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Reviews |  Amber Heard, Johnny Depp and why we love to see women humiliated

There’s something almost pornographic about the voyeurism involved, with a bent for every predilection: fame, beauty, drugs, extreme wealth, a private island, five penthouse apartments, feces left on a marital bed, bloody messages written on the walls, even an appearance. by the most controversial man around, billionaire Elon Musk, whom Ms Heard briefly dated. As “Saturday Night Live” satirized it in a skit last week, it’s “fun” to watch.

And, honestly, why wouldn’t it be? Whether you believe Mrs. Heard or not, watching an excoriated woman in public has been popular entertainment since the Middle Ages. Somehow Mrs. Heard seems to have become a stand-in for all the evil, lying women who get her reward – the alpha queen bee in high school, the girl who slept with your boyfriend or girlfriend , each former manipulator. She is Eve, she is Medusa, she is Lady Macbeth. She evokes vamps and vampires, wicked stepmothers, witches. As one Twitter user put it, she’s an example of “toxic femininity” and a reason to never date younger women. Pass the popcorn.

All of this, of course, is set against the backdrop of the very particular cultural moment we are living in, in which a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion on abortion invokes a 17th-century British jurist, Sir Matthew Hale, who presided over the real witch trials and some of #MeToo’s most prominent cases are in various states of disarray. This month, Mario Batali, one of several high-profile restaurateurs accused of sexual misconduct – and the only one to face criminal charges – was found not guilty of groping a woman at a Boston bar. . Comedian Bill Cosby released from prison on legal limbo. There are rumors that the conviction of the movie producer who started the whole #MeToo movement, Harvey Weinstein, could be overturned on appeal.

All around us, it seems, there are evocations of manipulative and lying women: Anna Delvey and Elizabeth Holmes, each with dramatized accounts of their scams; “The Girl From Plainville,” about the Massachusetts teenager who encouraged her boyfriend to take his own life after, as the prosecutor described in her case, “she clung to him”; even the unreliable, drunken protagonists of the “wreckage” of shows like “The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window” and “The Stewardess.”

“We don’t have what Hester Prynne had anymore, but we have a version of it,” said Gillian Silverman, a gender studies scholar and professor of English at the University of Colorado at Denver, referring to the 1850 novel. “The Scarlet Letter”, the subject of which is shameful for her adultery. “And this thing of putting women on some sort of stage in order to make fun of them and have them caught for quite a while, seems quite old.”

You would have thought – or at least I would have thought – that we would now be in a brighter place. And yet, despite public estimates from #MeToo and recent reexaminations by pop culture figures – Britney Spears, Pamela Anderson, Janet Jackson and others – there is very little soul-searching about Ms Heard’s widespread hatred.

This lawsuit seems to have exposed some of #MeToo’s rhetorical weaknesses. “Believe in women,” for example – a phrase that was meant to emphasize how rare it is for a woman to lie about her own abuse – had somehow morphed into “believe in women”. everything women,” which left no room for outliers. It apparently became, as comedian Chris Rock said this week, “Believe all women… except Amber Heard.

nytimes Gt

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