News, Culture & Society

SARAH VINE: Why I am gripped by this eternal tale of love turned sour

Forget Anatomy Of A Scandal, forget the new series of Sewing Bee. For me, there’s only been one show in town this week: the Amber and Johnny show.

I’m talking, of course, about the drama unfolding in Fairfax County Circuit Court, Virginia, where Johnny Depp is suing his ex-wife Amber Heard for $50 million in respect of an article she wrote for the Washington Post in 2018 in which she described being a victim of domestic abuse.

She is countersuing for $100 million, alleging that he physically and sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions during their brief marriage, often when off his head on drugs or alcohol. 

Forget Anatomy Of A Scandal, forget the new series of Sewing Bee. For me, there’s only been one show in town this week: the Amber and Johnny show

It is, quite honestly, the most gripping thing I’ve watched (it’s all being streamed online) for ages. First of all, just look at them both. Johnny, 58, in the witness box, still ruggedly handsome in a Mexican drug lord sort of a way. 

The sharp suit, three-piece, contrasting with the junky silver rings and tattoos, his still-thick hair (Dyed? Transplant? Who cares: it’s all there) tied up in a ponytail.

That gentle Southern drawl, those impeccable manners, the ‘yes sir, no sir, sorry sir’, the lowering of his blue-tinted reading glasses to examine a brief. That slow smile, the twinkle in the eye, the occasional arch of an eyebrow. This is Johnny being the best Johnny he can be, and it’s hard to tear your eyes away.

I’m talking, of course, about the drama unfolding in Fairfax County Circuit Court, Virginia, where Johnny Depp is suing his ex-wife Amber Heard for $50 million in respect of an article she wrote for the Washington Post in 2018 in which she described being a victim of domestic abuse

I’m talking, of course, about the drama unfolding in Fairfax County Circuit Court, Virginia, where Johnny Depp is suing his ex-wife Amber Heard for $50 million in respect of an article she wrote for the Washington Post in 2018 in which she described being a victim of domestic abuse

On the other side of the room, waiting her turn to testify, is Amber. She is exquisitely, almost impossibly beautiful, but there are faint bags beneath her eyes and her expression seems permanently pained, her perfect lips downturned as she sits there, shoulders down, back straight, listening to it all. She looks vulnerable, fragile, as though she were playing the grieving young Mafia widow in a 1970s Scorsese film. At any moment you feel she might just shatter into a million pieces.

It is an extraordinary thing to witness, the sight of these two demi-gods, two shining stars in the Hollywood firmament, sitting in this run-of-the-mill courtroom with its drab brown panelling, watching as their relationship is painstakingly dissected, all the passion and fury and frustration carefully picked over, examined under the microscope, every spit and toss laid bare.

It’s hard to know who to believe. Johnny, with his cruel childhood and adult demons, a difficult but fundamentally kind man driven out of his mind by his wife’s constant berating of him. Or Amber, a woman living in fear of her husband’s unpredictable mood swings and temper. The only thing that’s clear is how damaged they both are – and how much damage they managed to inflict on each other.

On the other side of the room, waiting her turn to testify, is Amber. She is exquisitely, almost impossibly beautiful, but there are faint bags beneath her eyes and her expression seems permanently pained, her perfect lips downturned as she sits there, shoulders down, back straight, listening to it all

On the other side of the room, waiting her turn to testify, is Amber. She is exquisitely, almost impossibly beautiful, but there are faint bags beneath her eyes and her expression seems permanently pained, her perfect lips downturned as she sits there, shoulders down, back straight, listening to it all

And at every turn, another bombshell. A recording of Amber arguing that she hadn’t ‘punched’ Johnny, merely hit him, and accusing him of being ‘a baby’ for getting so upset. An email from Johnny to, of all people, Elton John calling his ex-wife, Vanessa Paradis, a ‘French extortionist’. Johnny in a cowboy hat smashing up his kitchen; Amber supposedly defecating in their bed.

On and on it goes, like a Hollywood version of The Jeremy Kyle Show, proof that even beautiful people can behave in ugly ways. Behind the gloss and the glamour they’re just two people who were very bad for each other. Whatever love may have been there in the beginning quickly turned toxic. A toxicity that continues to eat away at them, draining their sanity and bank accounts. Because, fascinating as it is to watch, it’s clear that whatever the outcome in monetary terms, psychologically it’s just an act of self-harm.

It is, in that respect, an eternal tale of love turned sour, of how affection can become an obsession devoid of all reason. And of how, when all is said and done, there can be no winners in the Amber and Johnny show… save the lawyers.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been leaving a note on the desks of civil servants. ‘Sorry you were out when I visited,’ it reads. 

‘I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon.’ I thought the idea was to get people back to work – not scare them away for good!

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been leaving a note on the desks of civil servants. ‘Sorry you were out when I visited,’ it reads

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been leaving a note on the desks of civil servants. ‘Sorry you were out when I visited,’ it reads 

What exactly does Prince Harry mean when he talks about the Queen needing ‘the right people around her’? 

Is he worried she’s going to start hanging out with nonagenarian motorcycle gangs? 

And who does he think he is, gaslighting a woman who has given her life in service of this country while he and that ghastly wife of his (there, I said it) could barely manage 18 months before heading for the California hills? 

Sharon’s so right about M&S 

Sharon Osbourne, right, says she’s coming back to live in Britain because, among other things, ‘I miss Marks & Spencer’. 

It’s so true. Whenever my mother comes over from Italy, the first thing she does is head for M&S. I once lost her for an entire day in the Marble Arch branch. 

I was about to send out a search party when she resurfaced in the food hall, laden with underwear and raspberry jellies. 

Like the BBC and the Monarchy, Marks is, for all its flaws, a brilliant British institution – and one that it takes an expat to truly appreciate.

Sharon Osbourne, right, says she’s coming back to live in Britain because, among other things, ‘I miss Marks & Spencer’

Sharon Osbourne, right, says she’s coming back to live in Britain because, among other things, ‘I miss Marks & Spencer’

Post-pandemic, we seem to be getting a lot less fussy about personal grooming. Make-up sales in the UK were down a whopping 46 per cent in 2021 compared to 2017 – and we’re also washing our hair less often. 

I must confess, I’m one of those women. I’ve gone from washing my hair every other day to doing it once a week, usually on a Wednesday. 

It’s been a revelation. It saves me time and money, and my hair seems much happier. That said, I don’t get many invitations for Tuesday nights any more… 

The question of whether to introduce a ban on smacking children is back in the news after Children’s Commissioner Rachel de Souza came out in favour. 

I have a lot of respect for Rachel, but we live in a country that allows vulnerable children to die miserable deaths at the hands of drug-addled mothers, yet we agonising over smacking. 

Want to turn your son’s asthma inhaler into a crack pipe and leave him to suffocate to death? Go for it. Give your child a quick slap on the wrist? To jail with you. 

Lord knows there are plenty of real child abusers out there. Let’s deal with them first. 

Mummy’s boy… but not for long 

Those pictures of Prince Louis taken by the Duchess of Cambridge took me right back to when my own children were little. 

Four is the last chance you really get to have them to yourself before the outside world – school, friends – starts to claim them. Magical. 

Those pictures of Prince Louis taken by the Duchess of Cambridge took me right back to when my own children were little

Those pictures of Prince Louis taken by the Duchess of Cambridge took me right back to when my own children were little

Alina Kabaeva, right – allegedly Putin’s mistress and mother of four of his children – has surfaced in Moscow. 

Once holder of the title of ‘bendiest woman in Russia’, the former gymnast appears to have gone to the other extreme: her face looks like polished marble. 

But I suppose you’d need to be made of stone to stomach a man like Putin. 

Alina Kabaeva, right – allegedly Putin’s mistress and mother of four of his children – has surfaced in Moscow

Alina Kabaeva, right – allegedly Putin’s mistress and mother of four of his children – has surfaced in Moscow

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has voiced his concerns about the way vulnerable children are being prescribed hormone treatment to change gender. 

He compared what is going on at NHS clinics such as the Tavistock to the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal. This may seem a little extreme, but he has a point. 

In Rotherham, vulnerable children’s lives were destroyed because people feared they would be labelled racist if they spoke up. 

It’s not transphobic to want to make sure young, impressionable minds don’t do something they – and the rest of society – may later regret. 

Conspicuous consumption is all very well, but it has its risks, as boxer Amir Khan discovered when thieves pounced on him in Leyton and stole his £72,000 watch. 

He now feels ‘very unsafe’ in London. I dare say. That said, if you will walk around East London brandishing the equivalent of twice the average yearly salary on your wrist… 

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