Amber Heard-2

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (Over Celebrity Gossip)

Johnny Depp won, and I’m on the brink of throwing friends into the garbage because of it

Words by Stacy Nguyen

Nguyeners and Losers: A weekly JoySauce column full of hot takes and emotional deep dives on pop culture and celebrity news. This column is a manifestation of the countless hours of ‘research’ and ‘analysis’ of stuff like Reddit AMAs and YouTube convo threads that writer Stacy Nguyen likes to obsess over at 11pm.

A week ago, I had dinner with one of my most cherished friends, cherished because they’re not always forcing me to talk about my feelings and deep stuff. They’re down to talk about more important stuff, like reality TV and celebrity gossip.

I remember vibrating in my seat and clutching a peppery glass of red as I asked, “So, what do you think about the trial! Can you believe Johnny Depp won?!” 

My friend responded with, “Oh my God! I don’t know what to think! They are both terrible!” 

I had a visceral reaction to that, to this implication that both Depp and Amber Heard are equally culpable. I suddenly got all tight inside. A feeling of dread came over me. I worried dinner was gonna get super awkward after I threw this friend that I like so much into the freaking garbage for having such a bullshit hot take. 

I did my best to brace myself. I sounded so calm as I said, “But he’s way worse than her, right?” 

Amber Heard Illustration GIF by PEEKASSO - Find & Share on GIPHY

There’s always someone who is way worse!

If you’re anything like me, you actually didn’t watch a minute of the Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard trial, in which the former Pirates of the Caribbean star sued his ex-wife for defamation because of a 2018 The Washington Post op-ed she wrote describing herself as a survivor of domestic violence. (FYI, she didn’t specifically name Depp as her abuser in the piece, but he sure cried a river over it and said his career suffered because of the words she wrote, which totally tracks based on what we know about Hollywood’s esteemed history of protecting vulnerable people, right?)

If you’re like me, most of the information you got about this trial was from internet memes and short little clips of Depp from decades ago, when he was at his most physically attractive, with big titles that proclaimed, “JOHNNY DEPP BEING CHARMING!”

You probably also saw the ocean of social media posts under the #JusticeForJohnnyDepp hashtag completely eclipse the comparatively modest pool of entries under #IStandWithAmberHeard. You might’ve also read little snippets of Depp’s legal team painting an extremely negative portrait of Heard’s alleged personality disorder, as apparently ‘diagnosed’ by someone who is not even her doctor—or caught the many times old text messages came to light where Depp repeatedly called her a whore and expressed wanting to creatively kill her

If you’re especially like me, you’ve pored over this recap of their relationship on Oh No They Didn’t, and made the judicious decision to henceforth unfriend anyone IRL who disagrees with you and your viewpoint.

Unfriend Delete GIF by MOODMAN - Find & Share on GIPHY

Losing friends over politics? Nah. I prefer to lose friends over celebrity gossip.

I’ve been proudly committed to unfriending people for bad celeb hot takes for over a decade now!

The very first time I did it was back in 2009, at a dinner party. I remember this one guy (white, male, duh) making a joke to the group, in which he put on an Black man’s affectation and was like, “Yo, Imma let you finish, but …” 

I was like, OMG, I didn’t know I was having dinner with a racist—what to do, what to dooo … 

That was the year Kanye West famously interrupted Taylor Swift during her awards acceptance speech at the VMAs. It was a time when the word “crazy” was thrown around a lot. As in: Kanye is so crazy and worthy of ridicule. 

He was apparently crazy for stepping out of line and impolitely expressing frustration over white mediocrity winning over Black excellence

I remember feeling really offended and grossed out upon realizing I was dining with a member of Team Swift.

I remember blurting out, “Get out of my house.” I was young though, and my voice wasn’t yet firm, so nobody took me seriously—nobody left the dinner party hurt and confused. Rather, we continued on, everyone seemed to have fun, and I felt so disappointed in myself, in condoning this shit.

But gradually over time, I distanced myself completely from that one guy. We’re not friends anymore. 

It was a worthwhile loss. I don’t need to be friends with white people who do blaccents. I don’t need to be friends with people who watch South Park. 

Celeb gossip is basically a window into someone’s soul.

A lot of people, including therapists, say that solid reasons for ending friendships include narcissism, betrayal, thievery, and extreme criticism, but those reasons always struck me as very high bars to clear. Like, do I really have to wait for someone to steal my money a few times before I go, “Nah, not a good friend for me”?  

Can’t we break up with friends over smaller reasons? Like, because we’re not feeling it, because we don’t like the way they don’t laugh at our jokes, because of the fact that they suggested we try Googling when we asked if they know how to seed a lawn, or because they took the wrong side in celeb beefery—can’t these be good enough reasons to stop being buddy-buddy with someone? 

Fuck You Go Away GIF by Unpopular Cartoonist - Find & Share on GIPHY

Besides, the way someone interprets celebrity gossip provides great insight into who they are as a person. It is a totally legit litmus test in figuring out how empathetic, compassionate, racist, or misogynist someone is. 

Like, do you have a friend who is a superfan of Woody Allen’s work and likes to talk about separating the man from the work? One hundred percent that friend is a dude, and he loves to mansplain and do intellectual exercises like playing devil’s advocate on shit, like whether women deserve to get abortions. 

Do you have a friend who loves Justin Timberlake due to nostalgia, even though Timberlake hasn’t released relevant music in years? Well, that friend probably has no Black friends. (Or maybe just one Black friend.) 

Do you have a friend who gives Ariana Grande all of the passes on racial appropriation, simply because she sings really well? That friend has a really poor voting record and probably a massive carbon footprint. 

And do you have a friend who is like, “Johnny Depp deserves justice!” and seems to think that being in pirate movies has any correlation to his behavior behind closed doors with his ex-wife? Do you have a buddy who thinks that women have to be perfect victims in order to be believed?

I have these kinds of friends! Or I guess I mean I had these kinds of friends. I threw them all away once I found out what they were all about. It was hard work, so I am proud of myself because while metaphorically throwing people is exhausting—it is the right thing to do.

Johnny Depp Pirate GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

And like, that was why I was bracing myself during the whole Depp vs. Heard convo over dinner recently. I was bracing myself for some incoming hard work. 

However, no one needed to be thrown into the garbage! Phew! 

My friend is dope. They were reflective and considerate in response to my comments. They quickly said that they agreed that Depp is way worse, that they worried about how this verdict will affect survivors who are already hesitant to come forward, and that reactive abuse is a real thing that people often have a hard time seeing. 

All true and right hot takes!

So for now, our friendship lives on.

In summary:

Wearing sunglasses indoors to look cool: Loser
Stan culture: Loser
Julia Fox: Nguyener

Published on June 24, 2022

Words by Stacy Nguyen

Stacy Nguyen is a Seattle area-based Vietnamese American writer, artist, and designer whose work explores the ways race and gender are reflected within the lens of popular culture. She makes a lot of logos and moves shapes around in a pleasing manner in her day job. She used to be a journalist and news editor, but now she mostly writes hot takes on celebrities. This is because she watches an obscene amount of TV that she should be embarrassed about, but is inexplicably not.

Art by Robinick Fernandez

Robinick Fernandez is a prolific and visionary creative director whose work blends the worlds of art, architecture, design, and fashion. For two decades Robinick Fernandez connected art with design for global brands, and his work has left an impact having navigated across many countries and cultures including Europe, Asia, the United States and beyond. For his next venture, he celebrates his Filipino American roots as Creative Director for JoySauce, being committed to cultural storytelling, sustainability, forward-thinking design, and conscious content .