The Amber Heard and Johnny Depp Trial is Not a Reality TV Show For You to Gawk At

johnny depp amber heard abuse trial
credit: Andrea Raffin/

Johnny Depp’s defamation trial against Amber Heard is well underway and the media is loving it.

Dozens of media outlets are all covering the story so an attention-grabbing headline is essential to drive readers to one website over another. This practice often leads to sensationalizing an otherwise mundane topic or shifting the focus to the more juicy bit, even if it’s not the most important part. It’s precisely what’s happening with Johnny and Amber’s very public trial and it’s absolutely shameful.

The high-profile case is everywhere right now, from entertainment sites to major news networks to NPR (yup, even the public, non-profit organization is covering the trial). However, since there’s only so much new information that comes from each day in court, there are only so many stories to tell, which leads to headlines like these:

“The Biggest Bombshells from the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Trial So Far” (Entertainment Weekly)

“Is It Okay To Laugh At The Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard Trial?” (British Vogue)

“Amber Heard and Johnny Depp Issue Statements After her Explosive Testimony” (People)

“Amber Heard Accuses ‘Monster’ Johnny Depp of Sexual Assault” (The Guardian)

“The Most Shocking Moments From Amber Heard’s Testimony During Johnny Depp’s Defamation Trial” (E! Online)

We’ve grown accustomed to watching celebrities’ real lives unfold in front of our eyes thanks to social media and shows like The Kardashians (and the decades of celebrity reality TV shows before it). As a result, it’s we often feel entitled to the private life of every celebrity.  And, admittedly, the Heard/Depp trial is pretty engrossing with each of them sharing their own side of events that occurred throughout their unstable relationship.

But even though Hollywood has blurred the lines between reality and “reality”, there is still a significant difference between entertainment and real life. Logically, we all know that social media is staged and reality shows are heavily edited, so we’re never actually seeing these celebrities’ real “real lives”. And this detail is what makes the Heard/Depp trial different. It truly is real life. Because even though it’s being televised, there is nothing curated about it.

Depp and Heard are not selling these stories for monetary gain, they’re sharing them with a jury. And even though it’s easy to understand why the situation is so captivating, that doesn’t give the media a free pass to cover each day in court like it’s the latest episode of a twisted reality show.

Yes, the stories Heard and Depp are sharing involve things like private jets, giant homes, and severed fingers — all of which are fascinating to those of us who fly commercial and live uneventful lives in the suburbs.

But this trial isn’t entertainment. It doesn’t matter whether it happens in a mansion or in an alleyway. Domestic abuse is traumatic. When Depp and Heard are telling their heartbreaking stories in court, they are not actors playing parts, they are real people sharing painful experiences. And talking about trauma is never easy, no matter how famous you are.

When you’re so far removed from a situation — as the vast majority of us are in this case — it’s easy to sit back and enjoy the scandal as if it were a best-selling thriller novel. But, what if it was your best friend on the stand, telling a room full of (practically salivating) strangers about the times her husband made her fear for her life? What if the media and the world treated your friend the way it’s treating Heard and Depp? It’s a lot less interesting and a lot more heartbreaking when it’s someone you know, right?

Forfeiting some of your privacy is part of the territory when you’re a celebrity, especially when you’re in the midst of a very public legal battle. But no amount of fame strips you of being a human who experiences pain just like the rest of us.

This trial is not “explosive” to Heard and Depp. Their “bombshell” testimonies are true stories and none of these events are “shocking” to the pair. So let’s stop treating this like a reality show and start talking about it for what it is — a very sad retelling of an unhealthy relationship between two people that, at one time or another, truly loved each other.


A Timeline of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s Relationship, Abuse Allegations, and Defamation Trial

Ashley Ziegler
Aside from being a writer, Ashley is a mom of two girls and a wife to a passionate public school administrator. When she does have free time (cue laughter from working moms everywhere) she loves going to hot yoga classes, watching anything on Netflix that isn't a cartoon, and weaving her way through every aisle of Target while listening to one of her favorite podcasts.