Are Warner Bros Complicit In Johnny Depp’s Defamation?

TW: domestic abuse

While the US election has dominated current affairs this past week, the film industry has also had its fair share of big news. Johnny Depp, in a letter to fans, revealed his resignation from the Fantastic Beasts film franchise at the request of Warner Bros.

The news comes days after losing a libel case which saw Depp suing the publisher of The Sun newspaper. The point of contention was a 2018 article which referred to the actor as a “wife beater”, following allegations of domestic violence by ex-wife Amber Heard.

First and foremost, I want to say that while I wholeheartedly support and demand justice for Johnny Depp in his—in my opinion—unfair dismissal from the franchise, I am fully aware of the toxic relationship that took place between the actor and Amber Heard. Do I think Johnny Depp is perfect? Absolutely not. It’s well known he has had a problem with alcohol abuse for a long time which may have contributed in his violent behaviour. And like most women when these domestic abuse allegations first appeared, I wanted to support Heard.

But what is clear now is that Amber Heard is not all that innocent either, as the surfacing of audio recordings, videos and photographic evidence details the graphic violence and abuse Depp received in return from the actress. Neither of them are perfect, but Johnny Depp should not suffer significantly more, with the dismissal being both unfair and out of order. Quite frankly it is a disgusting smearing of an actor’s character, as a negligent party stab their actors in the back as their focus shifts to their own precious reputation at the expense of another’s. Warner Bros should be ashamed of themselves.

Movie studios are all about the optics and what makes them look good as a billion-dollar enterprise. So, when the allegations surrounding Depp as a “wife beater” first appeared, there was never really any pressure from the public to lose Depp from the franchise as it was merely ‘he said-she said.’ Even J. K. Rowling defended the actor, stating she is “comfortable” sticking with the casting and is “genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.” Now, after the very public loss of Depp’s libel case, Warner Bros’ support seems to have diminished, appearing to me as an attempt for the studio to save face. This is understandable and reasonable given the title “wife beater” and accusations of abuse now has legality from the court of law. However, at the same time, in my opinion, the dismissal works to make them complicit in furthering allegations and damaging Depp’s career, making me lose all respect for the film outlet.

And it is important, in Depp’s departure, to question Warner Bros bias when, only months earlier, their action toward J.K. Rowling’s public shaming for transphobic comments was non-existent. Instead of firing Depp, perhaps they should have cancelled the Fantastic Beasts franchise altogether when the public lost all respect for the author. As someone who is not really a fan of these movies, it definitely would have been a positive approach to the controversy surrounding J.K. Rowling. Even worse, Ezra Miller—who back in April faced backlash in the media as he appeared to choke a woman in a video—continues to remain cast as Credence Barebone in the upcoming unnamed Fantastic Beasts 3. This proves to me Warner Bros’ cowardice as they flip-flop between support and public shunning, becoming merely another example of Hollywood hypocrisy.

What’s more frustrating, however, is the clear escape from the backlash on the side of Amber Heard. By letting her walk away and continue to star in Aquaman 2, another film under Warner Bros, this to me shows a clear toleration of domestic abuse towards men. Perhaps this kind of action is exactly why men stay silent. The degree of partiality is staggering, making me question their ethics as they blatantly ignore the clear evidence depicting Heard’s abusive actions in the relationship. Yes, both actors have displayed toxic behaviour, but for only one to face the consequences invalidates male abuse survivors, highlighting the double standards and inherent inequality at play in society. Either cut them both loose, or do nothing at all.

Personally, I did not like the Fantastic Beasts films. The first one was mediocre at best with the second being nothing but an absolute disaster. However, I can now promise you that I will not be paying any more money to watch the upcoming releases. And from the response on the internet, it is clear this is a universal attitude as #JusticeforJohnnyDepp trends on Twitter and a Change.org petition surpasses, to current date, over 200k signatures defending Depp. Responses ranging from “boycott the franchise” and “hire him back” are of the most prevalent.

So, while this decision to fire Johnny Depp is set to backfire on Warner Bros, I have every faith that Depp will come out on top, fighting his way back into the film industry with the immense support of his fans behind him. Johnny Depp did not deserve this injustice and despite Warner Bros’ superficial attempts to justify their decision through an 8-figure paycheck, people, including myself, will not stop speaking out on the studio’s complicity in the actor’s defamation of character.

Words by Lucy Lillystone


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