This doc unpacks TikTok's impact on the Johnny Depp & Amber Heard trial

The trial, watched by millions across the world, set a new precedent for celebrity court cases.

by Douglas Greenwood
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13 July 2022, 3:41pm

For six weeks this past spring, audiences watched the trial of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp unfold on court television. But that was only half of it. Online, millions formed their own opinions on who was the bigger victim of the divorced Hollywood stars. In what felt like a shift into a new, morbid era of celebrity court cases, the world made created their own content too; ripping footage and transforming it into TikToks, memes and dissections via Twitter threads. Perhaps unsurprisingly, questions are now being raised about how social media may have spun the jury’s verdict, and NBC have unveiled a documentary unpacking it.

Titled A Marriage on Trial: Johnny Depp, Amber Heard and Truth in the Age of Social Media, the NBC News documentary launches tonight (Wednesday 13 July) at 10:30pm EST, and will be available on demand on Peacock and NBCNews.com.

Following the trial’s result — which weighed heavily in Johnny Depp’s favour, despite him previously losing a libel case against The Sun newspaper’s Dan Wootton, who labelled him a “wife beater” in a 2017 headline — conflicts arose amongst online supporters of Amber Heard. It’s been suggested that the mass influx of algorithm-based social media content, much of which dissected her mannerisms and reactions during the trial, played a significant part in shifting the public’s opinion towards her. It’s argued that, since the jury were not isolated during the trial’s six-week run, they too could have been exposed to it. On top of this, Amber Heard’s lawyer has ordered a new trial, claiming that one of the jurors in the case wasn’t who they claimed to be, but instead a younger member of their household with the same last name.

While still fresh, it’s a case ripe for dissection, and it seems NBC have wasted no time in bringing their perspective on the case to the fore. In a description uploaded to NBC’s site, A Marriage on Trial is described as the following: “The Depp v. Heard defamation trial evoked two distinct reactions – those who couldn’t get enough and those who received more than they wanted. The new deep-dive documentary explores why the trial overwhelmed social media, specifically TikTok, and what viewers missed if social media coverage was their only news source. In the wake of a verdict that surprised legal experts, NBC News examines how the trial evolved into the TikTok trial and what the verdict means for future domestic abuse cases.”

You can watch the documentary for the trailer below, and find out more by heading to the NBC News NOW website.

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documentaries