'We are guilty': Monica Lewinsky slams public obsession with the Depp-Heard defamation trial
Monica Lewinsky via Shutterstock

Ahead of the verdict being rendered in the defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, Monica Lewinsky penned a searing indictment in Vanity Fair of how American society has covered and reacted to the proceedings.

"We have become so attuned to this narrow, cynical cycle of social media encounters that we consider the trial not tragic or pathetic, but as a pure car wreck: accessible, tawdry, and immediately gratifying," wrote Lewinsky. "We dispense with critical thinking and substitute the cheap thrill. Such scattershot consumption hasn’t allowed for real comprehension. Instead, we experience only apprehension, knee-jerk outrage, and titillation. It’s like going to the opera and reading a couple of translated supertitles but not understanding Italian. And despite whatever else this is, it is a soap opera."

"Because the trial has also been available live on our screens, we think, subconsciously, that we have a right to look and watch. To judge. To comment," she continued. "This blurring of public figures and private lives can do a number on us — as bystanders, as an audience. We end up being torn between our parasocial relationships with celebrities (we identify with them; we pretend that, gee, we actually know them) and our need to see public personalities taken down a notch or two — and taken down publicly — so as to make our wounded selves feel better in comparison."

Lewinsky was especially contemptuous of the way that observers of the trial fell back on misogynistic tropes as a lens through which to view the proceedings — which the far right are already seizing on to declare that the "Me Too" movement is dead.

"I wasn’t surprised that the memes about Amber Heard far outnumbered those about Johnny Depp. I wasn’t surprised that the cruel and vitriolic discourse was predominantly aimed at the woman," wrote Lewinsky. "And I shouldn’t have been surprised (but I was) that shortly after my search, I began to be served suggested posts on the trial. But they were less about Depp and Heard; more seemed to idolize Camille Vasquez (Depp’s lawyer) for her 'performance' cross-examining Heard. (Oh, you thought we wouldn’t have any girl-on-girl action in this trial? That’s on Misogyny’s greatest-hits album.)"

Even before the verdict — declaring both Depp and Heard liable but Heard on the hook for $15 million and Depp just $2 million Lewinsky made clear she believed the biggest villain was society itself.

"What we have now, arguably, is a 'cultural miasma.' We are drenched in the taint of the dirt and aggression of the social media wars. The obsessive chatter around the Depp–Heard trial is just one small example of the ever-expanding, ever-demanding search for schadenfreude and titillation," concluded Lewinsky. "No matter whom the jury’s verdict favors — be it defendant Heard or plaintiff Depp — we are guilty."

You can read more here.

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