Why this man?
Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images
A few months ago, actor Johnny Depp won a libel suit against his ex-wife Amber Heard on the grounds that a few lines of an op-ed she wrote – one that never mentioned him by name – had destroyed his career and ruined his reputation. . To me, that claim felt tenuous, especially when juxtaposed with the dozens of screaming fans outside the courthouse and the legions screaming more online. And yet, Depp has only become more visible since then. Even before the end of the trial, he was back on stage and received a standing ovation in the UK. In August, he appeared in a spacesuit as the VMA Lunar. And now he makes an appearance in Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty Vol. 4 fashion show – a “star moment,” according to TMZ’s original report, which comes just under 20 minutes into the show. The camera cuts to Depp, sporting a soulful patch, chin beard and open shirt over his mesh bodysuit. Unlike many other artists in the video, Depp doesn’t dance or really do anything. he just walks across the clearing, maintaining eye contact as OutKast’s “So Fresh, So Clean” plays in the background. His 30 seconds end with the gentle hug of a tree.
It’s a weird vibe, but according to TMZ, “Rihanna and her team invited Johnny to be a part of it, and both parties were super excited for it to happen.” I’m sure he is, but Rihanna? Oh good?
The Cut has contacted Fenty representatives for comment and will update if we receive a response. As Depp’s nightmarish trial made clear, many, many people — famous and not — never bought Heard’s account of the relationship, despite her bringing plenty of evidence to the table. The court reviewed cruel and violent text messages from Depp to his friends in which he complained of burning and raping Heard’s corpse. Jurors saw photos of his bruises and heard from a witness who recalled having to cover them up; other witnesses testified to Depp’s allegedly explosive temper and corroborated the idea, previously advanced by several publications that Depp did not prosecute, that the actor’s substance use and “unprofessional behavior” contributed to his career. Depp himself told the court how, after an explosive fight with Heard, he used the stump of his severed finger to scribble threatening “little reminders of our past” on the walls in blood.
Listening to all of this, and then watching celebrities like his post-trial victory declaration on Instagram, I wondered how so many people had come to see Depp as the good guy. Weeks later, reading previously sealed court documents — which Depp fans paid to make public — I revisited the issue. Spanning thousands of pages, the documents show Depp’s lawyers sought to introduce Heard’s nudes into evidence, a legal tactic that sounds a lot like revenge porn. They argued (successfully) against the inclusion of texts in which Depp’s assistant admitted that his boss had “kicked” Heard during a robbery in 2014. Some of the information contained in the cache of documents (Depp’s texts, for example) had already come out during his unsuccessful British libel trial, but suffice it to say that the publication did not cast Depp in a positive light – not that he seems to have much ‘importance. While a handful of celebrities have quietly revoked their tastes, the effort to rehabilitate Depp’s image has moved forward, earning him a “cool and chic” (to quote TMZ) cameo in a marquee production by Rihanna.
My central question, however, remains the same. Whether or not you believe Heard’s version of events, there are surely other artists out there who aren’t sending gruesome “jokes” to their friends about their ex’s drowning and self-immolation. Why are so many people intent on bringing this one back? Why Rihanna? Why this guy?
This article has been updated.
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