Among TikTok’s unbridled incessant coverage of the defamation case against Amber Heard (brought by Johnny Depp) comes a crass, mocking and glamorising reception to the actress’ cross examination by Camille Vasquez—one of Depp’s lawyers. Though Vasquez’s debut was something to behold, the reception to the pair’s back-and-forth has been dubiously portrayed as a “catfight” or “girl fight” in content that has saturated the platform.
In the latest absurd reaction—let’s not forget Heard’s sexual abuse testimony being used in a disgusting TikTok trend—to what is a very real and serious court case, users are snipping clips of the women’s interaction for dramatic effect. Despite being put forward as an appreciation of Vasquez’s skilful and methodical interrogation of Heard, what many users fail to realise is the hidden sexist tropes found in the mode of their adoration.
Labelling the lawyer’s integral statements and line of questioning as “clap backs” or editing clips of her giving “dirty looks” and “side eye” towards Heard (which may appear celebratory of Vasquez online) do nothing but belittle her very serious role as Depp’s attorney into a ‘snapping back bitch face trope’—one that a male lawyer would not experience.
Vasquez’s success as a lawyer should not be credited for these moments but in those where she finds answers and carries out her hired role to find holes in Heard’s story. Such situations that have been unearthed include: the Aquaman actress admitting that she had not donated her pledges to charity (an admittance that could warrant a perjury probe), accusations that she had doctored her bruised photos as well as revelations surrounding her love letters to Depp.
What these “catfight” snippets also do is drown out the allegations made by Heard against the Pirates of the Caribbean actor. I am of the opinion that Depp is without doubt a victim of domestic violence, however, that does not immediately discredit the actress’ right to tell her own side of the story in a court of law (that’s how it works, folks) nor does it clear him of his own dubious discretions.
But perhaps the biggest indication of lightly dosed sexism comes from the rumoured narrative—instigated by social media, of course—that romance lies between Vasquez and her client. That’s right, people are actually “shipping” Vasquez with Depp. Rather than appreciating the skill of the successful lawyer for what it is, TikTok users have sought new ways to sensationalise reality into some sort of true crime Netflix series, The People v. OJ Simpson–style. This is a role that the wider media has continued to perpetuate with archaic headlines reminiscent of the early 2000s, just “Who is she dating?” that subjects Vasquez to things her male counterparts would not be.
This dramatisation of courtroom candour does nothing but remove the role of objective presentation of fact and instead opts for the fictitious elements often evident in dramatic cinematic retellings of ‘true crime’. Comments littered across such content was evident of this. “AH [Amber Heard] is unbelievable! Camille was on fire today! Can’t wait for tomorrow,” one user said.