Monica Lewinsky has weighed into the conversation surrounding the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard court case, writing that too many of us became comfortable with the “courtroom porn” nature of it.
In an op-ed published by Vanity Fair, Lewinsky wrote that the widespread consumption of the trial through social media tended to be “biased, curated and cursory” leading to a lack of critical thinking and an obsession with it as a “car wreck”.
“We have become so attuned to this narrow, cynical cycle of social media encounters that we consider the trial not tragic or pathetic, but as a pure car wreck: accessible, tawdry, and immediately gratifying,” Lewinsky wrote.
“We dispense with critical thinking and substitute the cheap thrill.”
“Such scattershot consumption hasn’t allowed for real comprehension. Instead, we experience only apprehension, knee-jerk outrage, and titillation.”
Lewinsky wrote she was concerned about the wider impact of the court case, especially the ways “we have stoked the flames of misogyny and separately, the celebrity circus”.
“In the end, the ways we have contemptuously co-opted the trial for our own purposes are a sign of how many of us, the social-media-mongrelized, have continued to devalue our dignity and humanity,” she wrote.
“Does our opinion toward this case entitle us to feel so superior—or inferior—that we can create a meme or a TikTok or a tweet saying something that gets other people to laugh at someone who is already suffering? Do we have a “right” to get dopamine hits—or money—from our number of followers or retweets or clicks?”
Lewinsky wrote that she saw there was another complicating factor at play – that because the trial was so readily available on our screens, it felt like we had a right to “look and watch”, and form an opinion of it.
“Because the trial has also been available live on our screens, we think, subconsciously, that we have a right to look and watch. To judge. To comment,” she wrote.
“And we end up with this confusing cultural crossover of watching two people (whom we are used to seeing as actors acting on a screen) in a setting—a courtroom—where we would normally expect them to be assuming their characters’ roles.”
“We are drenched in the taint of the dirt and aggression of the social media wars. The obsessive chatter around the Depp–Heard trial is just one small example of the ever-expanding, ever-demanding search for schadenfreude and titillation.”