For the previous 9 weeks, Johnny Depp was TikTok. And TikTok was Johnny Depp. Now, after only one submit thanking his fandom, his new account has greater than 12 million followers. If the defamation swimsuit the actor introduced in opposition to ex-wife Amber Heard turned Depp right into a meme, then his look on the platform that propelled him from Hollywood superstar to social media influencer is the inevitable endgame of a world by which every little thing is content material.
The characters the actor has performed—most notably Pirates of the Caribbean’s Captain Jack Sparrow—have beforehand develop into memes due to their outlandishness, however the actor himself has now entered the world of his larger-than-life characters. “Depp’s becoming a member of of TikTok is fascinating as a result of I’m not satisfied that will have occurred pre-trial, or if that platform hadn’t been so influential in producing content material and shaping opinion,” says Rebecca Williams, affiliate professor in media audiences and participatory tradition on the College of South Wales.
What’s extra, Depp’s first submit on TikTok—a spotlight reel of him performing and driving previous his adoring followers on the conclusion of the trial, throughout which a jury discovered Heard answerable for defamation for a 2018 Washington Publish op-ed by which she claimed to be a “public determine representing home abuse” (she didn’t title Depp)—is one thing of a thanks. “The enchantment to followers’ sense of connection and recognition right here is obvious,” Williams says. That sense was supercharged by TikTok’s algorithm, which more and more pushed Depp content material into feeds, making a cycle that dragged extra individuals in and demanded but extra content material.
It’s what Tom Divon, social media, communications, and tradition researcher at Hebrew College in Israel, calls “frequent pathways of generational memetic communication”—which interprets to not desirous to really feel unnoticed of a watercooler second. In 2022, the best technique to interact with a watercooler second is by making content material … numerous content material. Some movies overlaid what Heard and Depp’s inner thoughts might need been through the trial, whereas others compared each one’s courtroom behavior to assign guilt.
For the reason that trial started in mid-April, TikTok has develop into the Twenty first-century model of Court TV, and Depp has develop into a hero to his followers. Footage from the trial, and reactions to its twists and turns, took over TikTok. In late April, movies utilizing the hashtag #johnnydepp had 11.3 billion views, and #justiceforjohnnydepp an extra 5.6 billion. Now, that’s nearer to 34.1 billion and 20.4 billion. The hashtags have confirmed “extraordinarily common,” in response to TikTok’s personal hashtag analytics software, with #johnnydepp trending for the final 71 days, and #justiceforjohnnydepp for 58 days.
The recognition of content material generated its personal momentum, with customers creating movies to feed the near-insatiable curiosity within the trial. There have been supercuts of the important thing moments in testimony collated by customers who acted as speaking heads in regards to the trial’s developments, and conspiracy theories about whether or not Heard’s authorized consultant was a Depp fan, after having purportedly appeared at a film premiere for Depp’s 2013 movie, The Lone Ranger. One TikTok person even claimed, without evidence, to be one of many jurors deliberating on the case in an effort to capitalize on the eye.