Even in an era of instant tabloid news, Hollywood’s reaction to news that Johnny Depp has been accused of domestic violence has been shockingly swift.
His ex-wife, Vanessa Paradis has decried the accusations that Depp abused his wife of 15 months Amber Heard, as “outrageous”; his daughter Lily-Rose has posted on Instagram in support of her “sweet and loving” father, and celebrities like Paul Bettany and Mickey Rourke (yes, the very same Mickey Rourke who was arrested for kicking his wife in the 90s) have followed suit with public statements of support.
Meanwhile, the rumour mill quickly moved into gear. Amber Heard was a “golddigger” according to some (including Depp’s publicist); she stood to receive $15million according to others.
Here in Australia, Channel Nine’s entertainment reporter Paul Ford had his own… unique take on the topic on The Morning Show yesterday. “I probably shouldn’t say this, I’ll probably get in trouble,” he said before stumbling bravely on. “But it’s not wise to marry a bisexual.
“This is what Johnny Depp has done here, with Amber Heard, and she was in a very legally committed relationship, a marriage, a legal marriage, to another woman when Johnny came along, and she decided to travel across to the other side."
(Ford later apologised on-air for his remarks, saying he had consulted a psychologist who had explained that bisexuals are not less committed to their relationships than heterosexuals. Uh-huh..)
Take a step back from the circus surrounding the Depp-Heard split and ensuing domestic violence allegations for a moment. Leave aside your thoughts on whether Depp is innocent or guilty – and consider how different the public reaction has been in contrast to that of Kesha and Dr Luke.
Back in February Kesha took Sony to court over the music giant’s refusal to free her from a contract with Dr Luke, whom she had accused of rape. In both this instance and Heard’s, the women alleged they had been abused by very powerful men in their respective industries, men whose professional sway and fortunes far outpaced their own. In both cases, the men have not been, thus far, found by a court to have committed a crime.
But the responses to Kesha and Heard’s allegations could not have been more glaringly different.
When Kesha’s case was before the courts earlier this year, the celebrity response was swift and strong. A string of A-listers from Anne Hathaway to Adele urged fans to #freekesha; Lena Dunham dedicated an essay to the importance of the issue, saying she felt “actually sick” by the case. Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande and many, many more followed suit.
In other words, in February the public immediately and swiftly backed Kesha; to date Amber has been painted as an avaricious, sexually rapacious liar.
It could be that Kesha’s plight – being forced to work with a man she accused of raping her – seemed particularly desperate. Or that celebrities – and the public – felt more comfortable raging against a faceless corporation (Sony) than an individual.
Or it could have something to do with the fact that Heard - the bisexual, blonde 20-something who broke up Depp’s marriage – isn’t some people’s idea of a sympathetic, stereotypical victim. And Depp, teen heartthrob turned Hollywood heavyweight turned the world’s favourite blockbuster pirate, doesn’t fit their idea of an abuser.
Hence the bizarre and irrelevant commentary on Heard’s bisexuality, and the overwhelming support for Depp.
Whatever the outcome of the case, the varying treatment of Amber Heard and Kesha should make us question our collective perception of what domestic violence perpetrators and victims can look like.