Top Twitch Streamers Are Capitalizing On Depp V. Heard Trial Trauma
This has become the new meta, with streamers pulling in viewers by the thousands. Content creators on Twitch have put both actors’ names in their titles to garner curious viewers, going for variations like “Justice for..” whichever side they’re on and “Amber Heard vs. Johnny Depp Watch Party.” And as streamers attract folks to watch the trial with them, it risks becoming one big watch party full of laughs and memes at trauma’s expense. Streamers like Pokimane have had on-screen counters tracking certain behaviors in the court, such as Heard crying or Depp laughing. Others, including Rainbow Six Siege streamer shortyyguy, were debating their chatters about the merits of both actors’—particularly Heard’s—testimonies.
Streamers may be using this cultural event to grow their followings, but some viewers—and other broadcasters, according to Launcher reporter and former Kotaku staffer Nathan Grayson—weren’t too keen on the trial becoming a “low effort” content mill. Folks took to Twitter to express their discontent at the apparent weirdness of the Depp v. Heard defamation case being seen as a kinda “sporting event” on Twitch in which streamers pick one side and trash the other. As of now, folks appear to be siding with Depp.
Richard Hoeg, a lawyer who specializes in digital and video game law and is the creator of the Virtual Legality YouTube channel, explained to Kotaku over email part of the reason why folks are enamored with the Depp v. Heard trial.
“Almost everyone knows Johnny Depp either from his more avant garde work or from his late career Disney renaissance,” Hoeg said, who’s been streaming the trial himself with fellow YouTubers like California-based attorney Alyte Mazeika of Legal Bytes as part of a collective colloquially known as LawTube. “From there, the actual details involved are themselves more salacious than normal even for a case of this type, with cocaine, MDMA, alcohol, severed fingers, bloody writing on walls, hours upon hours of intimate audio clips, and two mutually exclusive descriptions of the world all fighting for attention. Outside of the OJ Simpson trial, we may have never seen a case with such a potent combination of celebrity and salaciousness.”
While he “doesn’t believe the trial was set up as a farce” despite its many comical moments, he’s worried that streamers could spread misinformation.
“I think there’s always a fear that people covering a news story could be doing it in a way that reduces the level of good information out there rather than improves upon it,” Hoeg said. “That’s why Virtual Legality and Legal Bytes work so hard to inform from the position of legal expertise (as well as to entertain). I also think there’s a risk from some quarters in terms of decorum. This is a real case, with very serious allegations by both sides, and there can be a tendency by some to treat it more like a soap opera or sporting event than a legal trial. But with that risk comes opportunity and I think this really is the future of ‘entertainment’ like this. Unfiltered streams of real world events with commentators helping folks understand what they are watching.”
The Depp v. Heard trial will take a short break starting May 9 but plans to reconvene on May 16, with an expected end date scheduled for May 27.