Fantastic Beasts: Should Actors Feature In Films Following Accusations Of Domestic Violence?

Should an actor be allowed to continue starring in a film after serious allegations have been made against them? This is a very difficult and controversial issue, disputed by many.  A recent example concerns the starring of Johnny Depp in J. K. Rowling’s most recent film, ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’.

Johnny Depp was recently accused of domestic violence, after his [now] ex-wife, Amber Heard, reported that he had thrown a phone at her face, amongst other volatile behaviours, such as hair pulling and breaking items in the house. Heard posted pictures after the event, evidencing a large bruise blooming over one of her eye-sockets. After a gruelling trial, the couple eventually parted relatively ‘amicably’, with the pair both accepting blame for past events and agreeing that their relationship had been passionate and loving, but at times, turbulent.

However, despite this demonstration of peace between the two, many members of the public still question whether Depp should have been allowed to continue filming, following the accusations. There are many reasons why people believe that Depp should have been removed from the production. If Heard’s accusations were true (as suggested by the image of her bruised face), then allowing Depp to continue filming completely disregards any wrong-doing and diminishes the severity of domestic violence. This is by no means acceptable, as it suggests that people with money and social prestige are immune to the law and can get away with the most despicable of crimes.

“We despair of a society that continues to idolise public perpetrators of domestic violence”

Moreover, the choice to continue praising an actor following such events might even perpetuate the idea that, as long as you are accompanied by fame and fortune, you can abuse your wife, knowing that there will be no repercussions. There is a danger that if these individuals are not appropriately reprimanded and punished now, they might feel encouraged to perpetrate even more atrocious forms of abuse in the future, as they know that the public will turn a blind eye afterwards. This is not only an intolerable injustice for every famous victim of domestic abuse, but it also instils a deep-seated anxiety for the rest of us, as we despair of a society that continues to idolise public perpetrators of domestic violence.

However, not every allegation made against a public figure is true, and this is also very problematic. There have been several instances in the past, where an individual in the public eye has been accused of the most heinous crimes, and has been found not-guilty, but much too late. Although all allegations must be taken seriously, false accusations have the power to completely destroy an innocent person’s career. The accuser does this for a number of reasons: to gain public attention, money, fame, sympathy, etc… The difficulty lies during that grey period, where nobody knows whether it is in fact the victim, or the alleged perpetrator, who is telling the truth.

“One can understand the dilemma Rowling must have faced”

Many have criticised J. K. Rowling for continuing to cast Depp in her film, despite the accusations against him of domestic violence. However, one must bear in mind, that if the perpetrator is fiercely denying claims, and nothing has yet been proven, it might have been very difficult for Rowling to make the decision to cut Depp from the role. Although highly justifiable if the accusations are found to be true, the act may be deemed grossly unjustified if the allegations turn out to be false or inaccurate. One can understand the dilemma Rowling must have faced, considering the fact that Depp stars as the main antagonist in the film.

“Continuing to feature Depp in Fantastic Beasts was inappropriate”

Despite this however, the fundamental conclusion to draw here is that we should not continue to publicise the work of any abuser, simply because discontinuing to do so would be ‘inconvenient’. One might argue that, in this instance, the pictures of Amber Heard’s bruised face were enough to support her accusations against Depp, and therefore continuing to feature Depp in Fantastic Beasts was inappropriate. Nevertheless, we must also acknowledge that to cut an actor (or any other public figure) from a role, immediately after any accusation has been made, is not justifiable either; often allegations are found to be false or grossly exaggerated.

The issue remains disputable and highly controversial, with many contesting Depp’s continued involvement in the film. Considering the ambiguity and uncertainty that often surround such allegations however, one might argue that an actor, such as Depp, ought to be allowed to continue working as innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

Isla Weir

Featured image courtesy of Diana Kelly via Flickr. No changes were made to this image. Image license found here.

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