Warning: This article mentions domestic violence and sexual assault.
While it’s certainly become a circus with all of the spectating, memes, and commentary, the ongoing defamation trial underway between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is a far cry from funny. And yet, SNL decided to use the high-profile court proceedings as fodder for its cold open this past weekend.
Kate McKinnon opens the sketch as a news anchor introducing the segment. She deadpans, “With all the problems in the world, isn't it nice to have a news story we can all collectively watch and say, ‘Glad it ain't me?’” In the sketch, video footage has been found related to the infamous incident when Heard allegedly defecated in Depp’s bed (she maintains the feces was actually from the dog). In the fake security footage, members of Depp’s house staff all slowly discover the feces, while the judge, played by Cecily Strong, gets a kick out of it in the courtroom. As Aidy Bryant, playing Depp’s lawyer, introduces the tape, Strong quips, “I’ll allow it, because it does sound fun — and this trial is for fun.”
One character that’s not portrayed in the sketch is Amber Heard, which feels like the show was aware on some level that it was mocking something that it maybe shouldn’t. Heard gave highly emotional testimony in recent weeks about the domestic violence that she alleges occurred between her and Depp. While crying, she accuses Depp of physical abuse and sexual assault. Depp had also, while being cavalier about it, already testified to disturbing volatility between the two, including an incident where his finger was cut by a bottle being thrown, after which he wrote messages on the walls in blood. In the sketch, Keenan Thompson, playing Depp’s property manager, remarks, “you know she cut that joker’s finger off, right?”
Current events are certainly fodder for SNL’s comedy. The show has always been known to make fun of pop culture. But turning the Heard vs. Depp trial into a sketch feels like low-hanging fruit, especially when they’re zeroing in on one of the case’s more absurd details. Comedy will always be subjective, and SNL has always pushed the limits with subversive commentary — but in a trial that is excruciatingly tackling horrifying allegations of very serious abuse and assault, the sketch feels like a flip dismissal of domestic violence, and an odd choice for the show to make.