April 21, 2022

Supporting Johnny Depp is not an Excuse for Toxic Masculinity.


“No way I am going to write about this”—but then I listened to Johnny Depp and decided to do it.

It was painful to watch the hearing. I was sad to see a broken man.

One can only imagine what Depp went through, but after hearing his version of the story, I tend to believe him. But I am also hesitant to take sides with him.

It’s not that I don’t believe him; it’s about those who try to use him for a certain narrative.

Nobody should be the victim of domestic violence. Gender should not be a factor in this. But, of course, there are already a bunch of toxic men trying to use this story to bash women in general.

And I don’t want to be one of them.

But I have to say that Depp’s version of the story is relatable, credible, and moving at the same time. I have no reason not to believe his words.

There are two reasons why I feel this way. Besides the fact that Depp managed to describe several troubling incidents with a calm voice without insulting Amber Heard, he said two things that convinced me.

Here are the two statements from Depp’s hearing that left no doubt in my mind that he is the victim in this:

1. “From Cinderella to Quasimodo.”

Depp accused Heard of explicitly saying that nobody would believe his version of the story because he is a man. Apparently, she made fun of him being a male victim of domestic violence.

We saw how Depp was ripped apart by the media, and it doesn’t seem too far-fetched that she was pretty sure about that.

2. “Why would you hit someone to make them agree with you?”

He went on to explain his belief that we can’t change anyone’s mind by using violence.

In connection with his role as a male celebrity, it makes a lot of sense to assume he had no reason to believe that violence could help him in this situation. Of course, people make mistakes, and we can’t be sure that he followed his own advice.

But seeing what happened to him based on accusations that just don’t add up makes me wonder if he ever had a chance to get out of this relationship without ruining his reputation.

And that’s the real issue in this case—for both sides.

Couples get into arguments; sometimes, these arguments turn into physical altercations, but in most cases, nobody already thinks about which side the public opinion might take.

If Heard’s behavior was based on the belief that nobody would trust a man claiming to be the victim, it would make sense to assume that this had an influence on her actions.

If Depp’s silence was based on the fear that his addiction issues would be used against him, it’s safe to assume that he had good reasons to believe that.

It’s also pretty obvious that both actors are not helping their careers by admitting that they lost control over their lives.

And that’s the bottom line in this story: both of them need help.

As a man, it would be naive to believe that women can’t be violent. But it would also be more than ignorant to use this as an excuse not to believe any woman’s story about domestic abuse. And the same logic (hopefully) has an influence on women looking at this story.

I stand with Johnny Depp. Not because I want to see Heard getting punished for her actions. I want this to be an example of a man who could be an inspiration to all the toxic men taking his side.

Wait, what?

It’s easy to call Heard crazy after she got accused of taking a sh*t on his side of the bed. It’s not hard to portray her as a lunatic for throwing a vodka bottle at him. But is that helpful in any way?

I don’t want this to turn into a situation where we need to take sides. Why not take both sides? Why not acknowledge that Depp and Heard are not the only couple on this planet who went through situations like these?

We could use this story to create a narrative that female celebrities can be abusive toward their partners. I have no doubt about that. But is that helpful?

We could make fun of Heard getting slammed on social media. We could draw a connection to the Will Smith sage and portray Depp as another man becoming the victim in a toxic relationship. We could do that—or we try to break the cycle of retaliation, revenge, and calling each other names.

Smith decided to man up by using violence against Chris Rock. Depp decided to stay silent and wait for the right moment to tell his story. Which of these two men should be a role model?

If Depp wins this trial and is able to prove that he was the victim, in this case, let’s not use it as a reason to bash his ex-wife.

From everything I heard during the trial, I feel that she needs serious help. She also seems to be broken. We don’t know what caused her pain that led her to act the way she did.

But we saw a man staying silent, not hitting back, and trying to keep their kids out of this. We saw a man who took both beatings: the one within the relationship and the one on his career.

Many men try to excuse their toxic behavior as a reaction to women acting crazy. I believe that some of these men were in similar situations, but there is a difference between getting mistreated and using it as an excuse to misbehave.

Will Smith could have chosen to take a deep breath and find the right words to respond—but he reacted.

Johnny Depp could have used his physical strength to fight back—but he took a deep breath and waited six years to find the right words.

It’s not easy for a man to speak up as a victim of domestic violence. It’s not easy to end a relationship without any drama. It’s almost impossible not to seek retaliation when someone ruins our life.

I am not one of the folks who hate Heard for what she is accused of—I also feel sorry for her. Let’s not make this story about bashing her. It doesn’t help Depp or their kids.

But there is something in this story that could help us to deal with toxic masculinity and violence as a society.

If Depp wins this case, I want to see him as an inspiration to all men who find themselves in toxic relationships.

The way he talked about his ex-wife in court was respectful. He didn’t call her names or insult her. He admitted that his own weaknesses (substance abuse) were used against him. And most importantly, he waited for the trial and didn’t try to solve existing problems with violence.

If all men in his situation (and those who mistakenly see themselves as victims) were able not to react with violence, we would have fewer cases of domestic violence. If we could focus on helping those with mental health issues, we wouldn’t need to argue about gender as a factor in this.

I want more men to respond to problems instead of reacting to them.

The first step toward that is not making fun of Depp and other men who are victims of domestic abuse. The second step is to ask how we can prevent arguments from escalating into violence.

We need more Johnny Depps and fewer Will Smiths in this world.

Masculinity is not about reacting; it’s about not reacting.

Standing our ground doesn’t have to translate into immediate action—it can also be the opposite. It’s hard, but it’s worth a try.

I wish Johnny, Amber, and their kids all the best to heal from these experiences.

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