JK Rowling, this is not "the right thing".
I have cried in my kitchen twice this week.
On Tuesday, I watched low resolution footage of John Oliver confronting Dustin Hoffman over his treatment of female colleagues on film sets earlier in his career; his drinks are on me until the end of time.
Tonight, I read JK Rowling’s statement where she defended the decision to keep Johnny Depp on as the star of the Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
“I’ve never seen you this angry about abuse, not even your own,” my boyfriend said.
Amber Heard did The Right Thing. She left and went to the police, got a restraining order, provided physical evidence, was backed up by Depp’s own management, and then gave the money awarded in the divorce away to charity. Nobody could have asked more of her.
I didn’t think much of Depp appearing at the end of the first Fantastic Beasts film. “It was probably already filmed,” I said to myself. I assumed there were contractual issues. Maybe Depp would get a payout and they’d recast.
But then they didn’t. JK Rowling started blocking anyone who asked her about it on Twitter. Graham Norton made jokes about the downfall of Kevin Spacey on his chat show then introduced Depp as a guest in the next breath. Posters and trailers started to appear for Murder on the Orient Express. It was as if nothing had happened.
“Agreements that have been put in place to protect the privacy of two people, both of whom have expressed a desire to get on with their lives, must be respected,” Rowling wrote today. “Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.”
Ridley Scott was putting the finishing touches to his latest film All the Money in the World when he was informed of the accusations made against one of the cast members, Kevin Spacey. He re-cast the role and re-filmed and re-edited the movie with the release date a month away. “I sat and thought about it and realised, we cannot. You can’t tolerate any kind of behaviour like that. And it will affect the film. We cannot let one person’s action affect the good work of all these other people. It’s that simple.”
It wasn’t contract issues, or that they were too far into filming. As long as Rowling didn’t say anything, part of me still believed she felt genuinely bad about the decision. The 12-year-old, who had “swot!” hissed at her from the back of the classroom every day and found a kindred spirit in Hermione, still believed.
One of the many reasons it took me so long to go to the police about my own abuse was that I was concerned about my abuser. I knew if he ended up with a criminal record, it could affect his career and I saw his job as completely separate from his treatment of me. Just as Hollywood separates Woody Allen and the accusations of sexual abuse made against him from Blue Jasmine and Roman Polanski’s rape of a 13-year-old girl from The Pianist, I separated my former partner’s skill as a computer programmer from the nights he sat on my chest and spat in my face.
People just don’t want to give up the things they enjoy. They want to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer without thinking about “the feminist” Joss Whedon fucking everything in sight behind his wife’s back. They want to dance to Chris Brown’s music on a night out without imagining the snapshot of Rihanna’s black eye and swollen lip. They want to enjoy Mad Max on a bank holiday Monday without remembering Mel Gibson telling his girlfriend, “If you get raped by a pack of niggers, it will be your fault.” Because if we give up the things we like, we are being punished as well. And we haven’t done anything wrong.
I’ve been harassed by Depp fans online, had “facts” thrown at me, and been told by people who have never met him that he would never do this. Abuse victims tend to translate the facts a different way; we know what goes on in the background. Now the focus will shift to Rowling and Harry Potter fans will be falling over themselves to side with Johnny Depp, offering explanations and excuses. Whether you understand it or not, Harry Potter means the world to some people, and they will fight for it come hell, high water or domestic abuse. It’s something they’ve invested their whole lives in.
What really breaks my heart in all this is that some of these fans are being abused right now, and as they defend Depp, they are unwittingly defending their own abusers. They are fighting to keep Harry Potter, and their abuse. The excuses they repeat will stick in their minds the next time they feel worthless. Depp continuing on with his career will teach them that seeking justice is a waste of time because nobody gives a shit anyway. Whatever your abuser does for a living has nothing to do with what goes on in the privacy of your home. Keep it to yourself.
JK Rowling said we all have to do what we believe to be the right thing. Valuing Johnny Depp’s “right” to get on with his life over the mental well-being and safety of the fans that created this franchise is not it.