In a picture tweeted to Elon Musk’s 8.3 million followers, actress Amber Heard is leaning casually on the billionaire inventor’s shoulder at a restaurant, with Musk sporting a lipstick kiss on his cheek.
The tweet and Instagram post seems at odds with Musk’s general behaviour on social media, as most of his posts appear focused on his business projects rather than his personal life.
So why post such an intimate photograph?
Curtin University Associate Professor in internet studies Tama Leaver said Musk’s post was far from a casual snap.
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“I think both of them have probably discussed and thought carefully about wanting this relationship to be public, and I think this is a fairly canny way of doing that,” he said.
“I think for both of them this will satisfy any local newspapers that needed an image.
“They’re obviously happy with their relationship being public and I think a statement like this often does suggest that there’s actually been a bit of history to this relationship, it’s something they want people to know about and I don’t think you could craft an image better.”
It’s the first time the couple have publicly posted about their relationship on social media.
Rumours of a Heard and Musk relationship began during the northern hemisphere summer last year when they were seen together on a couple of occasions.
Heard’s short-lived marriage to actor Johnny Depp ended after their divorce was settled in August 2016, with Heard receiving $US7 million.
Musk, the co-founder of car maker Tesla, has been married three times to two women and has six children, and finalised his divorce from Talulah Riley last year.
Dr Leaver said the images – Heard tweeted a different image from the same night – were a good way for the couple to spread a positive message about their relationship.
“Looking at the image that went with that, he’s got lipstick on his cheek so it’s not meant to be in any way ambiguous.
“I think it’s one of those elated public statements of intimacy more than anything else, and I think that’s quite important for both of them,” he said.
“To some extent it’s a very provocative image, because it does suggest that this isn’t just dinner, this is a lot more so I think that it’s done quite a lot with a single image.”
The photograph is some excellent publicity for the Gold Coast, Australia, restaurant too, but Dr Leaver said that was more a coincidence than a concerted marketing effort.
“It’s certainly not going to do the restaurant any harm… I think Elon Musk is one of those people that has an extremely positive social media following so that certainly will do them some good.”
Heard is in Queensland for the filming of Aquaman, which has brought a number of high-profile celebrities to the Gold Coast including Jason Momoa of Game of Thrones fame.
Filming for the DC Comics feature has been under way at the Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast and at locations around the south-east of the state, and the film is scheduled for international release next year.