For a famous woman to be accused of a crime would see the end of her career, the doors of opportunity shut firmly in her face. Men though are treated differently; there is debate, investigation, the charges justified and dealt with, or swept out of public view.
The court of public opinion guides our perception of crime, our personal predilection for the abuser or the victim. That one movie we enjoyed their performance in becomes a character marker, an alibi for innocence. Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s marriage breakdown has been making headlines and it seems each of us are all entitled to an opinion.
Amber Heard, before her meeting Johnny Depp, was an up and coming actress with a handful of films in her catalogue. From the beginning of their relationship she has been seen as the glamorous accessory to Johnny Depp’s stardom. As a relative newcomer, her life had not yet been broadcast by TMZ or pried into by inquisitive gossip magazines. We know very little about her, beyond her identity as Johnny Depp’s wife.
This relative distance has coloured the reporting of the alleged domestic incident heavily, with Heard casted as a money-hungry liar, seeking Johnny Depp’s good name in revenge for the relationship breakdown. Playing the role of the opportunistic woman, seeking out attention and remuneration under the guise of assault.
That sweet man in Chocolat wouldn’t do this, the swashbuckling Captain Jack Sparrow certainly wouldn’t.
The details trickled out slowly, first a shock statement of separation released by Depp’s team, written with disdain:
“Given the brevity of this marriage and the most recent and tragic loss of his mother, Johnny will not respond to any of the salacious false stories, gossip, misinformation and lies about his personal life. Hopefully the dissolution of this short marriage will be resolved quickly.”
Amber Heard filed for divorce, claiming spousal support in the original documents. It was not until the rally of public support around Johnny Depp that she submitted the photos. These photos documented an alleged assault, resulting in abrasions and bruising to her face. The request for spousal support was laughed at by Depp and his team, the public viewing Amber from that moment as a woman seeking financial gain, forgetting the surrounding details.
As the media storm whipped up around her she applied for a restraining order, which she was immediately granted. Depp remained the apple of our eye as further details emerged, that sweet man in Chocolat wouldn’t do this, the swashbuckling Captain Jack Sparrow certainly wouldn’t.
Experienced at navigating the media, Depp retaliated with a wealth of powerful supporters and a lethal legal team. At the time of writing, both of Depp’s ex wives, his daughter Lily Rose Depp and a host of his co-stars have come out in his defence. An instagram post with moving words, a handwritten letter of character reference and a cache of esteemed Hollywood men not unlike himself rushing to his aid.
The legal team have held no bars, from the initial statement that did little to guard their feelings towards Amber, to the comments made by Johnny’s lawyer just days ago. “Amber is attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse,” the attorney stated.
Media coverage has behaved complicitly in line with these statements, vilifying Amber and questioning the motives of her legal filings. She is painted as heartless for leaving Johnny in the wake of his mother’s death, promiscuous for having a lesbian relationship prior to seeing Depp and untrustworthy given she was pictured outside after the assault with a smile on her face; how dare she.
Released this week was video of Johnny Depp in an angry outburst thrashing about in a kitchen, captured by Amber. In the footage Depp performs a role capturing more emotion than many of his recent films, hurling a wine glass and taunting Heard about just how crazy he can be. Video evidence of his violence? No this was taken as act of vindictive divorce proceedings, a woman scorned tearing down her former lover. Amber cast not as the victim but the perpetrator, accused of releasing the vision.
Heard has denied releasing the video and is attempting to take if offline by legal means. Amber said in a statement “I am not responsible for the release of the video … I underestimated the toll that this difficult few months have taken on me, emotionally and physically, and the efforts made by the media to intimidate and discredit me.”
The repercussions for the abuser non existent, they’ll be welcomed back into their elite circle with open arms once the story blows over. The scandal? Vanished. Their reputation? Unscathed.
Celebrity men are able to navigate these allegations with ease thanks to society’s acceptance of violence against women. Existing on the front of every paper, a fixture on every screen makes the public feel closer to these distant figures, believe somehow we know them. Complicit behaviour by the media and the public allows these powerful men to go on unscathed, their victims silenced as irrelevant.
Look to the incidents involving Chris Brown, Sean Penn, OJ Simpson, Floyd Mayweather Jnr, Nicholas Cage, Charlie Sheen, Michael Fassbender, Eminem, Bill Murray, Sean Connery and Mickey Rourke. Were all these women lying about their abuse at the hands of esteemed celebrity men? Or as the media paints it somewhat deserving of their attacks, employing victim blaming as a tactic to engineer page views.
Hardly talked about, glamourised and ultimately forgotten are these occurrences; as the victims are left to deal with being ostracised from society. The repercussions for the abuser non existent, they’ll be welcomed back into their elite circle with open arms once the story blows over. The scandal? Vanished. Their reputation? Unscathed.
Will Amber Heard’s career be tainted by this incident no matter the outcome? Most definitely, she hasn’t worked since. Tainted by the narrative taking over the headlines. Whether he committed the crime or not is not for us to say, but the ignorant view of dismissing victims immediately because of a familiar caricature of a person’s morality is horrid.
If you need to speak with someone call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732): 24 hour, National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault. www.1800respect.org.au
Imager Source; Vanity Fair