media news channels, sites and outlets spreading misinformation than streamers if we’re gonna be real about it.

  • Their takes are still better than the Australian press. I’d take Twitch commentary over that any day.

  • Considering some of the press reactions ive seen, the twitch crowd seem to be more reasonable and not “women are the only victims” shit ive seen from the mainstream.

  • After seeing some clips of Heard’s totally truthful, not at all fabricated and definitely not borrowed lines from movies/shows ‘testimony’… Well, it’s still completely true that talentless people can make it anywhere. Even actors that can’t act to literally save themselves.

    Oh sorry, I mean yeah, listen and believe… To the literal recordings of her being abusive and slimy, and to the evidence of her past history of abuse against a list of people that seems to get longer every time it gets mentioned.

    It’s actually incredibly fuckin’ disturbing seeing the slant some media outlets are putting on this whole deal.

  • It’s great to see this article pointing out the issue of misinformation spreading. And not just misinformation from steamers, but also news sites sharing various theories or just being conpletely biased (aka. anything tied to The Sun and Murdoch due to them already being sued by Johnny in the UK). Seeing weird theories like “Amber is wearing what Johnny wears”, or “Amber posing for crying photos”, or trying to counter one witness testimony while supporting a different witnesses’ testimony for a similar circumstance because of which side they’re supporting, they don’t hold up under proper scrutiny, do a diservice to the whole case, and only goes to show an indiviual’s bias in the matter. As someone who has had to act as a juror in a 10 week case and understands the weight of that commitment to remain unbiased during the trial and only take in the facts, it pains me to see many streamers and news media posit such easily-disputable garbage.

    • // or “Amber posing for crying photos” //
      For a ‘weird theory’ she’s literally on film doing it in court.

      Shit was like watching an alien trying to act human and glance about to see if it has everyone’s attention, the photographer’s especially, as it literally froze for the photo opportunity to prove how human it was.

      • I watched as Asmongold reacted to it and initially believed the hypothesis. But it was quickly pointed out that the flash is actually from the monitor in front of her as at the same time Jonny’s face lights up the same. If it was a flash aimed at Amber it wouldn’t have illuminated just Johnny’s face.
        Please understand that from everything I’ve seen watching the trial, all evidence currently points to Amber lying. But my opinion of that is based on the evidence Depp has submitted, the lack of actual evidence from Heard, and her retelling showing obvious signs of fabrication. Seeing easily-disputed “gotcha” moments getting more attention than the actual facts is doing a disservice to the trial.
        I mean, as I was writing this my GF showed me a current conspiracy on Reddit about Amber snorting cocaine on the stand. Like seriously?

  • Why is this NOT a closed court?

    I still don’t understand why this court case is being televised, or allowing public seating… what the hell are they, their lawyers and their agents thinking?

    • Well Depp after essentially being blackballed because of the allegations from Heard has no career, also unless its a federal case where you cant televise it, you can pretty much request it to be so in USA and if memory serves, Depp asked and was granted it.

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