Johnny Depp & The Gaslighting Machine

Written by: Kirsten Langston Published on: June 3, 2022

We let Johnny Depp down six years ago when many of us, most of us, believed Amber by default. We let Johnny Depp down by failing to see him as a man instead of a commodity,  and a character instead of a person. Society let him down by clinging to the outdated and prejudicial belief that men cannot be abused by women, and that rich and powerful men will always be in the position of abuser. We let Johnny Depp down when we immediately discounted his kind reputation and generous behavior over the last forty years in favor of one accusation (without, in my opinion, sufficient proof).

picture: Yahoo

Gaslighting at Its Finest

The aftermath of the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial has been something to behold. The verdict was read and almost immediately statements were released by both parties. The PR teams were on top of it. Social media exploded. Media outlets released ready-to-go articles. The hot takes, the bad takes, and the praise and condemnation of the verdict have fueled online discourse for better or for worse. The day after the trial, Amber’s lawyer Elaine Bredehoft appeared on the Today show to continue the spin and Twitter and Instagram tried to decrypt enigmatic comments made by Adam Waldman, Depp’s attorney.  

We are seeing in real-time the shaping and attempts to control the post-trial narrative. It’s happening through PR teams and lawyers and traditional media. And we the people are being gaslit. 

The party line begun by Heard and her PR team? “This is a setback for women who have been abused.” The party line adopted by the mainstream media? “This is a setback for women who have been abused.” 

I agree, but not for the reasons you might think. This is a setback for women who have been abused because bad actors will use this case as an example at every trick and turn to try to silence women who actually have been abused. Mainstream media is framing this as a setback because they are implying Johnny Depp is guilty.

The truth is this is a setback for victims everywhere because MSM is refusing to acknowledge that Johnny Depp is a proven victim of domestic violence. The message is, male or female, no matter what, you won’t be believed.

Either way you slice this, no matter your opinion on who did what. If Johnny was abused, he was disbelieved for the last six years. If Amber was abused then she is being disbelieved now. It’s a setback for victims, period.

This trial has been a masterclass in gaslighting. Amber Heard attempted to gaslight us, the media attempted to gaslight us, social media attempted to gaslight us, and they are still doing it. 

The gaslighting started with Amber Heard’s testimony which, unfortunately for her case, was a disaster. Forget the memes and cruel takes on social media, which no one deserves, when she stated a pledge and a donation were the same thing, she buried herself. As the trial went on, the more she spoke, the less believable she became. The only person who is responsible for losing Amber’s case is Amber. 

This couple recorded themselves for hours, and we witnessed Amber gaslighting Depp in real-time, “I was hitting you. I was not punching you. Babe, you’re not punched.” Depp responds, “Don’t tell me what it feels like to be punched.” 

The manager of the Hicksville Trailer Palace, Morgan Night, refuted her claim on the stand that the trailer was trashed. Amber’s response, the Mariah Carey, “I don’t know her…” 

We heard audios from the trial; we had access to audios and depositions that were not admitted into the trial,including an audio from Australia where she does appear to admit to slicing his finger off. I listened to everything. What is clear from both the audios, the depositions, and her own testimony is that Amber Heard has an issue with telling the truth. 

And so, we have to discount her testimony. She is not a credible witness. I understand that in any case like this it would be the goal of the opposing counsel to discredit her so her claims aren’t believable. What happened here, unfortunately for Amber, is that she didn’t need any help from Camille Vasquez; she railroaded her own case. She said on the stand she never hit Johnny and then plainly stated that she only landed one blow when he was allegedly about to push her sister Whitney down the stairs, then we have a recording of her admitting to hitting him in a completely different, non-staircase related fight.

Amber got on the stand, lied, got caught and then, in an attempt that wouldn’t have even fooled Ingrid Bergman, told us all in so many words, “Everyone here is lying but me.”  

The MSM gaslighting has been going on for years, and post-trial MSM immediately adopted the story that Amber Heard was the only victim and the verdict was a miscarriage of justice. The very storyline that was set up by her PR team. 

“The Party told you not to believe your eyes and ears.” 

The Amber Heard is a victim story just doesn’t wash. To tie her up with #metoo is an insult to #metoo. She is recorded abusing Depp verbally and recorded admitting to physical abuse. This is not a #metoo situation. She was arrested for abusing her former partner; full testimony by Jennifer Howell (not allowed in court) stated that she witnessed Amber physically abusing her sister, Whitney. There is a video of Whitney admitting that Amber hit her. Her former bestie, Raquel Pennington admitted Amber hit her in the face. 

Only one person in this situation is exhibiting a pattern of abuse, physical abuse, and it is Amber. 

They want us to ignore the clear evidence and believe her PR storyline. The question is why?

And (insert conspiracy theory here) who benefits from this storyline? It’s not just Heard.

The idea of the media and Hollywood machine rallying around the wildly famous and powerful Depp is put to rest when we see that it is Heard who has had all the positive press and Heard who has retained (at least for now) her role in the Aquaman franchise. 

Mainstream media once again clings to the Heard PR line and is ignoring completely that she has admitted to abusing Depp. They act like it never happened. As if these audios weren’t heard around the world. They are trying too hard to spin this in Heard’s favor and to erase the clear evidence. The articles floating around the internet (again, Heard’s PR team must be worth its weight in gold) make no mention of her on record abusive behavior toward Depp, nor of the fact she did not donate her divorce funds as she had stated repeatedly, nor of her contradictory testimony, nor of her past abuse of intimates. They ignore all of this. 

If anything the evidence shows, at worst, these two were beating each other up, which makes them both victims of the other. However, the audios clearly indicate she was usually the instigator and aggressor in these horrendous fights. Yet, we are being told to ignore this. We are being told to ignore everything we just witnessed.

 “Just because I’ve thrown pots and pans [at you]…” “Go be a real married man. I know it’s hard to look at yourself.” “You’re a joke.” “I did start a physical fight.” “You’re a washed-up actor.”

Her taunting of Depp, and maniacal laughter, is difficult to listen to.

Her gaslighting of Depp is obvious and horrific. Her circular arguments are mind-boggling and exhausting. How anyone can form the narrative that she’s the victim (or the only victim) in this situation is beyond me. 

“We’ve let Amber Heard down.” 

Do I believe we let Amber Heard down? Yes, and I’ll tell you why. No person, regardless of what they have done, deserves the kind of online and public revilement she has faced. The people who have used this occasion to abuse Amber Heard are abusers themselves. That’s facts. Same with those who have come for Johnny Depp, although there has been far less of that. Just because you view someone as a bad person or believe (or even know) they have done something bad or hurt another human being does not give you the right to hurt that person. Society let Amber down when they attacked her. She is not a monster. At the end of the day, she’s just a person trying to get her needs met, albeit through manipulative, nefarious, harmful, and underhanded (illegal?) ways.

We let Johnny Depp down too. 

We let Johnny Depp down six years ago when many of us, most of us, believed Amber by default. We let Johnny Depp down by failing to see him as a man instead of a commodity,  and a character instead of a person. Society let him down by clinging to the outdated and prejudicial belief that men cannot be abused by women, and that rich and powerful men will always be in the position of abuser. We let Johnny Depp down when we immediately discounted his kind reputation and generous behavior over the last forty years in favor of one accusation (without, in my opinion, sufficient proof).

This trial has brought out the best and the worst in humanity. It has shown us all who we truly are, who our friends and family are, and what mainstream media and the Hollywood machine truly are. We have seen the vitriol and threats directed at both Amber and Johnny in a pestilent wave across social media platforms. We have also seen the outpouring of genuine love and support for both. The best and the worst.

Social media played an historic part in this trial, with hashtags used as evidence and witnesses being found on Twitter. Echo chambers were created shouting: “I stand with Amber Heard,” and “Justice for Johnny Depp,”  and people took sides.

People that called out Heard’s behavior as abusive were immediately categorized as Deppford Wives, mindless people who blindly followed Johnny because he’s a star. In order to minimize the impact of what was being said (That Johnny Depp, a man, was the victim of domestic violence) pro-Heard social media reduced those saying it to sycophantic morons, a herd of bots and idiotic fans who would follow Johnny Depp over a cliff if he gave the word. 

We saw the same thing in the trial. Heard and her team attempted to minimize or discredit the testimonies of witnesses Morgan Night and Morgan Tremaine by painting them as star-struck sycophants eager to curry favor with Depp and get their “fifteen minutes of fame.” 

When one cannot discount the truth they attempt to minimize, discredit, and silence those who speak it. 

You are not crazy. I am not crazy. They are telling us the sky is green, Heard is a victim, Depp is not and we’re fools if we think otherwise. They want you to ignore what is right in front of your face. 

My personal story. 

For my part in this cultural global phenomenon, (and please don’t let anyone minimize this trial as a celebrity shit show soap opera, it meant a lot to a lot of people for many different and important reasons) here’s how I got here: 

I grew up with Johnny Depp movies. He was beautiful; he still is. He was also immensely talented and has grown even more so as his career has gone on. I would have never considered myself a fan. But as a pop culture fixture Johnny Depp was always in the background of my life, living his own both on and off-screen, an omnipresent figure. When Pirates came out, my sister came home telling me, “Johnny Depp stole that movie.” He did. It was a masterful performance. 

I’ve loved movies since I was a kid. I watched everything. And I loved watching him work. 

2016 hit and I heard his wife had accused him of domestic violence. I shrugged and carried on with my life, thinking that he’d always seemed like a nice dude and he must’ve just snapped. Midlife crisis or something. I gave it no further thought. I did not cancel him. I saw he was let go from Pirates and Fantastic Beasts and thought, Jesus, this is some bad shit. 

The Sun trial rolled around in 2020 and I didn’t pay much attention. 

Then Judge Penny Azcarate entered my life in 2022 and things were never the same… I started watching the Depp/Heard trial on a whim. I became intrigued after hearing Johnny’s testimony and went digging. I was not disappointed. All the evidence is out there, things that were and were not admitted in this trial.

I watched and listened to it all. I did not come to my opinion lightly or easily. 

I was one of those people who believed Amber by default, partially because I was not really paying attention. But the prevalent story out there was he beat her up. That was the story I’d heard; it was the only story I’d heard and so I figured it must be true. Through the course of this trial, it was made clear to me that Johnny Depp is a survivor of domestic abuse perpetrated by Amber Heard. I don’t believe she sufficiently proved that she was a survivor of domestic abuse perpetrated by Johnny Depp, (although by his own admission on audio he did push her once and accidentally head-butt her while trying to restrain her). Again, unfortunately, her contradictory testimony and the damning audios make it too hard to simply take her word for it. 

I am a survivor of both physical and psychological domestic abuse.

I briefly had a foolish boyfriend who couldn’t keep his hands to himself. He didn’t last long. He came for me physically a couple of times. Afterward telling me, “Nothing happened. You’re not hurt. I just grabbed you.” 

“I was hitting you. I was not punching you. Babe, you’re not punched.”

I had another boyfriend who manipulated, gaslit, and lied to me. He didn’t last long either. He often criticized my appearance telling me I would look better if I was skinnier, blonde and wore different clothes. He told me I had no talent. He would often start long, circular arguments in an attempt to keep me from leaving or going out with my friends. He would say something and then twenty minutes later deny he ever said it. “You’re crazy.” 

“Just because I’ve thrown pots and pans [at you]…” “Go be a real married man. I know it’s hard to look at yourself.” “You’re a joke.” “I did start a physical fight.” “You’re a washed-up actor.”

Due to these unfortunate experiences watching Amber’s testimony and listening to the audios I recognized her minimizing, gaslighting, and abuse for what it was immediately. The bad boyfriend era happened years ago and I have no scars from it. I was not triggered by this trial in that way. 

 But I cried a couple of times during Johnny’s testimony, at one point bursting into tears, shocking myself. The empathy I felt and the obvious pain he had been in, and was in still, pierced my heart. 

I came in thinking Heard had told the truth and had a case. I left thinking the total opposite. Mercury retrograde in action. 

My final and meandering thoughts.


We have been inundated with videos of Johnny Depp being adored by fans outside the courthouse. He waved to them all; he thanked them. We watched as he bantered with Judy the Court Reporter, who seems like a nice lady. We watched him get hugs from his attorneys. We saw him in court, laughing when we were laughing. We saw him shake hands with all the officers in the parking lot. None of this is by accident. That doesn’t mean he is not a sincerely kind, thoughtful, and polite person but he is no fool.

The minute this trial began, the Johnny Depp comeback show had started.

The PR machine was already in motion. Everything he did during this trial was an exercise in reputation rehab. It was planned. It was executed beautifully. This is not to say he wouldn’t have done this anyway. He seems pretty genuine and polite and good to his fans. But he also knew this was likely his last (only?) shot at truly rehabbing his reputation. I think he succeeded.

Did he abuse Amber Heard? I would say if you count him pushing her, which is the only thing he has admitted to on audio then yes, he did. Is it possible it was reactive abuse? Sure. It’s also just as possible these two were pushing each other around.

It was extremely difficult for me to hear about his struggles with alcoholism and addiction. It is clear he’s been fighting these demons a long time and I truly hope he is well and healthy now.

As to what the future will bring, watch my reading here.


I want to believe her. It is painful for me to discount a woman’s account of abuse. It creates a cognitive dissonance I am extremely uncomfortable with. Unfortunately, I am unable to take her at her word due to her past behavior. Do we truly require our female victims to be perfect? I don’t know. I believed Cosby’s accusers. I believed Weinstein’s accusers. I believe Evan Rachel Wood. It is common practice to attempt to demonize women who come forward with accusations of rape and abuse. But I cannot look at everything presented and come to the conclusion that I can trust Amber Heard at her word. Too often we have seen male rapists and abusers get off lightly, with little to no punishment. It is a product of the patriarchy and misogynist culture. But I don’t believe that is what has happened in his case. This woman abused this man, of this we have proof, and her stories changed too much. Again, even if they were going at each other, she’s still on the hook there too.

In my nonprofessional, nonmedical opinion she is in need of help, emotionally and mentally. She obviously has some problems. I will not demonize or vilify her. It is likely, if she is lying, that she truly believes those lies and is not lying out of malice but out of deep-seated issues. It is just as likely that she is acting out of malice. I have compassion for Amber Heard no matter her motivations or actions.

The phrase hurt people hurt people could be Amber’s tagline.

I feel terrible for her that she has had to endure this public flogging, abuser or not.

I hope she finds whatever she needs to be a healthy person.

Everyone else.

What did we learn? After two years of mass death and a pandemic we were ready, we needed, collectively, something like this. It’s okay if you were entertained by it. People trying to shame over this trial need to have a little more compassion. It’s been death and sickness and weird daily life for two years. If people found solace in this tea (and there was so much tea) of a trial, don’t shame them.

So many survivors, male and female, came forward online and shared their stories and photos. They found in this trial and in either Johnny or Amber a kindred soul and this trial gave them a chance and an opportunity to speak up and be heard, to share their stories, and get some closure of their own. They saw in a famous figure their own struggles reflected back to them. It was worth a lot.

We also saw internet stupidity at pretty high levels. People coming for Amber, Johnny, and anyone else who dared utter an opinion online. I had a few people who somehow thought I was pro-Amber come for me. It was a bit surreal. You don’t know me. Sit down. When I tweeted something pro-Johnny I was accused of being a bot, a Deppford Wife, and someone who was not an abuse survivor. Again. Sit the fuck down.

Online is such a great place to have conversations and discussions but when we move immediately to silence and insult and cancel people we are shutting down the conversation and it could be a valuable one.

Where do we go from here? Personally, I’m changing the tagline from “believe all women” to “believe all victims”. Those of us who were pulled into this vortex were for a reason. Something in us connected to it. Believe it or not, I believe it was an exercise in healing.