November 3, 2020
In the 1990s, he was a different kind of film star – eloquent, artistic and cool. But this week, with the loss of his court case against the Sun, the dream has decisively soured
Johnny Depp is “a wife-beater”. This is the verdict of the UK courts. Just writing that sentence feels genuinely shocking, and yet, by now perhaps, it should not. For a start, the allegation that he was physically abusive to his ex-wife Amber Heard emerged more than four years ago, after she applied for a temporary restraining order against him following their divorce, citing domestic abuse. It should also not be a shock, given how many other hugely famous men have been accused of abusing women. Sean Connery was alleged to have beaten his first wife and frequently defended hitting women. His death this weekend sparked online arguments about how much the coverage should focus on the professional achievements of a man who repeatedly insisted it was fine to hit women, “if the woman is a bitch, or hysterical, or bloody-minded continually”, as he said in 1965.
But Depp is a very different figure from Connery. The latter represented alpha masculinity and aggressive sexuality. No one ever said it explicitly, but Connery’s defences for beating women fit in, on some level, with his image, and so that side of him was never going to be a problem with his audience. Depp, however, represented something else. He sued the Sun for defamation when it described him as “a wife-beater”, something Connery would never have done, and it’s why for a certain kind of fan (me), this feels like the death of yet another childhood hero.