My Thoughts on Johnny Depp’s Domestic Abuse Allegations

It’s been a few days, and finally enough information has come out that I feel like I can give an assessment of the drama unfolding between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard that can at least be supported with some evidence.

Let’s break down what happened in chronological order, as it gets pretty convoluted: Johnny Depp and french pop star Vanessa Paradis were in a relationship from 1998 to 2012. In that time, they had two children, Lily-Rose and Jack. Johnny Depp met actress Amber Heard on the set of The Rum Diary in 2009, and the pair began dating in 2012. They married in 2015, and controversy quickly followed when Heard falsified quarantine documents and smuggled the couple’s two dogs into Australia while Depp filmed Pirates of the Caribbean; Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017). However, just as this controversy was wrapping up (with albeit a strangely robotic court-appointed public apology from both of them), a far more serious one erupted.

It begins on Friday, May 20th, when Depp’s mother, Betty Sue Palmer, died after battling a long illness. The following night, police responded to a domestic dispute report at Depp and Heard’s Los Angeles home. On May 25th, reports surfaced that Heard had filed for divorce from Depp after only 15 months of marriage, citing “irreconcilable differences,” as the reason for their split. Then, chaos ensued. First, Heard demanded $50,000 a month in spousal support from Depp, which was denied by the judge. Then, she asked for a restraining order from Depp and protection for her dog Pistol. The judge denied the order for Pistol, but granted a 100 yard order for Heard herself. Her demand that Depp be mandated to attend a year-long anger management course was also denied. Then came word of Heard’s elaborate testimony about ongoing abuse from Depp, but particularly regarding the night after his mother’s death. In her court papers, Heard submitted a photo of herself with a black eye she claims was caused by Depp throwing an iPhone at her face, is supported by testimony from neighbor Raquel Pennington, and goes into graphic detail about the events that unfolded that night:

“I immediately covered my face and was crying because of the pain resulting from the phone hitting me. Johnny charged at me, insisting on seeing my face. He taunted me, challenged whether or not the cell phone actually hit me. He then forceably pulled back my hair as I attempted to stand up from the sofa. I then yelled out “Call 911″ – hoping it would be heard by [mutual friend iO Tillet Wright] who was still on the phone. Johnny continued screaming at me, pulling my hair, striking me and violently grabbing my face.”

Depp himself has not personally responded to these allegations, and will be out of the country until June 7th. The court case is scheduled for June 17th.

Many people have many different views about what happened, who is at fault, and who is telling the truth, be it journalist, celebrity, or fan. At the end of the day, none of us were there. A great majority of us do not know nor ever will know Depp or Heard personally. When all is said and done, none of us get a say in what happened. Anyone claiming otherwise, either calling Heard a liar or Depp a monster, is flat out wrong for doing so. Fan culture, on its way to entering the mainstream, has developed this massive sense of entitlement, as though we have any sort of insight or say into the inner workings of these people’s deeply personal issues. We don’t. 

So I will not claim that I know anything beyond what I have read from different perspectives on this upcoming case. While we cannot say for certain who is right or wrong, lying or telling the truth, that does not mean we can’t lend support to one side over another. I have reached a decision on this matter as to who I support, and it was not as easy as one might assume.

I take abuse allegations very seriously. I am a woman, but moreso I am human, and as such I feel massive fury burning inside me when I hear of any sort of abuse in any form. Be it the ongoing Bill Cosby assault charges, Ashley Judd recently coming forward about sexual assault from a producer many years ago, or even tragedies befalling countless victims every day that we hear about on local or national news, I feel a rage and sadness that fills me up. Victim shaming and blaming is abhorrent. So what was I left with when my favorite actor was accused of domestic abuse?

I became a Johnny Depp fan in 2009 upon watching Secret Window (2004), an incredibly tense psychological thriller that demonstrated to me just how skilled of a performer Depp is. This fandom came at an important time in my life. While most of my middle-school aged friends at that time were head over heels for relative newcomer Justin Bieber, or imagining themselves as the “Future Mrs. Taylor Lautner,” I took my fandom in another direction entirely: this man wasn’t just mere eye candy, but a masterful artist on screen and a good, funny, giving person off screen. It was following Johnny Depp throughout his filmography that first taught me to look at film critically. Through Johnny Depp, I found Tim Burton, David Koepp, Gore Verbinski, Terry Gilliam, and many more directors who therein introduced me to more artists, styles, and films. This caused a massive web of cinema that continues to grow to this day. I owe everything I am today in my career to Johnny Depp.

Maybe that’s why I burst into tears of joy and exhaustion after waiting in line for twelve hours overnight to see if he would make an appearance at the Live Action Panel of the 2015 D23 Expo. Not only did that appearance happen, it happened in the form of Depp advertising the upcoming Pirates film AS Captain Jack Sparrow. It had been six long years of several failed attempts to see my favorite actor in person, so my emotional bubbling-over was understandable. Little did I know that only two months later, I would come within three feet of Depp at the Dolby Theatre amongst a mob of eager fans. He and I would make eye contact there and grin at each other when I couldn’t think of anything else to do. It was brief moment, but a great one that I’ll always treasure. I had one chance to not screw up, and I managed to pull it off casualty-free!

My photo of Depp at the Dolby Theatre last October. Photo by author.

All of these memories and feelings of nostalgia welled up inside me as I stared at Amber Heard’s black eye. Could my childhood hero be capable of such cruelty? I wasn’t too keen on Heard from the onset of their relationship: Her youth compared to Depp made me nervous that she was just after his fame and money. I was frustrated with Depp for separating from Paradis, who I absolutely adore, in favor of Heard. But despite my prejudice, abuse would render my favorite actor utterly despicable in my heart if the allegations were proved to be truthful.

But in the past few days, testimony from important sources surfaced that changed my mindset. First, Lorrie Anne Allison, Depp’s first wife, said that he was soft-spoken and never once shouted at her during their marriage. Depp and Paradis’s daughter, actress and model Lily-Rose, has used her very popular Instagram account to advocate for her father’s innocence, including posting this picture of the two of them along with a impassioned message of his kindheartedness:

Vanessa Paradis is perhaps the most important voice in this group, as she is Depp’s longest romantic partner. She stated the following in a letter obtained by TMZ:

“To whom it may concern, Johnny Depp is the father of my two children, he is a sensitive, loving and loved person, and i believe with all my heart, that these allegations being made are outrageous, in all the years i have known Johnny, he has never been physically abusive with me and this looks nothing like the man i lived with for 14 wonderful years – Sincerely, Vanessa Paradis, May 27th, 2016, Los Angeles.”

Further support was lended in a letter penned for The Wrap by Doug Stanhope, a friend of Depp’s. Stanhope claims that Heard is blackmailing Depp, and that he has been watching Heard manipulate Depp since before they were married. He goes on to say that he and his girlfriend were with Depp at his house the day after his mother’s death, and told them their honest opinion of Heard after Depp confessed that “Amber was now going to leave him, threatening to lie about him publicly in any and every possible duplicitous way if he didn’t agree to her terms.” Stanhope and his girlfriend left Depp’s house, and only found out later that that was the night the domestic dispute occurred. Further complicating matters is the fact that the LAPD has stated that there was no apparent evidence of the injuries Heard describes when they responded to the domestic dispute.

I will not ignore the fact that Depp has run into trouble in the past. He was arrested in 1994 for trashing a hotel room with then-girlfriend Kate Moss while drunk, and then again in 1999 in a scuffle with intrusive papparazzi. In 2012, he settled in a court case with a UC Irvine professor who sought punitive damages after being roughed up by his bodyguards at a concert. Despite these occassions, however, I cannot see how someone with so much support from his friends, family, and partners of the past could be capable of the domestic abuse that Heard describes.

It was only after all of the above evidence that I arrived at my decision to support Depp. Once again, I will state that it is not my place to call Heard a liar, and so is that the case for anyone who isn’t directly involved in this matter. At the end of the day, I don’t know Johnny Depp, nor will I ever know the full truth. If I am going to lend my support in one way, it has to go to the man who made me love movies, who formed my appreciation for actors and artists, and who I have watched go out of his way to be kind, patient, and generous to friends and strangers alike again and again.

I was told that I was an “anti-feminist” for not supporting Heard, and that makes my blood boil. I am no less of a woman, no less of a feminist, and have no altered moral code because I support the ‘man’s side’ in this argument, or as the person in question referred to it as, “another instance of support being thrown to the white man,” looping a race argument into a totally non-race related argument. I believe Depp more than I do Heard because of the evidence that has been provided. If you support Heard, that is your right and I will not judge you for it. The moment that you begin attacking me for my beliefs, however, is the moment you may kindly take your opinions elsewhere.

I will be watching as this case unfolds with bated breath. With whatever further evidence comes forward in the upcoming weeks, at the end of the day, I hope that justice is served, no matter what that means. If future evidence shows that this alleged violence did in fact occur, I hope that Depp is punished fairly. If more support is thrown to Depp, I hope that he can escape this disastrous marriage relatively unscathed. But for now, my heart remains with my favorite actor.

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