For its first few weeks, the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial was the news story that just kept on giving. From the start, it was genuinely flattering that the brain-damaged pirate from those mega-budget children’s movies had chosen London to air his dirty laundry with the long-legged, bisexual star of, well, nobody’s sure what films she’s been in, but she’s definitely been in some, or he wouldn’t have married her. Or even met her.
It made one’s patriotic heart beat a little bit quicker: that Johnny Depp chose us, little old England, to publicly deny, for weeks on end, being a violent, oafish, drug-raddled booze hound (he insists he is a perfectly gentle, oafish, drug-raddled booze hound). What an honor! It’s like when Tom Cruise or Dick Van Dyke look out at the audience on some shonky BBC chat show and say, “I travel all over the world but (pauses, squints at autocue) Great Englandland is truly my home from home” and everyone cheers and claps.
Yes, he’s suing an English newspaper, so it had to be an English court, but who remembers that? That was a detail from the first months of what most of us keep forgetting isn’t a divorce case. Or a long-running sitcom about a course of marriage counseling that went hilariously wrong. Or a Richard Curtis rom-com gone horribly dark (Curtis could easily land stars of this caliber to play out their weird American psychodrama against the backdrop of Quaynte Olde London Towne, but we’d have to suffer Bill Nighy’s lugubrious turn as a clerk of the court and Rowan Atkinson as the stammering, incompetent judge).
Do you remember, back in the early years of this Jarndyce and Jarndyce-style cluster trial, when Depp first arrived in a hat and sunglasses, wearing a black bandanna round the lower half of his face (Heard wore a matching red one), and we all thought, “Woohoo! He’s come in character! He’s actually going into court dressed as the incoherent burglar from Looters of the West Indies 4! Except the bandanna was in the wrong place. Was he coming as the Lone Ranger? Tonto? Tonto’s dad? Edward Scissorhands?
From the start, it was genuinely flattering that the brain-damaged pirate from those mega-budget children’s movies had chosen London to air his dirty laundry with the long-legged, bisexual star of, well, nobody’s sure what films she’s been in.
And then it gradually dawned on us that, no, he was coming as himself. Johnny Depp, one of the highest-paid movie actors ever and a role model to millions of men, despite being the most superficially appalling human male it is possible to imagine. Which is why we men must stop admiring him now, regardless of who hit whom or why, or who is lying about what. Because it is 2020, and we are emerging, or possibly not emerging, from the social and mental ravages of a global pandemic into what will probably be the worst recession ever. The whole sorry history of humanity is being reassessed in the light of this new world order, and it is time for a new sort of man to be held up and revered. A man who is nothing at all like John Christopher Depp II (yep, even his real name is a sequel).
This is not the time, for example, to glorify drink, as Depp does in every sordid anecdote he tells in his defense, and every staggering, slurring performance he gives in that Buccaneers of the South Seas thing of his. Drinking to the point of illness is not funny. The world’s alcohol consumption has skyrocketed in the last four months, as a self-medication against the demons of loneliness, inactivity and debt. We are facing down a global booze tornado and if your key recommendation as a public figure is your hard drinking, then you’ve got to go.
Which is also why this is no longer the time to idolize Keith Richards as Depp does, that scrawny, coke-blasted philanderer, whom providence has saved from death to remind us younger folk how lucky we are to have missed the 1960s. Heard said in court that it was Richards who introduced Depp to cocaine. Sorry, time’s up on that one. Inequality, poverty and death are among the least offensive by-products of the global drug trade that Depp all but explicitly advertises (“Do coke! Be like a pirate!”). On top of which, sticking rolled notes up your schnoz when they’ve just come out of some old rocker’s soot-encrusted proboscis spreads the virus.
It is time for a new sort of man to be held up and revered. A man who is nothing at all like John Christopher Depp II (yep, even his real name is a sequel).
Then there’s the tattoos; 37 of them, including a massive Red Indian on his flabby left bicep — way to culturally appropriate, Kemosabe. Except we all know that in 2020 tattoos are finished. Nobody could get any done during lockdown (as if the worst thing you can get from a high street inker’s needle is Covid) and during that time the world took a good long look at its painted arms and legs and realized how dim-witted and tragic they looked. All the money is in laser-removal now, and tattoos can be handed back to the prisons, navies and concentration camps they belong in.
Likewise, the row of big silver rings on his fingers. Slip them off, feller. You’re not a 14-year-old Goth down Camden Market. And the long hair. That’s a harborer of viruses, that is, and a bad example to the young. Get a short-back-and-sides, you big hippy. And a job.
Not that he needs a job, with what he earns. $650,000,000 he claims he lost to dodgy accountants at the height of his fame. Like that was cool. Emblematic of his soulful lack of materialism or something. But it’s just horrible. Like the $100,000,000 he didn’t pay in tax, because nobody did it for him (money he’s now paying back). When treasuries are on their knees, trying to pay the wages of furloughed workers, we need our role models to show a bit more social responsibility than that.
And then there’s Depp’s obsession with beautiful women. That’s not OK anymore. As character witnesses in the case against the Amazonian goddess Heard, he called former girlfriends Vanessa Paradis, the teenage Bardot of the 1980s, and Winona Ryder, prettiest human being of the decade after. What does he want, a round of applause? Mazel tov, mate, I’ll bet you had a lot of fun. But this is 2020. Men aren’t supposed to collect beautiful women like stamps. You really can’t bring yourself to date the occasional fat girl with pimples but a nice smile?
I appreciate that Depp had to bring this case because the allegations against him, left unchallenged, would mean he never worked again. And perhaps he is innocent of them. But with the reputation of men in Hollywood, and everywhere else, in tatters, let’s not carry on worshipping this one, just because he used to be pretty and does a funny walk in Treasure Seekers of the Red Sea.