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Regarding Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

Time to weigh in on another Hollywood controversy that’s been making the rounds recently. This one concerns the ongoing divorce proceedings between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, as the both of them have been accusing each other of domestic abuse for the past several years.

I won’t go into details. For one thing, so many accusations have been flung in so many different directions that it’s borderline impossible to get any kind of reading on what’s really happening or who’s telling the truth. And for another thing, I honestly wish I knew less.

First of all, celebrity gossip is so ubiquitous because it’s cheaper than sending journalists to cover some war on the other side of the planet. It’s easier than developing and protecting reliable sources inside a government or some multinational conglomerate. It’s safer than running some hard-hitting exposé that might piss off somebody in power. And it’s far more lucrative than any of the above. Celebrity gossip gets the highest reward for the lowest risk and effort, period.

Secondly, it’s still a highly controversial issue as to how much privacy celebrities are entitled to. The topic becomes even more heated with the growing trend of “cancelling” celebrities for certain transgressions or beliefs. How much power should be given to the court of public opinion, and how far is going too far?

We still don’t know where the line is — all we know is that the line must be somewhere between Heard’s leaked nude photos made for her husband (off limits) and the intimate details of her dysfunctional home life with said husband (fair game, apparently). Though to be fair, the former was made public without Heard’s knowledge or consent, while the latter is in the public discourse with her full blessing. That’s a crucial difference, and a perfectly solid rule of thumb for deciding how far is too far.

Personally, I’ve tried my best not to concern myself with the private lives of actors and filmmakers in Hollywood. I’m never going to meet them and I’m never going to work with them, so it’s really none of my business. Though I do make two exceptions.

First, obviously, is if a crime was committed. It’s frankly outrageous that celebrities typically have unequal treatment under the law, and they’re far more likely to be acquitted by a jury. Though there are some recent exceptions (Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby come immediately to mind), it’s despicable that figures like Chris Brown (for the well-documented beating of Rihanna) or Jared Leto (documented abuse and harassment of his Suicide Squad costars, to say nothing of his numerous alleged sexual transgressions) are allowed to walk free. It’s perfectly understandable why the court of public opinion would have to step in when the civil and criminal courts won’t, but mind the slippery slope there.

Which brings me to my second exception: When the transgression affects the work. As a moviegoer who will never actually meet or work with any of the filmmakers, my primary relationship with them is strictly business. I’m paying them (however indirectly) to see the entertainment that they’ve produced. And while this particular entertainment is a collaborative art with ideas and input from hundreds in the cast and crew, a film is still ultimately affected in a disproportionate way by certain figures in the cast and crew. And when those problematic figures affect the end result in a problematic way, I’m out.

For instance, I don’t mind that John Travolta is a Scientologist. I hate that his love for Scientology compelled him to make Battlefield Earth.

Another prominent example is of course J.K. Rowling, who’s repeatedly and vocally doubled down on her transphobic views. Does it affect her work? Well, the most recent entry in her Cormoran Strike series involves a cis-male killer who dresses as a woman to kill cis-female victims, so that’s a hard yes. Even retroactively, her transphobic views cast a dark and heavy shadow on the themes of love and acceptance that made her Harry Potter books such timeless and formative YA classics.

On another note, when I look back at my own experiences with the franchise and Rowling’s public missteps in expanding the Wizarding World, it becomes perfectly obvious that the entire universe was always built around Harry Potter. It was always his development and his struggles that kept me coming back to the books. The greater Wizarding World is like Quidditch — a stupid and nonsensical pastime that doesn’t make any sense unless it’s Harry Potter’s to win or lose on his own.

For that reason, I gave up on the Fantastic Beasts film series with the first entry. That said, Warner Bros. is apparently moving forward with a third movie. And after a recent court loss (a libel case against The Sun, who called him a “wife beater”), WB fired Johnny Depp from the franchise, replacing him with Mads Mikkelsen.

No, I still won’t see the second Fantastic Beasts movie, nor will I ever see the third one. Yes, I could question Mikkelsen’s career choice in joining a franchise made so deeply problematic by its creator. That said, Depp was always a terrible choice for the part. In every possible way, Mikkelsen is an objectively better choice to play Grindelwald and I can’t help but applaud this upward trade.

But then we have the controversy du jour: While Depp was fired from one huge WB franchise, Amber Heard will still reportedly be taking part in Aquaman 2.

Let’s set aside the “he said/she said” bullshit. Let’s set aside any possible double standards here. With all of that aside, Amber Heard is ultimately a pretty young blonde. That’s who she is and it’s what she does. And that does not make her indispensable.

I can’t believe I have to say this, but pretty young blondes are a dime a dozen in Hollywood. Finding another one — even one with comparable acting talent — should not be hard. Seriously, swap Heard out for Emilia Clarke, Samara Weaving, Kaya Scoledario, Imogen Poots, Jane Levy, Mackenzie Davis, or Kathryn Newton and what changes? What’s Heard got that all those others haven’t already proven they’ve got? Slap a red wig on any one of them and they could play Mera just as well.

Yes, I’ve publicly gone to bat for Amber Heard many times on this blog, but I’m seriously starting to reconsider that. I fell head over heels in love with her for Drive Angry, and she’s completely failed to capitalize on any of the potential she showed in that movie. And as much as I love Drive Angry as a brainless action-filled over-the-top good time, it really says a lot when that’s the best movie Heard has made in the past ten years.

As for Johnny Depp, look at his filmography in the same amount of time and show me when’s the last time he looked like he gave a shit. The Lone Ranger (2013)? Transcendence? Tusk and Yoga Hosers? Murder on the Orient Express? Sherlock Gnomes? Fucking Mortdecai? Christ, this is the man who signed to play the Invisible Man in the defunct Dark Universe superfranchise. Had it gone forward, Depp would’ve had his name on the marquee and a massive paycheck for playing a character who doesn’t appear on the goddamn screen!

At this point, it’s perfectly obvious that Johnny Depp and Amber Heard have been nothing but bad to each other. Their respective cinematic output has only gotten worse ever since they started dating in 2012, and no way could that be a coincidence. Perhaps more importantly, the both of them, their colleagues, their fanbases, and every damned thing they’ve ever touched has been turned radioactive by their ongoing legal and media campaigns against each other.

In closing, I sincerely hope with all my heart that Mister Depp and Miss Heard — the both of them — will just please go away. I wish they would go to their separate homes, spend some time with their families and their friends and their therapists. It’s in their best interests to step away from Hollywood, go sort their respective shit out, and don’t come back until they do. For all our sakes, but most especially theirs.

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