#MeToo dead? Jennifer Aniston, others ‘liked’ Depp’s victory

Jennifer Aniston, once one of Hollywood’s best-known #MeToo advocates, was among more than 50 celebrities who “liked” Johnny Depp’s celebratory Instagram post Wednesday, expressing thanks that a civil jury found that his ex-wife, Amber Heard, libeled him when she published an op-ed about being a victim of domestic violence.

Both the Daily Beast and BuzzFeed News counted the “Friends” star among a growing list of celebrities whose “likes” showed apparent approval for Depp’s statement and victory. Depp repeated the allegation that he made during the seven-week trial — that he had been the victim of a woman’s false reports of domestic and sexual violence.

While the Daily Beast said Aniston’s “like” was surprising, it appears to demonstrate Hollywood’s complicated response to Depp’s trial and victory. Perhaps just as “telling” is the silence coming from many other prominent #MeToo supporters, entertainment reporter Kyndall Cunningham wrote.

Johnny Depp, left, and Amber Heard in the courtroom for closing arguments at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Va., on Friday, May 27, 2022. (AP Photos/Steve Helber, Pool) Steve Helber/Associated Press

The jury in Fairfax County Virginia awarded Depp $15 million in compensatory and punitive damages for things Heard said about being an abuse victim in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed. The sweeping victory for Depp’s defamation claims showed that the jury didn’t believe Heard’s detailed, emotional accounts of abuse.

The jury, however, did agree with one of Heard’s claims — that Depp’s attorney defamed her when he said Heard and her friends had perpetrated a “hoax” and staged a scene for police. The jury awarded her $ 2 million for damages to her reputation and career her, but no punitive damages.

The one notable #MeToo supporter to speak up in the wake of the verdict was Kerry Washington. In a lengthy Instagram Story post, the “Scandal” star declared: “The ‘Me Too’ movement isn’t dead, the system is dead.”

The #MeToo movement arose in late 2017, after bombshell allegations of sexual assault and harassment were made against producer Harvey Weinstein.

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 05: Kerry Washington attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 05: Kerry Washington attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)

While Washington didn’t mention the names of either Depp or Heard in her post, and didn’t directly mention the trial, she said: “This is the same legal system that y’all have been relying on for justice and accountability for decades to no avail. When you get the verdict you want, ‘the movement works’ — when you don’t, it’s dead.

“We built the country’s first political agenda created solely by survivors,” Washington continued. “For the first time since Anita Hill took the stand three decades ago, we’ve had a sustained national dialogue about, not just sexual harassment, but the spectrum of sexual violence in the country. The movement is very much ALIVE. … It means something to millions and millions of folks. It means freedom. It means community. It means safety. It means power. … We are beyond the hashtag.”

In her op-ed, Heard identified herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” She also said she felt “the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.”

Heard certainly was the object of online wrath every day of the televised trial as millions of Twitter, TikTok and Instagram posts shared gossip about Heard or called her vicious names. The online abuse Heard endured made the silence from many Hollywood feminists “deafening,” Cunningham said.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 07: In this handout photo provided by NBCUniversal, Presenters Carol Burnett and Jennifer Aniston onstage during the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 7, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)
Presenters Carol Burnett and Jennifer Aniston were among the women at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards in 2018 to wear black in solidarity with the Time’s Up movement. (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

“The amount of cruelty and ignorance displayed by Depp’s fans and supporters throughout the proceedings spoke volumes about the state of #MeToo and our culture’s limited understanding of domestic abuse,” Cunningham said. “But the silence that surrounded Heard, specifically from her own industry her, teaches an equally valuable lesson about the fickleness of celebrity-led social movements and class solidarity among the rich and famous.”

In this context, Aniston’s apparent approval of Depp’s statement is worth considering. Hailey Bieber, LaKeith Stanfield, Zoe Saldana and others also gave a thumbs up to Depp’s post, So did Heard’s “Aquaman” co-star Jason Momoa, who also happened to “like” what Heard wrote after the verdict, BuzzFeed News and the Daily Beast said.

In her statement, Heard, who has vowed to appeal the jury’s verdict, said it “sets back the clocks to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shames and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously.”

Aniston hasn’t said why she liked Depp’s post. Page Six reported in early May that Aniston began following Depp’s Instagram. Perhaps, like the jury in Fairfax County, Virginia and the millions of Depp supporters around the world, Aniston didn’t find Heard’s testimony about physical and sexual abuse credible. Perhaps, she instead accepted Depp’s claims that he was the abuse victim, or that she agreed with others who said that Heard shouldn’t be held up as spokesperson for the cause. It’s also possible that Aniston knows Depp personally, or finds it hard to believe he could be capable of such violence.

In another report, the Daily Beast acknowledged that some celebrities don’t run their own social media. “Still, one does have to wonder what would motivate a person, today of all days, to ‘like’ Johnny Depp,” the Daily Beast.

One reason that Aniston’s approval may seem unexpected is that she herself has long been the target of vicious online gossip and personal attacks. Related to #MeToo, Aniston also was a potential target of Weinstein’s attempts to bully and silence her when he believed she was about to speak out against him.

In the days following revelations in the New York Times and the New Yorker that Weinstein painstakingly used his power to sexually assault women, the producer came to believe — incorrectly — that Aniston planned to publicly accuse him of groping her, the New York Times reported. The producer fired off an email to his representative, saying “Jennifer Aniston should be killed,” the New York Times said.

Meanwhile, Aniston voiced her support for the Time’s Up movement in the run-up to the 2018 Golden Globes. Like other proponents — including Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, Emma Stone, Laura Dern — she wore black in solidarity with the nonprofit organization that was originally founded to create a legal fund for victims of workplace harassment.

The next year, Aniston addressed the need for change in Hollywood’s “power structure” in an interview to promote her Apple TV+ series “The Morning Show.”

The show’s first season told the story of a powerful male news anchor who was accused of sexual harassment. The story clearly was inspired by the scandal involving “Today” show anchor Matt Lauer, who was fired in 2017 after being accused by multiple NBC colleagues of sexual harassment.

Aniston spoke to The Guardian about how narcissistic men in Hollywood and other industries keep getting away with abuse.

“There’s this absolute denial — ‘It was consensual, it was consensual’ — if you’re a narcissist to the degree a lot of these guys are,” Aniston said. “They think, of course, every woman wants to sleep with (them).”

The Daily Beast’s Cunningham said that the only well-known women who have directly offered public support to Heard are “Uncut Gems” star Julia Fox, comedian Kathy Griffin and veteran actor Ellen Barkin. The latter dated Depp in the 1990s tested at the trial about how he was a jealous, controlling man who was regularly under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Four years ago, many A-list actors, filmmakers and entertainers seemed comfortable talking about the need to “believe women,” even if these women were making serious allegations against some of the most powerful men in the industry.

Cunningham noted that Time’s Up has yet to issue a statement about Depp’s lawsuit, or to even condemn the online abuse directed her way. With a long-beloved star such as Depp defending himself against such allegations, and backed up by a fierce online army of supporters, it seems that many in Hollywood prefer to not have this conversation at all.

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