Amber Heard and Jussie Smollett Are Paying the Price for ‘Shocking Arrogance’ (Guest Blog)

A stern warning to celebrities and all those attention seekers: before you proclaim victimhood, you better have the facts on your side.

Two high-profile legal matters from the past year have led to this point: Amber Heard-Johnny Depp’s libel trial and actor Jussie Smollett’s dismal staged hate crime case. At first glance, these two cases might look as different as they can be – one involving a black man in Chicago and the other a white woman in Los Angeles. But closer examination reveals a common thread and a powerful lesson.

In both cases, young and ambitious actors have tried to co-opt current social movements to garner sympathy and advance their careers. In the end, they both failed miserably when the truth prevailed and were forced to pay a heavy price.

For Amber Heard, that price will be both monetary and reputational. Although Depp’s ex-wife went undercover for domestic and sexual abuse, videotapes and audio recordings presented in court painted a very different picture. The jury sided with Depp, awarding him $10.4 million in damages, while Depp was ordered to pay Heard $2 million in compensatory damages in one of his three defamation counterclaims. (She is appealing the verdict.)

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Heard made a conscious decision to step onto the public stage as a victim of abuse. She claimed she was telling the truth when revealing what happened to her, but in the end, the jury decided that she lied. Incredibly, the evidence presented in court showed her not as abused, but as an abuser.

Heard’s actions will negatively affect her acting career. But more importantly, they likely did lasting damage to the #MeToo movement itself, which aims to empower and show sexual abuse survivors that they are not alone. In the future, how many women – or men – will hesitate to come forward and confront their abusers out of fear or being labeled a false or dishonest “Amber Heard”?

Jussie Smollett, the former “Empire” actor, tried to elevate his own fame by wrapping himself in the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement. He initially received a short-term boost in the media when an outraged audience clamored to show support for the previously little-known actor.

In the end, Smollett’s claims that two men attacked him, used racist slurs, put a noose around his neck, doused him with bleach and told him, “This is MAGA country,” crumbled in court under close scrutiny. He ended up with a five-month prison sentence and a $145,000 fine after being convicted of five felony counts of lying to the police. (He is appealing the verdict.)

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Both Heard and Smollett have voluntarily injected themselves into highly sensitive debates about social movements taking place in America. Both showed a shocking sense of arrogance in believing they could tell false stories and get away with it. And both traded short-term publicity and attention for long-term reputational damage that permanently marked them as manipulative and dishonest.

Your cases should be a warning to celebrities, social media influencers and would-be famous people everywhere: you can’t lie and present yourself as a victim when the facts don’t support you. For ordinary people who don’t live in the public eye, both cases are reminders to be very careful what you make public, because as quickly as you become famous, you can become even more quickly infamous.

Amber Heard and Jussie Smollett miscalculated their respective plays. They have already paid exorbitant prices and will continue to do so for some time to come in terms of revenue and reputation. But the ultimate losers will be social movements and legitimate victims of sexual or racist abuse who may refuse to step forward for fear of being called liars.

The arrogance of these young artists clearly showed that the truth still matters in America; and seeking fame at all costs is not worth the exorbitant price.

Read too:
Can Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s film careers bounce back after the verdict?

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