The media is understandably losing its shit over Amber Heard's allegations that Johnny Depp has emotionally and physically abused her throughout their relationship. Last week, Heard filed for divorce and sought a restraining order against the actor. In the days since, we've watched a whirlwind media storm brew with reports of conflicting testimonies, crossfire between their respective lawyers, and new photo evidence.
Lost in the frenzy was an excellent point brought forth by actress Evan Rachel Wood. In a now-deleted post, Wood quoted a tweet calling out the media for its undue focus on Heard's sexuality. As The Independent reports, Wood quoted the following tweet: “Amber Heard‘s sexuality is only relevant in that bi women are at far greater risk of experiencing intimate partner violence. Bisexuality however is not a reason for violence. It doesn’t mean Heard is somehow immoral or deserving of abuse." In other words: Amber Heard being bisexual has nothing to do with whether or not Johnny Depp abused her, so why is the media even talking about it?
Outlets have been wielding Heard's bisexuality like a dirty weapon. Apparently, the very fact that she's attracted to both men and women is enough to arouse suspicion and call her character into question. The Enquirer contends that the "bisexual bride's lesbian past" caused the relationship to crumble. The word "bisexual" is showing up in headlines everywhere as if it were a clue to what really went wrong here. "Will Johnny Depp's Bisexual Wife Now Take Him For £35m?" asked the Daily Mail. What purpose, exactly, is "bisexual" serving in that headline? In this context, it's meant to paint Heard as an exploitative swindler who is going to "take" Depp for millions of dollars. The overall effect is an unsettling equation of being bisexual with being untrustworthy, manipulative, and morally bankrupt.
Meanwhile, other outlets are shaming Heard for being open about her sexuality at all. “Amber always made her bisexual tendencies quite obvious,” wrote Radar Online, suggesting it would have been more proper to keep her "tendencies" under wraps. The Sun spoke of "[openly] bisexual Amber’s close friendship" with an American photographer. So, not only does being bi make you suspect — being honest about it makes you shameless.
There seems to be a particularly sick fascination with the thus-far-unfounded rumors that Heard's affairs with female friends became the downfall of her marriage. "Bye bi, Amber: Johnny Depp 'driven insane’ over fears his wife had cheated on him with supermodel Cara Delevingne," read a headline in The Sun. (A dozen similar stories are circulating based on the same unnamed source.) Other stories declined to accuse Heard of having an affair, instead suggesting that her female friendships were the problem. "Amber Heard’s Lesbian Friends Put Marriage ‘On The Rocks'," explained Hollywood Life.
Media coverage of messy celebrity breakups is rarely regarded as journalism at its best. But this particular case has exposed a casual biphobia that's more troubling than the usual problematic reports we're used to seeing from tabloids. We don't yet know for certain what really happened between Depp and Heard. What we do know? She is the victim of a media bias against the bisexual community. And it needs to stop.