Amber Heard and Biphobia in the Media
By now, you’re probably aware of the ongoing court case surrounding Amber Heard’s abuse allegations against Johnny Depp. I’m not writing because I want to cast judgement on the allegation or want you to do the same; I’m writing because I’m finding myself increasingly infuriated by the media’s coverage of her sexuality.
Because, of course, in a case like this, the potentially titillating fact that Amber Heard has previously dated both women and men is relevant. Oh, wait, it’s not- but considering the media’s constant focus on “Biseuxal Amber Heard”, as if it’s her fucking official title, I could see why you might get confused. And there seems to be a tacit connection being drawn between her sexuality and her untrustworthiness,which is a dangerous game to be playing considering the circumstances in hand.
Look, I know the media’s bad at covering shit like this, but the extent to which they fucked up the coverage of Heard’s sexuality has really surprised me. The case seems to have drawn out the latent biphobia and a wild number of misapprehensions about bisexuality- or at least, a half-legitimate chance to air them. Page Six drew attention to Heard’s “bisexual past“, which is funny, because, as she was at the time they were referring to, in a relationship with a man, that would make it her bisexual present. The Sun (I know, I know) suggested that her bisexuality had driven Depp insane with jealousy in an article with the intensely classy headline “Bi Bye Amber”. Despite no sources other than the usual “unnamed friend”, many high-profile publications are reporting that Heard was aching to get back to women due to her previous “bisexual tendencies”.Peter Ford, offering commentary on the situation on an Australian morning show, announced that “it’s not wise to marry a bisexual” and that Heard met Depp when she was dating a woman and “she decided to travel across to the other side”. The Express outright said that Heard had only dated women before, and sarcastically wondered what “the multimillionaire film superstar” had to make Heard “take a break from the sisterhood”.
I’ve written quite a bit about biphobia in fictional media before. But it’s really fucking jarring to see it happening so blatantly in real life- to see it held up as a sordid part of someone’s past, to see it pressed as an example of Heard’s untrustworthiness. To see the basic fucking lack of understanding that identifying as bisexual doesn’t make you a poor choice as a partner, or drive you to want to fuck around with every woman you know (as the media have been so intent on linking Heard to other women she’s apparently friendly with). The complete failure to grasp the concept that bisexuality doesn’t chop and change between being “gay” and “straight” depending on who you’re with.These are not impossible concepts. These are the kind of things you can learn with ten minutes of googling, for fuck’s sake. And I know that newspapers and tabloids will leap on the detail that will sell the most papers, but it’s still problematic that bisexuality works so well as a copy-shifter.
I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. I am because it stuns me that these hilariously stupid misapprehensions still exist in real life, and are still served up to the public without complaint. It’s terrible to see the sexuality I identify with touted as a lurid detail in this case, and it’s proof and an uncomfortable reminder that biphobia is still very much alive and well in the real world, too.