ANALYSIS: Actor Johnny Depp’s performance on the stand in his defamation battle against ex-wife Amber Heard is a signal for other creeps to excuse their misogyny, writes Gary Johnston.
Amateur court watchers have been frenziedly glued to their devices this week, following the ongoing court case in Virginia where Hollywood wild child Depp – aged 58 ¾ – is suing his ex wife Amber Heard for defamation.
It’s been, quite literally, a shitstorm.
Defamation, for those interested in facts, not soap opera, is legally defined thus:
Defamation can be a criminal or a civil matter, so, in other words, the person who successfully sues the other person – the plaintiff – can gain satisfaction when the defendant is either criminally punished or held responsible for financial damages.
Johnny, who’s obviously short of a coin or two, is going for the latter.
He’s suing for $50 million.
On set, in the courtroom, Johnny – aged, remember 58 – is re-visiting his acclaimed role as the creator of Peter Pan; the boy who never grew up, contributing a bravura performance of shameless victimhood, deflection and bashfulness, a routine as confected and fake as the colour of his straggly goatee.
Battling against a previous ruling in a London court which found that he regularly made his then-wife fear for her life and could often not remember “his disgraceful conduct” especially while, as was his wont, he was consuming “vast” amounts of alcohol and drugs, Johnny has fessed up to (some of) his wicked, wicked ways.
Not that he could do much else – photographic evidence showed him snaffling lines of cocaine from his kitchen table, amid claims of hotel smashings up, out-of-control-boozing (he said he loved it) and texts sent to other celebrity friends where he suggested drowning and burning his then wife.
Adding – with a charmless flourish, “I will f**k her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she’s dead”.
Critically, in Depp’s present action, he claims to never have been ‘physically’ abusive toward Heard – a tacit admission, it seems, that he agrees he was emotionally abusive, that he indulged in ‘behaviour that controlled or dominated, caused a partner to fear for their safety, was economically abusive, threatening, or coercive’.
In other words, there you have it, Johnny Scissorhands was abusive.
Is a wife beater. He admits it. But, as always with abusers, there’s a but.
I never hit her your Honour, honest, and incidentally my good man, can I have the payoff in Colombian Pesos and Dan Murphy vouchers?
Abuse is abuse, to claim physical is worse or in a different category is as out-dated and absurd as the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
What’s more it’s dangerous, because as bizarre as it may seem, Depp is a role model. To his fans, in particular the so called Deppheads, a collection of the dangerous, deluded and disturbing, a cultish group who haunt the courtroom and have conducted a worldwide social media smear campaign, complete with death threats, against Amber Heard.
A campaign that’s working, if public opinion is any judge, (spoiler alert, it isn’t), considering that now, even normally logical thinking individuals are concluding poor old Johnny is the sufferer here, innocent, guileless and put upon.
Amber? Well, she’s a woman scorned. A witch.
And we know how to deal with witches, don’t we?
Amber Heard (Image: Wikipedia / Supplied)
Johnny’s role in this unedifying drama which if – when – it becomes a movie could be called ‘I Heard it Through the Coca Leaf and Grapevine’ is to look good. Give off a vibe.
Sure, he’s a complex guy. But he’s been traumatised, you know, wounded. He’s a good guy underneath. A sweetie.
Okay, agreed, he does have an addictive personality, is often off his face, has been known to kick off now and then but, but – ‘he never physically abused her’.
Despite it all, Johnny is a good dude.
I mean, just look at him.
Depp’s performance is A grade but clearly the memo didn’t reach wardrobe and make up as Johnny has been dressed in a suit greasier than a deep fried mars bar, a sartorial guise not improved by his sweaty, bloated and debauched appearance, Hunter S Thomson meets Billy Bunter.
Ironically, given he’s said to be worth more than $150 million, JD actually looks like he could use a few quid, if only to spend it in a drying out clinic and then, when back to peak fitness, pick up a few threads from a tailor who doesn’t have a sense of humour.
And have a shave. Get weaving with the old scissor hands.
In addition to the horrible pile-on toward Amber Heard – a woman with a recognised mental illness whose condition is hardly liked to be improved by stage managed, dollar induced hostility and opprobrium – the message Depp and his acolytes are sending, is an exceptionally dangerous one.
It’s not abuse if you don’t raise your fists.
It’s different. Not that bad.
A dispatch millions of men the world over will lap up like Jack Daniels and milk. With a blast of Charlie just to blow away the cobwebs.
The narrative is plain. Brutal, wrongful but plain.
You can say what you like to your partner. Denigrate, intimidate, gaslight, provoke, lie and belittle.
That’s fair game, as long as you keep your hands to yourself.
No, it isn’t.
Johnny isn’t a poster boy for wronged men. Johnny isn’t a boy at all.
He’s a middle aged caricature, an actor, a self confessed drunk multi-millionaire who’s using his money, fame, influence and, let’s face it, acting chops, to screw over a woman who had the nerve to tell the truth.
To challenge a man’s power, to the detriment of her reputation, mental health and almost certainly her future career.
Control, domination, threatening debilitating.
That’s abuse all right.
And the last thing we need in society, in these days of ever increasing family and domestic violence statistics, is a well known man perpetrating the myth, presenting abuse as ‘understandable and therefore, acceptable’.
It’s abuse and it’s not on.
Johnny Depp wants to protect his reputation.
Presumably, the one that says he’s a self-obsessed, middle aged, alcoholic greaser who thinks his Hollywood superstar status gives him a divine right right to orchestrate a campaign of denigration and humiliation against an individual far less powerful than him.
I think you’re on sound ground there Willy Wonka.
Or as some prefer to call you – Johnny Wanker.