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Alia Al Hazami: Separating the Art from the Artist: Johnny Depp & Fantastic Beasts
October 09, 2018
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In the wake of the #MeToo movement, it is important that we act as allies and fight for the victims in order to create a safe space for them to speak their truth. Regardless of how small you may think your act is, it will definitely leave a strong impact

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One of the greatest ethical challenges one may face is being forced to choose between something they love, and something they stand for. For several months, I have been overthinking what may seem like a silly little debacle to others. But to me, it is a huge ethical decision. I am a very huge fan of Harry Potter. JK Rowling’s decision to continue the magic with ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ was absolutely thrilling. However, as a woman, my heart sunk when the last scene showed Johnny Depp on the screen. In fact, I was even more troubled when I found out that the next installation would focus a great deal on the character Depp is playing. My excitement for the movie died down, but the fan within me desperately wants to see the movie. Therefore, I am forced to choose between my love for an amazing fictional world, and my ethics.

Depp has been accused by Amber Heard, his ex-wife, of physical and psychological abuse. She even filed for a restraining order against him, which she was granted. However, Depp and his legal team, despite Heard’s evidence, continue to deny the claims and are doing everything in their power to save his brand. Sadly, many do not believe Heard and choose to take Depp’s side, even when many of his colleagues and subordinates came out with their own stories of his unprofessionalism and abuse. Naturally, his career did not suffer much as men in Hollywood seldom pay the price for their abuse and antics, whereas women in Hollywood get shunned instantly. Nonetheless, that is a story for another day.

The main point here is, Depp has caused immense violence on Heard yet people are still supporting him. JK Rowling, a woman who usually stands up for others, is allowing him to be part of her movies, something that made her lose role model status in my book. So, here I am, with the ethical challenge I discussed at the beginning of the article, should I go to a movie based on a magical world I adore, or be an ally for women? I can easily say, I will get over how sad not watching the movie will make me, but I will never get over supporting an abuser. I refuse to enable a man who hurts others. Unfortunately, many do not see the magnitude behind simply going to another Harry Potter movie.

I have always done my best to separate the art from the artists, but at some point, it becomes an impossible task. I could separate the art in specific instances, but I refuse to support any artist that harms other living beings. This applies to Bill Cosby and Woody Allen. It does not matter how talented one is, no amount of artist’s genius can make up for atrocious morals and behaviours. Choosing to support an artist despite their assault to others will normalise abusive behaviour. It will also make it difficult for victims to speak up, as they will feel that their voice would not be heard and their pain will be disregarded because people think this artist makes good music or films. This can be seen in the way in which Depp still gets roles and Allen still makes movies.

The aforementioned artists continue to garner support, and keep getting more work and popularity. They are not held accountable for their actions, which makes them think they can continue their behaviour. They need to be penalised for their actions and it is our job to make sure it is done. It is absolutely disgusting to see people wearing Free Bill Cosby jackets when he has raped a large amount of women. The likes of Depp will never experience the pain Heard went through unless the general public change their attitudes to such abusers.

This debate will continue for a lifetime, but time is up and we have to prioritise human dignity and disregard our love for an artist when it is proven that s/he is deplorable. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, it is important that we act as allies and fight for the victims in order to create a safe space for them to speak their truth. Regardless of how small you may think your act is, it will definitely leave a strong impact. I will not be going to ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ next month, and I hope that you don’t either. The time has come to believe and support those who come out with their stories.
The author is the writer of “Alatash,” a columnist, and an International
Studies and EnglishLiterature student at AUS.
Twitter: @aliaalhazami

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