Remember five minutes ago when it seemed like Hollywood was forever changed? When it felt like excuses would no longer be made for badly behaved men in a post-Weinstein world? Well, prepare to groan loudly and throw your face into the nearest pillow, because it turns out that, unless a star has an entire legion of accusers, women can still be denied the apparent luxury of being believed.
Hot on the heels of Lena Dunham defending a Girls writer accused of sexual assault, David Yates, director of the Harry Potter franchise, Fantastic Beasts, just defended the casting of accused abuser Johnny Depp in a major role. He told Entertainment Weekly: “Honestly, there’s an issue at the moment where there’s a lot of people being accused of things, they’re being accused by multiple victims, and it’s compelling and frightening. With Johnny, it seems to me there was one person who took a pop at him and claimed something.”
Yes, you did just read that right. David Yates just said that Amber Heard “took a pop” at Johnny Depp — probably the most ill-advised language to use about a domestic violence case ever. In case you’ve forgotten, Heard’s case against Johnny Depp detailed having a cell phone thrown at her face by him, having her face violently grabbed by him, and being hit and screamed at repeatedly by him.
“It’s very different [than cases] where there are multiple accusers over many years that need to be examined,” Yates continued, “and we need to reflect on our industry that allows that to roll on year in and year out. Johnny isn’t in that category in any shape or form. So to me, it doesn’t bear any more analysis. It’s a dead issue.”
What Yates is saying, in a roundabout way, is that, unless your abuser has committed violence against multiple people over the course of many years (to people willing to publicly speak out), your right to be believed gets voided. That apparently applies even when there are photos of the physical damage done, as well as witnesses to the violence. Raquel Pennington went on record stating she had seen Depp “swinging a magnum-sized bottle of wine like a baseball bat” the same night as the phone incident is said to have taken place.
Heard’s friend Io Tillett Wright also wrote an article for Refinery 21 (that did not name names) about what she had witnessed. “I called 911 because she never would,” it begins. “The reports of violence started with a kick on a private plane, then it was shoves and the occasional punch, until finally, in December, she described an all-out assault and she woke up with her pillow covered in blood. I know this because I went to their house. I saw the pillow with my own eyes. I saw the busted lip and the clumps of hair on the floor. I got the phone call immediately after it happened, her screaming and crying, a stoic woman reduced to sobs.”
None of these women’s voices seem to mean anything to Yates. In his EW interview, Yates instead cites Vanessa Paradis, Winona Ryder, and Lori Anne Allison as proof of Depp’s innocence, as those women did not experience violent behavior during their relationships with him. In this, Yates fundamentally fails to understand the nature of domestic abuse, or take into account how Depp’s personal circumstances might have changed since those relationships, and how those changes may have influenced his behavior.
Heard is on record stating that Depp was abusive to her while he was drunk and high. Addiction.com notes: “Regular alcohol abuse is one of the leading risk factors for partner violence.” In August 2016, TMZ released video footage that showed a clearly intoxicated Depp kicking things, smashing items, slamming doors, and berating Heard for calmly asking why he was upset. The clip is disturbing, but acts as compelling evidence to back up Heard’s claims.
Given how easily available this video is, it is impossible to think of Yates’s dismissal of Heard’s version of events as anything other than willful ignorance, especially given the fact that business associates of Depp have also testified that he spends $30,000 a month on wine, thereby backing up Heard’s claims about a tendency towards intoxication.
Also worth taking into account is the fact that Depp’s prior, non-violent relationships did not include particularly significant age gaps. At the time of their divorce, Depp was 53 and Heard was 30. Psychology Today states: “Even though a 50-year-old man is typically much less violent and criminal than a 25-year-old man, a 50-year-old man married to a 25-year-old woman is much more likely to abuse… his wife than a… 25-year-old man married to a 25-year-old woman.”
In the end, Depp and Heard’s legal battles came to a halt in August 2016, with a $7 million settlement and a statement that explicitly stated that the case had not included any false claims (as Yates just implied in his EW interview). It also absolved Depp of any “intent” to harm Heard. “Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love,” the statement said. “There was never an intent of physical or emotional harm. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gains.”
Heard is not the first woman to reach a financial settlement in cases such as these. We’ve seen that time and again with the victims of Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Harvey Weinstein, and Bill O’Reilly. Reaching a financial settlement doesn’t mean violent or abusive events didn’t occur; it means that everyone wants the legal dispute to be over so they can move on with their lives. It is worth noting — after Heard was repeatedly accused of exploiting Depp for financial gain — that she donated her entire settlement to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and the ACLU, which pledged to use the money towards issues relating to violence against women.
One of the conditions of Heard and Depp’s settlement is that Heard is no longer permitted to talk publicly about the abuse allegations, which means she now has limited means to defend her reputation against Yates. That enforced silence is all too familiar to anyone who has been following the Hollywood scandals of recent months.
A year ago, the statements made by David Yates about Johnny Depp and Amber Heard would have been business as usual. But in the current culture, where the world is finally making strides to more readily believe victims of assault and harassment, it is an odious sign that there are still corners of the entertainment industry that will cling to the old way of doing things as long as it is financially and professionally convenient. As awful as it is to face, some men in Hollywood remain depressingly untouchable.