Ugh. So: Depp v. Heard. Cuz We Are So Very Stupid
But your letters are read. And we'll yield to popular demand. But you'll regret this
He was a chiropractor. Or studying to be one. I don’t know that that has any bearing on anything but I tell you by way of plot points. He had passed me a VHS tape, in the days when you were likely to do such things. It was marked with some anodyne labeling.
I can’t remember really but if pushed I might say “Serpico”. Or “Jim’s Game.” In literary terms we might call this foreshadowing since while Serpico might have an Al Pacino audience, not even Jim wants to re-watch Jim’s Game.
It came with a proviso though: “you have to promise me you’ll watch it to the end.”
I made with the “yeah yeah” dismissal/assent until he pulled it back from my outstretched hand. Then with total life and death, drug dealer-like earnestness: “Promise.”
He was looking me in the eye and it was a poker player’s eyes I was looking into. He gave away nothing, including the tape. So I promised.
Getting home later I cooked dinner. The fact that I remember that I cooked pasta, green peas and ground beef should surprise no one who’s read this column and who suspects that all hell is about to be unleashed.
I took the pot of pasta, as was my wont, and posted up in front of the television where I slid the video tape into the video tape player.
The first scene? Euro bucolic. A field, captured in rough grained cinema verité. And, oh look: A woman was walking along a country lane. She stops a bit to admire the horses who wander over to receive an apple she offers.
Then it all goes wrong.
Terribly, terribly wrong: she is fellating the horse and seems to be pleased that she thought to fellate the horse. The camera doesn’t pull out far enough to see whether or not the horse approved however, inevitably, minutes later: the horse seems to approve. All over the animal lover and the camera lens.
Now. I stop eating. Because: I can’t. I can’t.
Now, finally, on Planet Earth, we can be done with this. Especially if “this” was discussions of bed poop and recitations of the finer and more fucked up lifestyles of the rich…
Then I think of Kafka and a quote I was told was attributed to him: “The children were given the choice as to whether they would be kings or the couriers of kings. As children would they all chose to be couriers of kings which, since there were no kings, was essentially meaningless. They would have liked to have given up their miserable game but for their original oath of service.”
And I had promised. And there was also a macho element of “I can take it.” But I almost couldn’t. Almost. Sex with pigs. Horses. Dogs. Sheep. Goats. Chickens. Men with all of the above. And women with all of the above including men. I looked at the time register…60 minutes. One hour. Four of Andy Warhol’s 15-minute swaths of infamy.
By minute 50 though, after this parade of loss during which I am quite sure a chicken died, something had started to happen. Call it the curse of adaptability, but by minute 50 I was munching away on my now reconstituted meal. There were no cellphones then but there were pagers and I was checking my pager. Sometimes glancing down at a newspaper I had spread on the bed. Occasionally returning to the screen long enough to note things like, “Oh. She’s pretty cute.” Or, “She could have probably actually been a porn star,” somehow eliding that it was porn I was watching.
The video clanked to a close. My meal was done. While I later returned the tape to the aspiring chiropractor with a “two thumbs down” review, as well as confirming that I had watched the whole thing, I had not had to think about it ever again. Ever.
Until last week and on the occasion of the verdict in the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard defamation trial. I had assiduously avoided any and all mentions of it in the press outside of that which was foisted on me via some algorithm in the news headlines littering my phone. This included videos of Depp being charming on the stand. Or Heard being not so much.
My first thought on hearing the verdict? Now, finally, on Planet Earth, we can be done with this. Especially if “this” was discussions of bed poop and recitations of the finer and more fucked up lifestyles of the rich and morally indigent.
But something else happens in a world where everything happens while your ass is happily ensconced in a chair behind a computer on to which you will share your growing indignation with a world of other ass sitters’ with equally emotionally significant indignation.
These two supremely failed humans have held the world in thrall to the limits of their imaginations and everyone’s all in, up to and including us right now.
My phone starts to light up. Friends are telling me “if she can’t win, none of us can”. Friends are defriending their other computer bound friends for outing themselves as Depp supporters. Or Heard supporters. The emotional energy behind the maneuverings of two people whose failure to deliver on screen as of late has been supplanted by their participation in the courtroom flambé of what one commenter called “the trial of the century” without for a second thinking of how crazy that sounds.
These two supremely failed humans have held the world in thrall to the limits of their imaginations and everyone’s all in, up to and including us right now. Legal experts are weighing in. Politicians, who apparently have solved our shooting problems. Other “entertainers” because: of course, they would.
One sage observer cleverly helped the veer that we’re on here when she said this is more about the fact that now you can be sued for actually NOT naming someone in something you’ve written that they could say was about them or, at the very least, inspired by them. That almost holds water. Especially if you’re prone to being concerned about the feelings of chiropractors fond of animal fucking videos, but that’s not nearly why this happened or what it’s really about.
It’s about the corrosive nature of celebrity and the fact that once we know people are watching we can’t stop wanting them to watch and we’ll do anything to get them to continue to do so. This chimp parade of “celebrities” in swimsuits as the summer months arrive. Celebrities “roasting” each other. Celebrities “slamming” each other. Total nonentities whose lives occupy more space in our own lives than our actual lives.
It’s enough to make you wonder exactly WHO we’re celebrating.
But haven’t you heard? Madonna is beefing with 50 over his take on her sexy and 63-years-old photos. Lena Dunham is insisting that her bikini photos are somehow socially significant. Ben Affleck might be drinking and gambling again. Brad has shamed Angelina. The Game in a never-ending mewl fest “beefs” with Eminem. Pete. Kim. Rihanna. Kanye. Hundreds who once they’ve come to roost will never roost anywhere else, and we’ll all die with these nothings’ name on our lips, faces, cameras, phones…lives.
And tomorrow and the tomorrows after that real people on some other version of Planet Earth are losing everything in ways you only thought possible in horror movies. Or the news.
But “Johnny” who was rich in the past and will be rich in the future and “Amber” who was a little less rich in the past and will be a little less rich in the future will amble off into a future of figuring out how to inveigle their ways into our lives. Again.
And we’ll let them. Right up to the very end.
So while we would have liked to have given up our miserable game…it seems we never will.
But for the now moment? I will speak about this no more.