Johnny Depp fans flooded social media to discredit Amber Heard. Now they're doing the same to take down Marilyn Manson's accuser Evan Rachel Wood.

·9 min read
An image of Marilyn Manson and Johnny Depp.
Marilyn Manson and Johnny Depp.Leon Bennett/Getty Images/REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool
  • Marilyn Manson sued his ex-girlfriend Evan Rachel Wood after she accused him of rape and abuse.

  • Leading up to the trial, Manson fans are using some of the same tactics used against Amber Heard.

  • Across YouTube and TikTok, content discrediting Wood is already gaining traction.

Marilyn Manson sued his ex-girlfriend Evan Rachel Wood for defamation after she accused him of rape and abuse.

In February 2021, actor Evan Rachel Wood released an explosive statement in which she accused her ex-boyfriend, singer Marilyn Manson — real name Brian Warner — of grooming and abusing her during the course of their relationship. Manson denied the claims in an Instagram statement saying his intimate relationships have "always been entirely consensual."

The pair met in 2005 when Wood was 19 and Manson was 36. They confirmed they were dating in 2007 and had a tumultuous, on-and-off relationship until 2010, when they broke up following an engagement.

In the subsequent years, Wood spoke publicly about being sexually assaulted and abused, but did not name a perpetrator. Following her statement accusing Manson last year, the singer's record label dropped him and he was cut from two acting projects, Deadline reported.

Now, Manson is suing Wood for defamation, following his close friend Johnny Depp's lead after the latter filed a similar suit against his ex-wife and accuser Amber Heard. Depp's defamation case against Heard dominated the cultural conversation earlier this year.

Manson is likely hoping he sees the same treatment as Depp, who was largely perceived as the winning party thanks in part to how his fans mobilized on social media and pushed the narrative that Heard lied about the accusations.

Depp's supporters on social media — bolstered by TikTok and Instagram algorithms, drowned out those who backed Heard.

After the trial concluded — finding for both parties but awarding Depp $15 million in damages compared to $2 million for Heard — public perception shifted slightly. In the months since,  many have come to believe that the treatment of Heard on social media and in mainstream media was toxic and potentially damaging to people who speak out about abuse experienced at the hands of powerful men.

The pro-Depp contingent has remained vocal about their support for the actor; they continue to argue he was the true victim of abuse in the relationship. Now that the Depp-Heard trial is over, they've begun using some of the same tactics with Wood that successfully discredited Amber Heard.

Here's how.

A narrative emerged linking the accusations against Depp with those against Manson.

 

During Depp's trial, rumors that Manson would be testifying on his behalf began to swirl. While Manson never took the stand, both Depp and Heard brought him up in their testimonies.

Around the same time, a photo of Amber Heard with Evan Rachel Wood surfaced, suggesting the two women were friends.

On July 20, according to various screenshots shared on Twitter and TikTok, Wood posted an Instagram story responding to the resurfaced image. Wood's Instagram account has since been made private and Insider was unable to verify she shared the image.

"Oh look, a photo from 2015 that keeps circulating trying to 'prove' something," the purported post read. "This photo was taken at an event honoring my stylist, who also styled JD. I arrived alone and was seated at this table."

"With certain logic, everyone who was seen in a photo with Weinstein would have to be a rapist," she continued.

This led to backlash against Wood. Heard supporters suggested she was equating Heard to Weinstein, who was convicted of rape in February 2020.

Nevertheless, the image helped solidify the idea of a link between the two women in the public consciousness.

TikTok videos supporting Manson are gaining traction.

 

TikTok was one of the first online spaces coopted by Depp fans. They declared him the trial winner before Heard even took the stand. The anti-Heard narrative on TikTok may have won partly because Depp's fans got there first and flooded the algorithm.

TikTok content about Wood's accusations against Manson has not reached anywhere near the saturation that Depp v. Heard content did during the trial, but it seems it may be on a similar path.

Short videos sharing condensed — and therefore inevitably distorted — explanations of the accusations against Manson are receiving hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of views.

It seems the platform's algorithm may already have been tampered with, too. The hashtag #justiceformarilynmanson has received 1.5 million views, and #istandwithmarilynmanson hhas received 3.3 million views.

Meanwhile, the hashtag #istandwithevanrachelwood has 342,000 views, and just three videos have been uploaded to the platform using the hashtag #justiceforevanrachelwood; they have a combined total of 2,240 views.

On YouTube, creators whose popularity exploded covering the Depp v. Heard trial are pivoting to Manson's case against Wood.

 

For YouTubers, tapping into a conversation dominating the zeitgeist can be hugely profitable. Insider previously reported that legal commentators made tens of thousands of dollars by reacting in real-time to livestreams of the Depp v. Heard trial on YouTube.

A number of social-media creators with no background in law or journalism spotted the opportunity and followed suit, seeing a massive spike in their audiences when they began to discuss the trial, often with a pro-Depp stance.

As reported by the Washington Post's Taylor Lorenz, content that social-media influencers produced skewed heavily pro-Depp, and Depp's team took advantage of it. Adam Waldman, who represented Depp during the trial, told the Post that he was in communication with some of the YouTubers, whom he referred to as "internet journalists."

One of the most polarizing figures in this space was anonymous YouTuber ThatUmbrellaGuy. According to SocialBlade, a social-analytics tracker, his channel went from typically receiving under 500,000 views per week to between 3 and 6 million views over the course of the trial, which he covered from a pro-Depp perspective. Some of his most-viewed videos include "Amber Heard ADMITS Depp HOAX in BOMBSHELL AUDIO?!" and "Judge's BOMBSHELL decision RUINS Amber Heard; Depp FINALLY sees JUSTICE!"

Since the success of his pro-Depp content, ThatUmbrellaGuy has posted several tweets about Evan Rachel Wood's accusations, saying there was no evidence of her claims, equating the two cases, amplifying Manson's claims, and confirming that he'll be covering the case.

Colonel Kurtz, a fellow pro-Depp YouTube channel, has already begun to create pro-Manson content. Since the Depp v. Heard verdict was read on June 1, she's uploaded at least nine separate videos about Wood and Manson.

Several other high-profile pro-Depp YouTubers have pivoted to pro-Manson content in recent weeks.

YouTube videos about Wood are being flooded with comments accusing her of lying about her abuse.

Screenshot of comments on a YouTube video of an Evan Rachel Wood interview from "The View."
Screenshot of comments on a YouTube video of an Evan Rachel Wood interview from "The View."YouTube/The View

The top two YouTube videos that appear under a search for "Evan Rachel Wood" are clips from interviews she took part in on "The View" and "The Drew Barrymore Show," in which she discusses her accusations against Manson.

While some of the most-liked comments are supportive of Wood, they are mostly three to four months old. The most recent comments skew negative, calling her a "liar," "spoilt," comparing her to Heard, and discrediting her accusations. Commenters also left critical comments on videos of Wood speaking to ABC News and the YouTube channel for Self, a wellness publication, both of which appear in her top 10 search results.

Recently, comments discrediting Wood's accusation that Manson raped her during the filming of the music video for his song "Heart-Shaped Glasses" have also appeared under the YouTube upload of the video.

YouTube-channel owners are able to pre- or post-moderate comments if they choose to.

Change.org petitions are popping up in an apparent attempt to silence Wood.

Evan. She is smiling with brown-red hair in front of a backdrop.
Evan Rachel Wood.DFree/Shutterstock

During the Depp v. Heard trial, a Change.org petition to remove Heard from the movie "Aquaman 2" received millions of signatures. A since-debunked rumor that she had been fired went viral, appearing to convince some people that Hollywood had turned against her.

Now, some users appear to be trying to use similar tactics against Wood. In mid-July, a petition to fire Wood from the TV show "Westworld" in which she currently stars was launched. So far, it only has a handful of signatures, but it follows a string of similar petitions, including one to "cancel" Wood and one to "ban" her from social media.

The treatment of women like Heard and Wood can have deleterious real-world effects on other victims of partner violence.

Fans gather outside the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on June 1, 2022, after a verdict was reached in the Depp v. Heard defamation trial.
Fans gather outside the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on June 1, 2022, after a verdict was reached in the Depp v. Heard defamation trial.Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The Depp v. Heard trial and subsequent verdict, which favored Depp, raised concerns among abuse-victim advocates.

Michelle Sacks, the director of training at the Houston Area Women's Center, told the Guardian that the intense trial coverage made it "inescapable," which could trigger and ignite a trauma response in survivors.

There are reports that the real-world impact is already manifesting. Christine Scartz runs a free legal clinic for domestic-violence victims in Georgia, and told the Associated Press that one woman she spoke to wanted to pursue abuse claims but was worried about being "seen to be a liar like Amber Heard."

Maureen Curtis, the vice president of criminal-justice programs at victim-assistance organization Safe Horizon, told Rolling Stone that following the verdict she was contacted by "hundreds" of survivors looking to retract public statements or pull out of court cases against their abusers.

Rachel Gevlin, an assistant professor at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama, whose research specializes in the history of divorce law and its impact on women, wrote for The Conversation that the media circus surrounding the Depp v. Heard trial can be traced back to a long history of trials that publicize sexual details of relationships to threaten women with humiliation.

Gevlin told Insider that she would "not be surprised" to see a similar pattern of engagement and social-media responses play out in the case Manson is bringing against Wood.

"There's a centuries-long history of readers who enjoy hearing the salacious details of the rich and famous," she said.

Gevlin added that the overwhelming support for the men in these cases could largely be chalked up to the residual impact of living in a patriarchal culture.

But, now, thanks to social media, people are able to publicly weigh in on these issues, possibly as a way of "working through personal, deep-seated opinions on these topics that, ultimately, have more to do with ourselves than they do with the celebrities in question," she said.

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