Amber Heard Is Not Just Another "Crazy Woman"

Photo: Amanda Edwards/WireImage.
Amber Heard has been called a lot of things in the months since she accused Johnny Depp of domestic abuse: manipulative, twisted, a liar, to name a few. This week, People reported that Depp's lawyer observed Heard appearing "manic and irrational" at her deposition hearing over the weekend. And so, a new label has been applied to Heard: crazy.

A "crazy" woman might mean a female celebrity who speaks a little too loud, or just presents herself in a way that isn't exactly mainstream. Academy Award winner Helena Bonham Carter, who dares to break the rules of fashion? Totally crazy. Grammy winner Nicki Minaj has been deemed "hot but crazy" for making a sudden, unacceptable facial expression. Winona Ryder earned the crazy label for being open about her struggles with actual mental illness.

The stereotype of the "crazy chick" is really just gas-lighting on a grand scale: Instead of making a lone woman think she's lost her grip on reality, calling her "crazy" communicates to everyone else that she's deranged and not to be believed. It's a narrative that's especially hard to break: Think of a character in a psychological thriller, institutionalized and insisting she's not nuts. The more she bangs on the door, the crazier she seems. Apply that to real life, in which we tell women who have been abused that they are making it up, adding to their trauma in the process, and then blame them for their insistence on coming forward. For a woman in the public eye, digging her way out of the crazy corner is even more backbreaking.

Before the abuse allegations, Depp might have largely been summed up in a single word: weird. From his ever-evolving accent (just FYI, he's from Kentucky) to the increasingly bizarre Tim Burton roles he's become known for, Depp is definitely unusual. But people don't call him "crazy," because he's a respected actor. Actors, by the way, are never crazy; they are committed to their art. They can do things that might, to the untrained eye, seem unbalanced — things like sending dead animals to coworkers, or smearing actual blood on a colleague's face without warning. But in their case, these things are really just evidence of their eccentric brilliance. Actors like Depp get a pass on crazy behavior because they're men. If a woman gave a coworker a live rat, she'd be deemed "crazy" in a heartbeat.

As for Heard, it will probably take her a frustratingly long time to shed the "crazy" label — if, in fact, she is ever really able to distance herself from the drama with Depp. She has allies who have ardently stood by her, including author iO Tillett Wright, who wrote about calling the police after Depp allegedly attacked Heard in her home. And when the original allegations came to light, the hashtag #IStandWithAmber began trending on Twitter. If social media is any indication, more and more people are recognizing the danger of the "crazy woman" narrative, and rejecting the labels "manic" and "irrational" when it comes to survivors of domestic abuse.

That's a hugely important sea change, because — as Donald Glover once said in a stand-up set — all men have crazy women stories. But women don't have those funny stories about men. Because stories about "crazy men" aren't typically the kind you kick around during drinks. They're the kind you need to report to the police.
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