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An Idea: Let's Not Make Memes Out of Celebrity Trauma and Abuse Cases

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced domestic violence, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.

I love pop culture. It’s a wonderful, silly reprieve from my stressful day to day. It’s easier to fake stress about lives that aren’t mine than my own. I get involved in the petty little drama, make fun of them, quote them as memes, you name it. One thing I won’t do, however, is make fun of their trauma.

The internet has this way of turning everything into a joke. As someone who thinks one of their defining characteristics is their sense of humor, I do tend to love it, but there’s a fine line that has to be drawn, especially in cases of public domestic assault disputes.

Specifically, Johnny Depp is currently suing Amber Heard for defamation and the internet is beside themselves with jokes and memes. (Source: Vox)

Their dispute has been very public over the past few years with people on the internet picking sides and giving their opinions. That’s fine, but then I started stumbling on people making meme videos and “shit posts” using clips from the trial. I saw a TikTok of someone getting ready to go to the trial, geeking out when they saw Johnny Depp as if it’s a celebrity appearance at a coffee shop on a Tuesday. People are using a very real, very public domestic violence case as a source of entertainment, and it’s not OK.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen it happen either. We’ve done it with celebrity trauma throughout the years. Another recent-ish example is people using the “Were you silent, or were you silenced?” Oprah quote from her tell all interview with Meghan Markle and her husband. It immediately became a meme. I feel that example is more personal preference, but it rubbed me the wrong way immediately due to the nature of the conversation. 

There needs to be a firm line on what is and what isn’t OK to commodify as humor purely because while the celebrities may never see your comments, your friends who are struggling will.

I firmly believe that pop culture can help shift and shape our societal ideals. Beyond that, people’s reactions to celebrity this-and-that shows people’s true colors. People become more venomous when they can hide behind a laptop screen, or when they don’t think what they say will ever be seen.

Maybe you’d never tell your close friend that you don’t believe men can be abused or someone reacting to abuse is laughable, but you don’t need to when you’re making jokes and memes about that same situation. When you laugh at them, they may not respond or even care, but the people directly around you will see your true colors and that could push them into more harmful forms of isolation.

This isn’t in defense of the celebrities going through the trauma, which still matters, but the people who are going through the same situations who don’t have the same level of notoriety or fame for their situations to even be noticed.

Poke fun at celebrities saying no one wants to work. Make memes out of them falling down the Met steps at the Met Gala. Laugh at how out of touch some of them are, but abuse and trauma are not things to mock no matter who it is.

Lead image courtesy of Entertainment Tonight’s YouTube channel

Originally published: May 9, 2022
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