Rosemary MacCabe: Why has it become okay to vilify Amber Heard?
Published 01/06/2016 | 09:16
Heard the one about Johnny Depp?
Poor chap - he's being taken for all he's worth by some barely known gold-digger named Amber Heard, who's divorcing him, accusing him of domestic violence and filing restraining orders left, right and centre. What an unhinged, attention-grabbing cow.
There's something jarring about the media's reaction to Heard's allegations - the couple married in February of 2015, and Heard filed for divorce last week, amidst allegations of domestic violence, accompanied by supporting photographs which show the actress sporting facial bruises, which she alleges Johnny is responsible for.
There are certain reactions that could have been expected. We could be shocked, that this famous A-lister could have this dark, violent side; we could be horrified, for Amber, the 30-year-old actress who co-starred in last year's The Danish Girl; we could be concerned, for the ensuing court case that will surely drag both of their names through the mud, and may never quite get to the bottom of what really happened.
But the reaction that came - immediate and swift - well, that was unexpected. Instantly, the narrative paints Johnny as the harpooned husband, the middle-aged man who fell for a younger woman (after an unexpected split from his partner of 14 years, Vanessa Paradis) and was then taken for a ride, before being shamelessly accused of incredible ills.
It's interesting, too, to juxtapose this tale against another, very recent, tale of domestic violence, albeit this one with a conviction - that of Rihanna and Chris Brown. When Rihanna turned up at the police station after a pre-Grammy argument that resulted in Chris Brown assaulting her in his car, Chris was - instantly - the villain of the piece.
It's easier, clearly, to vilify an African American rap star than it is to cast aspersions on a family favourite. From Edward Scissorhands to Captain Jack Sparrow, there are few households in the Western World who won't have fond memories of Johnny.
Surely this can't be true - we've grown up with him, right? He's the good guy, right?
It may well turn out that Johnny is being wrongly accused - but let's not forget the 2010 interview in which Winona Ryder talked about her first boyfriend and his violent tendencies. That first boyfriend? Johnny Depp.
Or the 1994 fight he had with then-girlfriend Kate Moss, in the presidential suite of New York's Mark Hotel, which resulted in Depp's forced eviction from the premises.
There's no evidence to prove that Johnny Depp wasn't a wonderful partner to Vanessa Paradis - as she claims in a letter of support she penned swiftly after Heard's accusations were made public - or that he isn't a loving, caring father to fashion's latest obsession, 17-year-old Lily Rose Depp.
As it stands, right now - all we have are the facts. Heard filed for divorce on Monday, three days after his mother died and two days after she alleges her most recent assault occured. The LAPD arrived at the house and reported they found "no evidence of a crime".
She was granted a temporary restraining order by an LA judge on Monday.
He has denied all claims and his lawyers say she is falsifying allegations to "secure a premature financial resolution." She has since filed an official report with the LAPD and given a statement. She has denied blackmail claims and her lawyer described her as a "hero" for speaking out about domestic violence.
But it's easier, for now, to lay the blame at Heard's door. Who is she anyway? Didn't she once have a relationship with a woman? She hardly sounds reliable. And her career isn't going anywhere; she probably has no money of her own. Gold-digging, that's what she was doing. Gold-digging. Johnny Depp's a good guy; we can just tell.
It's easier, too, to spout all of that while forgetting about the hundreds of women, right now, reading these articles and ingesting the social media fury that is directed towards Amber Heard, while simultaneously trying to muster the courage to report their abusive spouses, or to leave their violent relationships. But, y'know, who cares?
It's Johnny Depp, and he's a good guy (we can just tell).