The court case between Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean) and his costar in The Rum Diaries, Amanda Heard, has been rolling out over all sorts of screens in the past six weeks. But in case you’ve missed it, here’s a quick summary:
The What’s Eating Gilbert Grape star later sued Amber in 2018 for $50 million in a defamation lawsuit after his ex-wife published an essay for the Washington Post, labeling herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” She then countersued her ex-husband for $100 million. The article did not mention Johnny by name, but his lawyers argued that it aimed to depict him as an abuser and ruined his reputation in the film business.
Today a jury found mostly in favor of Depp awarding him $15 million in damages. Heard received $2 million for her countersuit. Commentators presenting the news today pointed out that this result signifies a major pivot in what’s been a considerable bias in favor of women claiming sexual misconduct. In January of 2018, Al Franken, a well-liked senator from Minnesota, resigned when one woman in particular and then several others made claims of inappropriate conduct in his presence. There was no investigation or formal inquiry. He resigned due to pressure from his within his political party.
But I’m not interested in these details. I want to draw attention to how many un-paid hours went into this very public, and hence impactful, feedback loop. First, consider the hours contributed by the accused. He could have let it go and bet that in a few years (or less) no one would even remember Amanda Heard. A lot of people turn away from a fight because they realize their personal investment will be considerable. And after dedicating time, energy, and emotion to the cause, things may not go well.
The suit was initiated in 2018- so for the past four years, Johnny Depp has wrangled with lawyers, the media and his employers in support of his defense. He by far has the most unpaid work invested in changing the norm which has favored the female claimant.
The jury consisted of seven Virginians who showed up over the six weeks to perform their civic duty. Some may have been paid by their employers during this stint but undoubtedly some were not. Either way, it comes to a little better than eleven percent of the work year. As they decide the outcome, their unpaid contribution to a norm change is significant.
Some peripheral people also stepped up to make all this work. There are domestic chores that need to be done, and transportation issues to be worked out. Changes in a daily routine don’t just happen. It takes effort on someone’s behalf to supplement work when someone close to you is pulled off for other duties.
Fortunately, we live in a country that has enough surplus labor to oil the wheels that turn the justice system, one of our valued institutions. Some cases will absorb more hours than others. Norms change and morph as the result of work done by ordinary people.
One thought on “Depp brings home a win against defamation”
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