Lyndsey Nelson, 31, opened her own Etsy store, EchoCharliesApparel, during the pandemic, shortly after quitting her government job. She was constantly worried about leaving her children, and she was opposed to Covid-19 vaccine and mask mandates, saying she suffered from chronic lung conditions and that wearing masks all the time “made me sick”. For the most part, she sells fairly standard bleach-dyed graphic tees aimed at women, with slogans like “Hot Mom Summer” and “Fries Before Guys”; it also sells conservative clothing, such as shirts with the phrases “Let’s Go Brandon” and “Trump 2024”.
Recently, however, she has turned her attention to something else: selling pro-Johnny Depp merchandise. For $24.30 you can buy a T-shirt of the actor nestled in a halo of light against a newspaper backdrop, with the caption “That’s hearsay I guess” – a meme that has emerged of his ongoing trial, where he is suing his ex Amber Heard for defamation. Another shirt Nelson is selling features an amalgamation of memes that emerged from the trial: “This is Hearsay Brewing Co.: Home of the Mega Pint,” the message on the front reads, referencing a moment from the trial at the during which Heard’s lawyer cross-examined him asking if he had poured himself a “mega-pint of red wine” after an argument. The shirt features an image of a skull with an eye patch and bandana – an allusion to Depp’s successful role as Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
“I’ve been a fan of his all my life. My favorite movie of all time is Edward Scissorhands,” Nelson tells Rolling stone. “I feel so bad for him, everything that’s going on with the trial, listening to him rehash what happened. I watched a lot of clips from the trial and found the ‘hear- say” hilarious. So I drew the design myself and went with it. She posted the shirt on Wednesday night, less than a day before our phone conversation. It’s already sold over 10 copies .
Nelson is just one of the fan merch vendors taking advantage of the intense media interest in Depp’s libel trial, which is currently taking place in Fairfax County, Virginia. Depp is suing ex-wife Amber Heard for $50 million based on allegations she made about a former partner who physically assaulted her in a 2018 Washington Post editorial. (Heard does not name Depp in the op-ed, and Depp vehemently denies his claims.) Although the case is a simple defamation suit, the details that surfaced during the trial – the allegations of abuse of Depp’s alcohol and drug addiction, Depp’s suave banter with cross-examiners during his testimony (Heard has yet to speak), and a bizarre claim that Heard would defecate in Depp’s bed after an argument — are all become fodder for public consumption.
Heard and Depp married in 2013 and Heard divorced Depp in 2016, successfully filing a restraining order against him amid physical abuse allegations. The pair reached a $7million settlement in 2016, with Heard reportedly donating his earnings to charity, although revelations from the trial have called this into question. In 2020, during a defamation lawsuit against the Sun calling Depp a “wife beater” in a 2018 article, a UK judge ruled against Depp, finding that 12 of 14 allegations of physical abuse made by Heard were “proven by civil standards”; that same year, tapes surfaced of conversations between Heard and Depp, in which Heard admitted to physically abusing Depp.
Yet despite the admittedly ambiguous circumstances of the case and the disorder of the relationship between Heard and Depp, the footage of the ongoing trial – which has gone viral on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok – has had the effect of dramatically transforming opinion. public in favor of Depp. The #justiceforjohnnydepp hashtag currently has 5.7 billion views on TikTok, and hashtags like #AmberTurd and #AmberHeardIsALiar have trended intermittently on Twitter for the past few weeks. Perhaps the most quantifiable method of gauging public opinion was captured in a viral TikTok caught at a Starbucks drive-in, which showed two tip jars labeled “Johnny Depp” and “Amber Heard.” The Depp tip jar was full at the end of the video, while the Heard tip jar was empty.
The intense media interest in the trial has spawned a cottage industry of true crime makers and conspiracy theorists who turn to cover the trial on TikTok. Yet the pinnacle of the phenomenon of profiting from the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard affair—and the wave of support for Depp himself—is that sellers on Etsy are making t-shirts, stickers, mugs, keys and pins expressing support for the actor. There are currently 4,148 results for the search term “Justice for Johnny” on Etsy, with more being added every day.
One salesperson who has also pivoted to selling pro-Johnny Depp merchandise is Bianca Padilla, 26, an art teacher in New Jersey who, like Nelson, opened her own Etsy shop selling hand-painted shoes during the pandemic. (She’s since launched her own website, Bianca’s Custom Canvas, to avoid fees from Etsy’s vendors.) Like Nelson, Padilla didn’t watch the entire essay, seeing only its most viral moments. captured in digestible chunks on TikTok and Instagram. Yet she, too, is a longtime Depp who was captivated by his ironic attitude during the trial.
“When all the news broke, I never once believed her,” she says. “Why would a 50-year-old suddenly start filing a complaint for violence? And once I saw clips of the trial, I was like, “See, that’s awesome.”
Four days ago, Padilla began selling “hearsay” stickers for $3.50 each. She has since sold more than 100, making Depp merchandise her most sought-after item since a sticker she made of Dr Spencer Reid from Criminal minds. Most of the feedback she’s received has been positive, apart from a comment on Instagram asking why she would try to cash in on a lawsuit involving such dark allegations as sexual and physical abuse.
“That wasn’t where my brain was at all,” she says. “It was just like, ‘He’s funny. He’s funny.’ As a business owner, you follow trends, and that’s what’s hot right now. So I was just like, ‘Let me jump on it.’
Part of the lawsuit’s analysis has focused on how many of Depp’s staunchest defenders are women, a fact that may speak in part to the strength of his star power and his decades as a sex symbol. , but also the backlash against the #MeToo movement, particularly the claim that the accusers (who make up 85% of domestic violence victims) should always be believed.
Gender justice advocates like Farah Khan fear the intense backlash against Heard could undo some of the gains of the #MeToo movement by deterring survivors from reporting, as she told VICE News: “I see a lot of ‘He’s an artist, he’s eccentric, he had a problem with alcohol and drugs. We make room for people who have trauma and people who maybe use things to cope… Yet, to Heard, she’s a whore, she’s the worst of all those things. That’s why so many people don’t report abuse.
Nelson, the Etsy shop owner who makes pro-Depp merchandise (who also says she’s a survivor of childhood abuse), has no such concerns about the impact the lawsuit could have. on survivors of domestic violence. “I’I’m not going to say that I believe every woman who claims to have been abused. I have personally known people who have lied about it, which affects my personal view of it,” she says. “[I] think that’s a big speculation. I don’t think just because this case happened will set a precedent for how these things are handled with or anything like that.
When asked if the backlash against Heard could potentially deter survivors from reporting, Padilla is somewhat torn. “I could see how people would make that argument,” she says. “I hope that will not be the case. But at the end of the day, we fought so hard to ‘Believe the Victim’, but we also have to recognize that victims aren’t always women. Instead of “Let’s focus only on female victims”, it should be “Let’s focus on victims of all kinds”. I think it should be a moment of alliance.
But with “Fuck Amber Heard” t-shirts and “Everyone is welcome except Amber Heard” placemats saturating the marketplace on Etsy, it’s unclear if the scene is being set. for this covenant moment to take place, though there are plenty of opportunities for business owners and content creators to capitalize on the talk. “WWe are curious creatures at the end of the day,” says Padilla. “We want to be involved, we want to be nosy. And here is our chance to do so.