It’s been a refreshing change of pace to see so many sexual abusers held accountable for their behavior. Many of these high-profile cases, such as Harvey Weinstein, have been open secrets for decades. Everyone in the film industry knew how Weinstein behaved, but he was powerful. He had the ability to get you through the golden doors of Hollywood or shut you out forever. Accusing a man like that came with great risk, which is why he got away with it for as long as he did.
But it all came crashing down when the New York Times published an exposé last fall. And the movement grew. More accusations came out of the woodwork. Abusers started facing actual consequences. Legal in some cases, but job loss in others. Films have been cancelled, and press releases from studios or companies have denounced their former employees. Some politicians have even stepped down from their positions.
But some people seem immune from this tidal wave of justice. Why?
Johnny Depp was accused of abuse by his ex-wife Amber Heard in 2016. In their divorce settlement, Depp signed an agreement that stated Heard had not lied, a photo of which was posted on Instagram by Heard herself. But if you breathe a word of this anywhere on the internet, Depp’s fans will rush to defend him. They refuse to believe the allegations, even after he himself all but admitted that they were accurate.
Even noted feminist J.K. Rowling has spoken up in defense of Depp. He’s been cast in a leading role in her Harry Potter prequel movie series Fantastic Beasts, and she’s gone out of her way to defend her decision to stick with him as an actor despite the accusations. According to her blog post, she is “genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.” This goes far beyond simply acknowledging an existing contract and dips into either defense or disbelief of his accusations.
It seems like even in a world where accusers are finally having to own up to their crimes, some of our beloved celebrities are immune. Bill Cosby was immune for decades. Stories had been whispered for quite a long time about his hobby of drugging and raping women. It took a male comedian to bring it to light, and even after it all came to the surface the reactions were mild. Instead of horror and disgust, many of the responses seemed to be hand-waving disbelief.
Certainly part of this can be explained by not wanting to believe terrible things about our childhood idols. No one wants to know that a person we’ve looked up to could possibly do anything so despicable.
But we have to. We have to believe the victims because otherwise we’re sending a terrible message. “If you’re famous enough, you can get away with this. If you’re powerful enough you’re immune.” And we can’t do that. At the very least, the Johnny Depps of the world deserve to have accusations against them taken as seriously as anyone else’s.
It’s time to stop defending our heroes just because we had their posters on our walls.