Smooth sailing or Depp water? Amber Heard and gendered accusations in Hollywood

Lucia Qureshi ponders on the murky waters of gendered accusations

Lucia Qureshi
23rd November 2020
Having recently been announced that Johnny Depp is leaving the Fantastic Beasts franchise, questions have arisen about whether there is a double standard when it comes to gendered allegations in Hollywood.

Recently, Depp brought a libel case against The Sun, its publisher and executive editor, Dan Wootton, who wrote the 2018 article, originally titled “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be 'genuinely happy' casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?” The trial concluded with Mr Justice Nicol’s ruling that the description of Depp as a “wife beater” was “substantially true.

Image: IMDb

However, the court also heard evidence given by Depp’s lawyers that he was not the abuser, but rather that his ex-wife, Amber Heard, was the primary perpetrator. This led many to criticise Warner Brothers Studios for allowing Heard to reprise her role in the upcoming Aquaman sequel, when Depp will no longer be part of the Fantastic Beasts films. In fact, over a million people have signed a petition to have Heard leave Aquaman 2 whilst over 200,000 have signed a petition for Johnny Depp to return as Gellert Grindelwald.

It is both of interest and significance to note here that there have been more signatories for the petition to have Heard removed than for Depp to be reinstated. The disparity in numbers could reflect a level of acceptance (or at least recognition) that the claims made against Depp have been shown to be true, and that, by the same token, similar action should be taken against Heard.

Warner Brothers’ action against Depp were importantly made in the context of legally substantiated allegations

However, it is also noteworthy that whilst accusations have been made both in and outside of the court against Heard, the trial and the resulting judgement was about whether Depp beat his wife, which is not negated by whether she was violent. Therefore, whilst The Sun could be accused of having a gendered double standard in focusing on Depp and not Heard, Warner Brothers’ action against Depp were importantly made in the context of legally substantiated allegations. As such, this case may not be so much about Hollywood, but rather the gendered implications in how the press and public have responded.

Johnny Depp in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)
Image: IMDb

The latter of which could be said to have influenced (or even caused) the extensive and relentless trolling campaign against Heard. This has largely been waged on social media, with tweets such as the one below (as quoted in the Daily Mail) reflecting the severity of these online attacks:

Although some might argue that this an extreme instance of the public attempting to hold people accountable for their actions, it is important to remember the impact that trolling has previously had. Caroline Flack, for instance, was accused of assaulting her boyfriend, Lewis Burton, for which she was subjected to similarly severe and unrelenting online abuse, which has been seen as the main reason for why she took her own life.

Therefore, even when trolling is perceived as a pursuit of justice for victims (especially where the legal system does not and/or cannot), there are certainly other methods that do not involve the vitriol of abuse. Whether that be petitions or subsequent boycotts, in a world in which we can be anything, be kind.

Featured Image: Kate McLaughlin

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