Once again actor Johnny Depp’s career is on the up - GulfToday

Once again actor Johnny Depp’s career is on the up

Johnny Depp 1

Johnny Depp

Harry Readhead, Tribune News Service

Public relations experts say that Johnny Depp’s career is “on the upswing”. Since the June defamation trial, he’s performed with Jeff Beck, signed a seven-figure deal with Dior, and been cast as King Louis XV in a new feature film. To paraphrase LL Cool J, don’t call it a comeback. Johnny Depp’s been here for years.

Still, I’m puzzled. I can’t say much about Johnny Depp’s acting ability; I thought Edward Scissorhands was quite good, though I’m not mad about those Dior Sauvage ads I keep seeing.

I should also say at this point that in part because I loathe celeb culture but mostly because the whole thing seemed so ugly, I tried my best to avoid the coverage of Johnny Depp’s trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard, though without success.

In the wake of the thing, however, which seemed to whip up an atmosphere of venom and invite all sorts of churlishness and spite, I expected there might at least be a fallow spell.

After all, whether or not you accept the findings of the judge — that Heard had defamed Depp, and that Depp’s attorney had defamed her — and whether or not you think Heard abused Depp, or Depp abused Heard, or neither, or both, no one came out looking good. (A side note: it seems to me that televising any trial, let alone the trial of two professional actors, is sheer lunacy.) So even Johnny Depp’s most die-hard fans must surely concede that his conduct during his marriage to Heard was far from laudable. There was compelling evidence of violence and awful behaviour from both the people involved.

But we seem unable even to entertain the thought that this was just a story without good guys. Early on in the trial, much of the watching public lined up between one of the two people involved, describing themselves as “team” Johnny or “team” Amber. Clearly, for some, the details didn’t matter: this trial was a competition, a spectator sport, not a vicious case with highly credible suggestions of violence at its centre. The whole thing was a tragedy.

As it is, the content of that trial, (and the one in the UK, as well as its verdict), has been forgotten. Depp won in the US, and “winning”, being a bit of a cultural fetish, is all that counts. Crossing the finish line first makes whatever happened during the race melt away. So having been declared the “winner” of this tawdry dispute, there was no reason for him not to accept the glut of lucrative opportunities that came his way. It raises the question of what we lose in a culture where winning seems to wipe the whole slate clean. It’s evident in other departments of life. The Conservative Party made a serial winner with a pretty dubious past their leader on the grounds that he was a serial winner — and then forced him out. That serial winner won — and won big — but his party seems to have concluded that he did so at a high price to themselves. If the Conservatives are thrown out of office at the next general election, Boris Johnson’s massive victory, with its enormous majority, may be considered Pyrrhic — to use a term befitting a classicist. You could say the very qualities that were put to one side because he was a “winner” were his — and their — undoing.

And speaking of the classics: think also of the assault on the humanities, most recently by Rishi Sunak, who pledged to abolish degrees that did not increase the “earning potential” of the students who take them. To stretch my point, wealth, like fame and power, is a typical criterion for “winning” at life.

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