Vilifying Amber Heard Shows We Learned Nothing From GamerGate

Vilifying Amber Heard Shows We Learned Nothing From GamerGate
Photo: Evelyn Hockstein, Getty Images

“She’s not a perfect victim,” Mariska Hargitay says in Law and Order: SVU. Recent headlines say the same about Amber Heard. Heard said as much about herself. “But,” Hargitay says, “she is not making this up.”

I let Law and Order play on TV while I do other mindless things, like scrubbing the floor or scribbling in my journal. Like other abuse victims I know, I find comfort in a TV show that pretends victims can really win. But hearing Hargitay say those words brought my attention back to our less paradisial reality, where Amber Heard, whose name has been like a neon bar sign at the back of my head for the past two months, is still glued to online vitriol. People keep pushing for her to get cut from Aquaman 2 and posting pictures of Johnny Depp wearing a crop top 38 years ago. You can’t do anything online without seeing him smiling, seeing unwarranted hate for her. It feels inescapable, and I feel that people hate imperfect women more than they’re able to state clearly.

No one remembers what the trial was really about, but you couldn’t escape a single gory detail, not on popular Twitch streams orchestrated by cackling gaming personalities, or on TikTok, where Depp worshipers turned Heard’s testimony into millions of likes, or Instagram, or YouTube. It’s everywhere. But contrary to what our information overload would have you believe, this trial wasn’t about who people on Twitter find more personable, or who has been in more nostalgic childhood films, or who looked hotter in the ‘90s. It was a defamation trial about three vague sentences in a 2018 op-ed where Heard references her personal experience with sexual violence and abuse.

She does not mention Johnny Depp in the op-ed, but he sued her for $US50 ($AU69) million in damages. Before this trial, Depp tried suing for libel after British tabloid The Sun called him a “wife beater,” a phrase a U.K. judge found to be accurate after deeming 12 counts of alleged assault proven.

It’s unsurprising that the judge ruled this way. You’ve probably seen Heard’s face purple with healing bruises or Depp’s bleeding middle finger, which he gives conflicting accounts on how he severed (Heard threw a bottle? It got smashed in a closing door?), though he agrees that he used its dripping wound to write Heard threatening red messages. He sent vile text messages about Heard that his attorney said were inspired by “literary giants like Hunter S. Thompson,” including a text to actor Paul Bettany that said “I will fuck her burnt corpse afterward to make sure she is dead.” How literary.

Heard lived through Depp’s proven abuse, but her name and the abuse victims she represents — imperfect because we’re crying, because domestic abuse is emotionally knotty and Heard said she still loves him — are thrown away. Our stories are scrutinised, denied because…why? Is it about movies again?

It can’t just be about movies. To me, this reaction to Heard’s imperfections is a deluge of hate that has always existed. Sometimes it gets buried — in the beginning of the #MeToo movement, believing women was more socially acceptable because women banded together, nevermind the fact that everyone already knew Harvey Weinstein was a piece of shit. But then there are darker times in pop culture, like when the world laughed as a broken Britney Spears lashed out at swarming paparazzi with an umbrella, or when GamerGate sneered and drew an ugly line in the sand: Women, especially complex women, aren’t welcome here.

Complex women can’t be perfect. People, including other women, want physical beauty, the virginal porcelain face of Jane Eyre not the wild-haired Bertha Mason (the man locks her in the attic, and somehow she’s the crazy one?), or in video games, the pink Princess Peaches, the curvy Lara Crofts. But they also demand emotional perfection. Quietness, level headedness, no conflicting facial expressions like Amber Heard had, sobbing one second and sober the next. People don’t want to see anything that indicates that this woman, pretty as she is, is really just a human. She makes mistakes. Sometimes she hits back, or she misspeaks.

When a woman misspeaks because the situation she described was so painful she wanted to forget it, because a litigious man with as much power and money as Depp has tried smacking the memory out of her, I want to say the world will come to her aid. We’re supposedly post-GamerGate, post-MeToo. I want to believe that we are all now equipped with the basic understanding that abuse is multifaceted, sometimes subtle, always insidious, and confusing. But Heard continues to be abused in the court of public opinion, and as a result, other real, imperfect victims know for certain that we aren’t supported. Not until we get our stories straight or our tears in line. That’s why I watch idyllic shows like SVU. It’s not real. It probably never will be, but I can’t stop myself from hoping.


  • Amber Heard has hurt all other victims with her bullshit. I guess you’re entitled to your ridiculous opinion but the court has ruled against her.

    By all accounts they’re both horrible people.

    • And all the male haters all through social media won’t have an affect on women fearing to come forward?!

      Everyone who has posted hate against her are just as bad, in fact worse, there is only
      One of her but millions of men putting the boot into her despite having ZERO proof of any guilt of her part. (Hint her losing a defamation case does not mean the court found her guilty of lying and/or assault. But commentators are acting like she has been proven guilty.

      • In all fairness, there are *a lot* of women against Heard also.

        Her losing a defamation case is, by the very definition, her being found “guilty of lying”. Hell, in this case, she brought up the bogus story of Depp pushing Kate Moss down stairs when they were in a relationship. Something Kate Moss, in this very same case, testified against happening. (This is something Moss has never commented on, because, well, it’s bogus.)

        As for being guilty of assault, true, that would require Depp pressing charges against her for it. Which he hasn’t.

        BUT. There is audio recording, AND she has admitted, under oath, to hitting Depp in the face. And also audio of Amber heard mocking Depp, telling him to tell people he is a victim of DV, because, in her words “No one will believe “you”. So why would he even bother? It’s already hard enough for men to speak up about DV, especially when the perpetrator is female.

        They’re both just shit people. This case proved that.

        • But she hasn’t been found guilty of lying, people on social media infer that, yes in theory that connection can be made, but legally she hasn’t been charged or found guilty of that. Yes he won, but that doesnt make her legally
          Guilty of what you say. So hilariously saying she IS guilty you are (in some way) defaming her for your own ends, while criticising her for doing the same to poor little Johnny.

          But yeah they are probably both as bad as each other, but I feel zero need to judge her and or jump on a social media bandwagon to kick her when she is down. So I have to wonder what is it in some people need to need to feel that power and judgement over her?! I have spent the semester studying scandals through history but this is one of the biggest clusterf- of them all. Cos it is so meaningless and nonsensical to anyone outside their lives. But people are acting like she ate their babies or something:

  • No one should support an abuser / liar / manipulator.

    Amber Heard has been proven to be all of these things. You need to realise that sometimes, regardless of what bit is between your legs, some people are just ****ed.

    Was Depp innocent? Of course not. They were both toxic and horrible to each other. The difference is, she tried to play it up like she was the innocent victim.

    This piece here is the classic Kotaku that I keep seeing people whinge about in the comments section.

  • The AH v JD case and Gamergate is like comparing apples to organges.
    Gamergate was an unprovoked attack on a female developer by people who are, to be quite blunt, scumbag human beings hiding behind online anonymity.

    The Amber Heard case boiled down to domestic violence where it was quite clear that both Amber Heard and Johnny Depp were both fuelling each other hatred and violence against each other. The jury did not find that Johnny Depp was innocent, but rather that Amber Heard was not the victim that she was expressing herself to be.

  • No… The ‘Listen and believe!’ #MeToo crusade led the zealots to blindly support a shitty person PURELY because their gender checked the correct box for them. Now they scramble to quite literally manufacture a defense for them, instead of simply admit they got one wrong.

    It is quite literally the example of a psychological phenomenon where when people are provided with evidence that proves them wrong, they instead double down and insist they must somehow still actually be correct.

    Because I sure as shit don’t know in what fuckin’ universe you can listen to even some of the recordings of Heard and not see the deeply abusive and manipulative individual that exists there.

    And the worst part about it is that none of them realise they are the ones doing more harm to future victims coming forward with legitimate claims than anyone else could possibly do, and they’re doing it like they’re trying to set some sort of speed record.

  • *Everything is GG
    Everything is GG according to me
    Everything is GG
    When your out of ideas*

    The unconditional belief of any alleged victim is a dangerous precedent and results in psychopaths abusing it, as occurred in the case of Amber Heard.

    She is a proven abuser. The fact you are doing your best to paint her as a sweet angel who could do no wrong shows how much of a joke this article and the MeToo movent has become. MeToo used to be about holding powerful people to account, now its just a vessel for vindictive women to try to harm any men they don’t like.

    • It’s also highly ironic for Kotaku of all places to complain about vilification after they vilified and drove a dev out of their job into early retirement on the Harry Potter game because they dared to have a YouTube channel that didn’t adhere to the politics of the gaming press.

      Glass houses and stones Kotaku, glass houses and stones.

  • I really how the term “believe all women” has gone from its original intent (for people like cops not to berate a woman about what they were wearing or if they changed their mind etc when reporting a sexual assault) to the literal meaning.

  • Sociopath behavior should never be supported or endorsed like it is these days. It also leads to psychopathic behavior being normalized.
    We are racing at WARP SPEED towards the Great Filter!

    In saying that I wouldn’t be surprised if many in Hollywood industry are sociopaths! Inc Depp.

  • Believe all women… except the cop that stopped Heard beating her girlfriend at an airport and arrested her for it.
    Can I suggest that you review the evidence presented in this case before deciding that Heard is just imperfect and complex, occasionally misspeaking under emotional stress and hitting back.

  • We’ll have an article up on here defending Asia Argento any day now.

    Kotaku has always been bottom of the barrel trash, but they’re doing their best to reach even lower. It’s pretty impressive.

  • The incel rage directed at her is frightening. So too is the amount of stupid people who think that because he won, that means she is guilty of abuse. They are somehow overcome with their silliness, they don’t understand the difference between a civil defamation case and a criminal trial and conviction.

    Indeed the outrage against her has zero to do with her and everything to do with commentators seeking some form of validation in their life. Sadly in all these peoples need to pick a side, the side who looses is all those women who will be now too terrified in coming forward, lest the same happen to them. All for what so some people sitting around in their pj momentary feel power over her.

    The whole thing is scary and pathetic and so much of it has nothing to do with either of them.

    I got one won’t be watching anything with him anymore, I simply can’t handle seeing his gloating smug face. There is something off about BOTH of them. They both deserve to be poster-boys for anything.

    • So you don’t care about the facts, you just want the “believe all women unconditionally” narrative to continue no matter the consequences?

      You don’t care whose lives are ruined as long as a women is never proven to be lying about her accusations?

      • What facts? Precisely what facts? She wasnt on trial to prove her guilt, it was a defamation case in which HIS lawyers just had to prove a reasonable doubt to her stories. I will not be the least surprised if she did bad crap, as no doubt he did to her, but given both you and I arent lawyers, nor have we seen every single piece of evidence, we cant prove either statement. So lets leave it to courts to prove she is guilty of assault or perjury or whatever YOU seem to think she is guilty of.

        ‘you just want the “believe all women unconditionally” narrative to continue no matter the consequences?’ and there is it, your predictable ‘Oh pooooooor men’ whining, that often come up. She is ONE women who may of made stuff, this particular trial was not about proving her guilt, so why is it YOU need to demonise any women who go through the same.

        How many women are assaulted, harassed (or much worse) daily by men, how many of those will never see justice? And how many of those will now be too terrified to come forward because men such as yourself seek to lay absolute guilt at this one women’s feet, even though nothing has been proven in court?

        And then how men deal with such as issue? Spoiler alert is is a hell of of a lot of less. that is not to say they arent important, but the statistics speak for themselves and have done for decades, nah centuries.

        So I ask again why do YOU need to make this one women, and this one case, some how carry the weight of mens issues?

        • It’s a simple question

          Do you believe we should always unquestionably believe any accusations that come from a woman no matter the circumstances or facts that surround the accusation.

          Simple yes or no Blake.

          • You’ll find it’s the people who have the same mental illnesses Heard does to be the ones defending her behaviour. After all, to them being a raging, lying psychopath is perfectly normal and justified if they can get away with it. To those people, she’s legitimate in her actions because they operate on that same crazy logic. To everyone else who isn’t insane, Heard’s less useful than a well aged bag of horse manure and makes less sense than the horse it came from.

          • naturally there should be a burden of enough proof to warrant an investigation. The problem is normally these events happen in private, and rest of on consent that might have changed. So naturally the cases could get messy. It’s not my job to stand in judgement, it’s police job to investigate, law peps to do their thing, as well as juries and judges. So why do YOU need to stand in judgement of her, without full access to the evidence?! You make it sound like there is a massive problem, in which women make up cases by the thousands…. So where is your proof? Statistics? What makes you so damn afraid that you have to single this one flawed ‘victim’ and need her to represent some huge anti-male conspiracy. I answered your question. Time for you answer mine.

          • We don’t need to stand in judgement when Heard was kind enough to tell everyone that she was a giant husband bashing sack of shit throughout multiple recordings. She admitted to beating his shit in numerous times the recordings she made, Blake. You don’t need full access to evidence for anything but sentencing after those lovely confessions she donated to the court. There is no discussion to be had thanks to her admissions – only a discussion of why police haven’t already laid charges. djbear also never mentioned statistics, simply that people lie and that she’s living proof that it happens.

            Only the people who behave like her want to white knight for her and it might be time for you to have a serious look in the mirror.

          • Its very telling that you cant simply answer my question blakeavon and instead jump to ad hominem and attribute arguments to me I’ve never made nor said.

            Better luck next time bud.

        • “She wasnt on trial to prove her guilt, it was a defamation case in which HIS lawyers just had to prove a reasonable doubt to her stories.”

          That is untrue. To prove defamation his lawyers not only needed to show that her statements were demonstrably false, but done with actual malice, meaning “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not”. That’s a very high bar to pass.

          So according to the verdict she didn’t just fail to prove her stories, she was found to be lying and was imposed punitive damages, which is as close as you can get to an actual conviction in a civil case.

    • You are definitely one of the people you just described. You project so much it is really obvious you are trying to hide in plain sight.

    • Now Blakey I don’t think you’re a bad fella. I think you’re a progressive man with good intentions, and I’m not gonna shit on your character. I do think you’re wrong here though.
      A lot of your comments question the existence of “the facts (that prove Amber is a monster)” but the real fact is that there was a lot of damning evidence presented at the trial that paint a pretty clear picture that Amber is not a good person. I’d argue the most damning is telling Depp to go ahead and claim he was being domestic violenced, because who would believe a man? I paraphrase, but it’s not far off of what was said. There was another instance brought up in the trial where at a public event, she quickly moved her hand and he flinched hard, seemingly expecting a hit, and needed a moment to catch himself before continuing. There’s the bed shitting incident. I’m sure if you were legitimately interested I could find you many other examples.

      Something you do is deflect all criticism of Heard as being done by incels, and I don’t know if you’re doing that on purpose or passively but that sort of language is manipulative. Heard is unpopular with the ladies, too (at least the ones not blindly defending her because they believe women can do no wrong [see: this article]), and I’m sure she’s unpopular with most people who both regularly get laid and paid any attention to the trial. To bring up incels is to say “only incels (bad people) think that Heard is a bad guy in this story, and if you think Heard is capable of domestic violence against a man, you must be a bad guy too” and that itself is problematic.

      Before you or anyone else types up a “BUT WHAT ABOUT” storm, no I don’t think Depp was an innocent little bee in this relationship. But I know Heard wasn’t either.

    • The issue is it gets them traffic. Look at us. We both clicked on the article out of morbid curiousity to read the bad take.

    • Yeah, but even aside from the traffic it’s clearly getting, it’s got the most comments (/eNgAgEmEnT…) of any article in the past fortnight by a significant margin. Which I imagine is one of the metrics by which they – or more likely some random algorithm – decides what content from the overseas sites to post on the AU website.

      I couldn’t give two shits either way, but if people want to see less of these types of articles they need to stop clicking on them, and stop commenting on them. And probably start commenting more on stuff they like instead, even if it’s just a generic ‘thx’ or whatever.

      …also i am aware of the irony of commenting on this article in order to say that lol

  • Oh dear… the torturously slow death of gaming journalism is writ large in this article. The only redeeming feature of this article is the comments section where – apart from a few predictably moronic comments – sanity prevails.

  • As someone who was emotionally and physically abused by multiple women over the years.
    These articles are exactly why guys, when abused get a certain reaction and the female of the piece get another, Even when its shown they are the abusers, they are still put on the “they are the victims”.
    Ashley, Go fuck yourself.

  • I look forward to seeing Blakeavon continue their vigorous defence of the presumption of innocence in all future cases involving allegations of wrongdoing. No doubt they have the ACT’s Chief Justice’s comments on the subject firmly in mind.

  • It’s perfectly valid to conclude Amber Heard was physically abused by Johnny Depp. Unless you actually watched the entire trial and payed attention. Then, that conclusion would indicate you struggle greatly with retaining information and parsing that information with critical reasoning skills.

  • Stayed the hell away from every aspect of this that I could, but what really gobsmacked me was that it was a jury trial and that the jury wasn’t sequestered, so they could see every excruciating, prejudicing hot take that youtube, twitter, tiktok et al had to offer.

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