opinion

“If you support Johnny Depp’s work, you support all of his actions.”

Usually I live in a world that is anything but black and white. When I argue have a discussion with my 16-year-old daughter or one of my 24-year-old colleagues I’m always the one saying things like:

It’s not that simple

It’s much more complex than that

I wish I could just disregard the other side of this issue like you are doing

Have you done any real research into this? What are the facts?

I think it was thoughtless not malicious

OK then I’m just an idiot who doesn’t know anything about the world and, anyway, where is the change from that $20 I gave you yesterday to get some bread? (OK, that mightn’t be something I say at work)

But there are a small – yet important – number of life areas where I can immediately commit to a particular side. Domestic and sexual abuse of women is one. And no matter who you are and how high you fly, how handsome and talented you are or the zeros on the end of your bank statement, if you commit these crimes I will look at you differently from now on.

That’s why I can understand the complaints the Christian Dior campaign starring Johnny Depp is receiving.

Depp is being trotted out by Dior to front their advertising campaign for the men’s cologne “Sauvage” (which means “wild” in French). Just in time for Father’s Day, Depp is plastered all over Australian billboards and on TV screens in ads.

Probably not surprisingly, The Sydney Morning Herald reports the Advertising Standards Bureau in Australia has received complaints about the use of Depp in the ads.

The ads come just weeks after Johnny Depp and Amber Heard settled their acrimonious divorce amid claims of domestic abuse. Heard claimed that during their 18 months of marriage Depp was violent towards her on numerous occasions. She later withdrew the claims. In the midst of the allegations, photographs of a bruised and battered Heard were made public and a disturbing video was released of a drunk Depp screaming at Heard and smashing up his kitchen in the early hours of the morning.

The couple reached an out of court settlement with Depp paying Heard $9 million. Heard swiftly donated the $9 million to a domestic violence charities. The drama didn’t stop there, with Heard accusing Depp of donating the money straight to the domestic violence charities and not to her, in order to get a tax break, effectively drastically reducing the dollar value of his settlement.

Depp is not the only “artist” where, after an incident in their private lives, we have a choice about whether or not we consume their “product”. (Post continues after audio.)

There’s singer Chris Brown who viciously beat Rhianna just before the 2009 Grammys. Actor Charlie Sheen was convicted in 1997 of beating his then girlfriend Britt Ashland and then in 2010 he pleaded guilty to strangling and holding a knife to then wife Brooke Mueller. Director Roman Polanski pleaded guilty in 1977 for having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl then fled the U.S. to avoid possible jail time. He has never expressed regret for his actions.

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The list, unfortunately, goes on.

In my office today a 20-year-old colleague asked if it’s possible to separate the artist from the art.

“What if you really like their art? she asked.

Well, that’s why life is complicated. That’s where you have a choice to make. That’s where personal values become more than something that only lives inside you to talk about over a glass of wine with friends: they become your actions too.

For me it’s very clear. When I saw Rhianna’s black eye, split lip and bruised face I knew I could never listen to Chris Brown again. Britt Ashland’s face made me know Charlie Sheen was much more sinister than a hopeless celebrity bad boy. When I read the details about Roman Polanski and his reaction to having sex with a 13-year-old girl I understood why there has been controversy about Hollywood brushing away his past: “If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But… f**king, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to f**k young girls. Juries want to f**k young girls. Everyone wants to f**k young girls!” – Polanski said in an interview with Martin Amis in 1979.

Knowing that an artist who you really like or admire has done something, even in their private lives, that fundamentally goes against your belief system and then continuing to support the work of that artist, through downloading their music, or paying for movie tickets or going to their concerts, doesn’t make sense to me.

It’s like being fundamentally opposed to animal testing on beauty products (or all products) but all your makeup is from companies that test on animals because the “colours are really nice, they make my cheeks pop!”

It doesn’t matter whether your boycott of the artist changes anything. It doesn’t matter if it makes the world tilt on its axis. It matters that you know what kind of person you are. That you know what you will put up with in a person. What you expect from a person.

That artist, who is supremely talented and clever and can make you laugh or sing along to their songs, who often has blinding charisma, is a person first.

The question is: Do you condone and support that person’s actions?

Sometimes the answer is not complicated at all.

Featured image: Getty

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