**The following is an individual opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the opinion or stance of the Central Florida Slug Club as an organization**
In the beginning of November, the Harry Potter fandom was rocked with news that Johnny Depp had been cast to play a co-starring role in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, which is slated to include five movies. It has seemingly divided us once again, as many fans are hesitant to support an actor with a shaky-at-best personal life. Johnny Depp faced domestic abuse charges when his now ex-wife, Amber Heard, filed for divorce back in May 2016.
These abuse charges were accompanied by disturbing photos of Heard’s bruised face and allegations of long-term physical and emotional abuse. The case was eventually settled outside of court for a cool $7 million. Amber Heard donated this money to several charities.
Those are the facts.
It is completely abhorrent that a movie franchise that stems from Harry Potter would allow an alleged wife beater to have a starring role. It goes against everything that the Harry Potter universe stands for. Harry Potter himself was emotionally abused by his aunt and uncle for years. We see Hermione stand up against what she believes is abuse of House Elves. Good overcomes evil: that is the main theme of Harry Potter. Many fans used Harry Potter as a means to cope with their own personal experiences with abuse, how must they be feeling to see an accused abuser on the big screen in front of them? This sends a message to new fans as well—it’s okay to be accused of beating women, here’s a leading role in a blockbuster movie series.
Many fans have rushed to Johnny Depp’s defense, attempting to separate Johnny Depp the actor from Johnny Depp the person. You cannot appreciate his art without supporting him as a person. In the end, you are helping cut his million dollar paycheck, and essentially giving him a free pass on actions that he should be held accountable for. Johnny Depp the actor and Johnny Depp the person are the same, and trying to separate them is a feeble attempt to quell someone’s own apathy for the situation. Informed silence is a luxury that not all people can stomach.
There are also fans who go a step further, by trying to break down Amber Heard’s accusations. Some insist that Heard photoshopped the bruises underneath her eye so that she could get a big pay out from Depp in the divorce process. This kind of mentality is exactly why abused women don’t come forward with charges in the first place. The skepticism that Heard faces in a jury of social media warriors feeds into America’s rape culture and victim blaming. “No one really knows what happened”—“No one was there to witness it so we really don’t know”—this is the rhetoric that is so dangerous to our society. Women cannot be painted as people who lie and exaggerate just to get what they want. Women deserve respect, not suspicion, especially in the matters of physical and emotional abuse.
For a movie franchise that has just begun, this latest development seems to be the last nail in the coffin for some fans. Johnny Depp hit his wife, and fans made a decision not to watch movies starring him, which is why it’s so upsetting to see his name attached to Fantastic Beasts. I’m here to tell you that your outrage over this is justified. I feel it too. We don’t have to put on a smile and ignore something that makes us uncomfortable. It’s important to get this conversation happening, to speak up. Not everyone has that privilege.