Male Celebrities and Problematic Statements

The Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial is likely to be the single most defining event of 2022, one that opened a window on the ugly, real, and toxic side of stardom. The most private details of the couple’s relationship were discussed and dissected in public discourse, thanks to a live broadcast on Court TV and YouTube. Surprisingly, (or is he, really?) Heard has faced widespread hate campaigns and large numbers of memes online mocking her expressions, words, and behavior.

Amidst the slime-thrower, comedian Chris Rock, during an ongoing tour of his show, attacked Heard (and the #MeToo movement) in one of his “jokes.” According to a LadBible report, Rock went on to say, “Believe all women, believe all women…except for Amber Heard.” The comedian, who was shocked by Will Smith, for his mockery during the Oscars 2022 of his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s baldness due to alopecia, accused Depp of defeating Heard on their bed. However, Heard’s team dismissed the matter claiming that it was done by the ex-couple’s dog. Reportedly, Rock made his remarks on May 12, Thursday, “What are you doing? She’s s*** in his bed! She’s fine but she’s not okay. Once you’re in someone’s bed, you (be) guilty of everything. Awesome. And it was. They have an affair after that… I’ve been with some crazy Ivy but damn it.”

Believe Women, a phrase that urged people to believe the woman, who emerged as a survivor of sexual assault and assault, originated from the #MeToo movement. Rock was facing a backlash for undermining the feminist mantra at Heard’s expense. One Twitter user wrote, “Chris Rock wasn’t laughing when Will Smith assaulted him, but it’s okay to laugh and joke about a woman victim of domestic violence when the perpetrator is a Hollywood actor.”

Another user asked, “Why did Will Smith slap Chris Rock in a horrific tragedy…but Amber Heard’s disturbing testimony is laughable?”

Depp filed a $50 million defamation lawsuit against Heard in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed that talked about her exposure to domestic violence, without explicitly naming the former. In the highly publicized trial that began on April 11, 2022, bloody details of the “mutual abuse” emerged. However, Heard, who was named, was mocked for “over-acting” and sentenced to “cry without tears” as she recalled disturbing details of her alleged abuse. The immense popularity of Depp cannot be missed unlike Heard’s lack of recognition in this power struggle that plays out on the stands and on social media. Although the jury is (literally) still out of the highly publicized case, social media has already come to the conclusion of who offended who here. While #AmberHeardIsALiar, #JusticeforJohnny takes center stage, she doesn’t care about the fact that he lost a defamation lawsuit against The Sun for calling him a “wife racket” or the London High Court ruling that he assaulted his hearing.
Perhaps it’s his charm, courtroom humor, or now the flag-bearer of male domestic violence, Depp’s fan love overflows, while Heard is met with a barrage of misogyny, despite both admitting violence toward each other. According to NBC News, 2,300 Twitter profiles analyzed in connection with Depp-Heard’s experience found that 93% of users supported the “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor. As the world scrutinizes why Amber Heard isn’t the “perfect victim,” it shows that society is still working on deep-rooted sexism.
In an age where victim-blaming is the immediate reaction to an allegation of abuse, harsh statements that downplay a survivor’s narrative of trauma by celebrities like Rock, heighten the stigma surrounding women who speak up. If Heard, a Hollywood actress, with her fame, money, and proof, had to go through this, imagine the plight of female survivors without such resources.

Chris Rock isn’t the first to belittle #MeToo, and he won’t be the last. Recently, Malayalam actor and film producer Vijay Babu did a live broadcast on Facebook where he revealed the name of the survivor who had filed a rape case against him. With an air of masculinity, he rotated his mustache and called his response a kind of anti-#MeToo movement. Babu claimed to be the actual victim and called the survivor’s supporters “the leeches”. Although he said he wasn’t “afraid of the law,” while violating Section 228a that protects the anonymity of the victim, the State Film Award winner has since been on the run. When I suffer, why am I the victim, why does she live her life happily? She is safely under the protection of the alleged law. How is this fair? He had been questioned during his 10-minute life.

The #MeToo movement has been a way for women to respond (both anonymously and without) and warn others of those who offend them, as the legal system and justice cannot always be relied upon. The burden of crime almost always rests with the victim, going through how society questions them based on their clothing, the time and place where the alleged abuse occurred, and many more ridiculous reasons. From self-blame to lack of awareness, research shows that it takes survivors years before they come out, and when they do, blame, blame, and social isolation lie in wait. Men are rarely abolished or lose opportunities or positions of power, examples are R Kelly, Vairamuthu etc. This is exactly why there is a law protecting the identity of the victim.

“Let’s take a break to #MeToo. We will fight. This will be the start of a new chapter in MeToo,” he announced live. With such an irresponsible statement, the actor casually dismissed the allegations made within the framework of the #MeToo movement, suggesting that they are fake. Undoubtedly, the live session was met with legions of supportive comments from males who considered Babu a crusader for “men’s justice” and “equality,” along with verbal abuse directed at the survivor.

Bapu’s move reeked of entitlement and toxic manhood, which made the survivor scramble to secure herself and her social media accounts from subsequent public harassment. Needless to say, Babu has set a dangerous precedent in cases of alleged abuse, which will discourage more survivors from coming forward, fearing a backlash.

Last week, Dhyan Sreenivasan, a Malayalam actor/director, said during a promotional interview for his latest film that he would have remained behind bars if he started the #MeToo “trend” 10-12 years ago. “#MeToo is back a long time ago,” he continues proudly with a smirk. The actor and presenter can barely control their laughter as Dhyan further “jokes” that he would have been gone for 14-15 years if #MeToo had been around that long. Writer NS Madhavan once again applauded his outrageous statements explaining that crimes have no statute of limitations, and his victims should put an end to his boasting.

#MeToo heralded hope for a new era with increased accountability for abusers and safer spaces for women, as the initial movement helped bring down the most powerful men from Harvey Weinstein to Jeffrey Epstein. But, with current treatment being offered to survivors of abuse and some men (and women) trying to undo the movement, victims are now more likely than ever to be reluctant to weed out abusers in a culture that openly supports predators.

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