Johnny Depp, Amber Heard and the court of TikTok: how creators are driving viral content about complex legal cases

Posted by Dina Zubi in Comment

2 years ago

The court of TikTok is unrelenting, both when it comes to real-life legal cases and personal drama. From high profile celebrity lawsuits to dating debacles, TikTok has an opinion on everything and top creators are hugely influential in swaying public opinion on the app – for better or worse.

The legal battle between Hollywood stars Johnny Depp and Amber Heard has undoubtedly popped up on your TikTok feed in the past month. The tag #justiceforjohnnydepp has over 9.8 billion views, while #justiceforamberheard has 36 million, and TikTok’s allegiance lies firmly with Depp. News outlets like Yahoo News and Sky News are using their TikTok accounts to share footage from the trial as well, driving both views and comments at breakneck speed.

The trial has been memefied on TikTok, with creators making comedy skitsedits of “funny moments” from the courtroom and videos in support of either Depp or Heard. Needless to say, it’s bizarre watching fancams from a domestic violence case.

Milani Cosmetics also became involved after posting a TikTok contesting Heard’s defense claiming she used one of its palettes to cover up bruises sustained by Depp. In the video, which has been viewed over 5 million times, the brand showed the palette was released in 2017, despite Heard and Depp divorcing in 2016. The makeup brand’s interference in the legal case also sparked backlash for trivialising a court case about abuse.

Another celebrity trial widely dissected on TikTok is Blac Chyna’s defamation case against the Kardashian family. TikTok attorney Lawyer Limor has created a 22-video playlist detailing court proceedings, and celebrity gossip TikTokers including Amanda ChristineColt Paulsen and Ali Stagnitta, have also delved into the case to share daily updates.

The court of TikTok can come for “normal” people as well. Remember ‘couch guy’? In September 2021, Lauren Zarras uploaded a video surprising her boyfriend at college – TikTok was very unhappy with his reaction. The clip has been viewed over 65 million times, comments were flooded with allegations of Zarras’ boyfriend cheating and he quickly earned the nickname ‘couch guy’. He even made it into articles in The IndependentRolling Stone and The Washington Post.

West Elm Caleb, a New York furniture designer, was also the subject of a viral TikTok discussion earlier this year. He dated several women and subsequently ghosted them, who took to the app to share their personal experiences, hot takes and dating advice, after realising they had all met the same Caleb and the tag #westelmcaleb garnered 89 million views. Somewhat jarringly, his pictures, place of work, age and full name were made publicly available as a result.

TikTok is quick to react, but quick to jump to conclusions. Topics can go viral at lightning speed, as can misinformation, and cases like Depp v Heard and Blac Chyna v Kardashians demonstrate the continuous public appetite for this salacious style of content.

No matter what the pros and cons are, this is certainly not the last we’ll see of TikTokers dissecting both criminal cases and everyday drama.

By Dina Zubi, staff writer at CORQ. Picture credit: Sky News & People Magazine via Instagram