Johnny Depp’s career as a movie star seems to be coming to an end. He may have recently won his defamation case against Amber Heard – he sued her for libel after she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse” in a 2018 op-ed – but he lost his previous “wife beater” lawsuit against The Sun, after the judge ruled that Heard “was the victim of sustained and multiple assaults by Mr Depp.” Given this, it’s difficult to see him returning.
Following Harvey Weinstein’s death, the general consensus in Hollywood and the blockbuster film industry is that he carries too much baggage. Depp may return to Hollywood – as one entertainment agent told CNN – but for the time being, it has shunned him. Captain Jack Sparrow has decided to retire from sailing.
However, the music industry has a very different opinion of Depp. Depp was on a victory lap tour of the UK last month, while jurors in Virginia were deliberating on his action against Heard.
By the time the verdict was announced, Depp had already made two appearances on stage in his self-created persona of “outlaw rocker.” And on the night of the decision, he was seen in Newcastle posing for selfies with Gen Z singer Sam Fender (who later removed the photos from his social media) before ripping it up on stage with his guitar.
The final nail in the coffin. Depp, who is currently considered unemployed in Hollywood, has released a full-length album called 18. He’s also announced a new tour, which will include appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival and the Olympia in Paris.
Furthermore, he appears to be doing so with the tacit approval of the mainstream music industry, as 18 is released by ATCO, a division of Warner Music Group, a traditional major label. Depp has just received the keys to a completely different magical kingdom after being forced to walk the plank by Pirates of the Caribbean custodians Disney.
None of this should come as a surprise. When it comes to bad behavior, the music industry has never had to face the consequences in the way that film and television have in recent years. The music industry’s #MeToo reckoning appears to be as far away as ever.
In fact, this is a business where bad behavior is frequently praised and accepted as a necessary part of the job. It’s expected that the bad boy rockers will leave a trail of scandal and broken hearts in their wake. Male actors may have been doing something similar for decades, but it was a dirty secret rather than a requirement of the job.
As a result, where Hollywood sees Johnny Depp as someone it would rather not work with again, many music moguls see a new take on a classic stereotype – the tattooed ne’er do well with a guitar and a dangerous swagger.
Most female artists have come across institutionalized misogyny at some point. They’ll talk about male producers who suddenly lose interest in a potential collaboration after being rejected. Alternatively, they may encounter older, more established songwriters who believe that female artists are there to be served to them on a silver platter.
“Ryan Adams….I was just a kid in f***ing Pasadena playing,” Phoebe Bridgers told me in 2020, after the New York Times reported that “several women say Adams offered to jumpstart their music careers, then pursued them sexually and, in some cases, retaliated when they spurned him.”
“He once came to one of my shows, and I played for a total of five people, one of whom was my mother.” So I don’t believe he thought it would help if he treated me badly. Or that I had anyone to discuss it with.”
Adams paid a price for his actions, and his career is now only a shadow of what it once was. He is, however, an exceedingly rare exception. Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches speculated in a 2018 interview with The Fader, “When are the f***ing dominos gonna fall on the music business?”
When I asked Sigrid if music would have a #MeToo moment and if abusers would ever be called out, she replied, “There have been a few.” “It was long overdue.”
In 2018, she conducted the interview. Four years later, there’s little reason to believe the music industry is any closer to the level of soul searching experienced by the movie industry in the aftermath of Harvey Weinstein’s demise.
Of course, the film industry still has problems. Depp, on the other hand, left the Fantastic Beasts franchise almost immediately after losing his wife-beater lawsuit against The Sun in 2020. There was no victory lap, no invitation to the Montreux Jazz Festival, and no rock ‘n’ roll rediscovery.
It’s difficult not to be struck by music’s resolve to carry on as usual. And to continue to give people a second chance who, in other fields, would have been fired a long time ago.