Dear J.K. Rowling,
You recently issued a statement stating your clarification as to why Johnny Depp, a man who physically and emotionally abused his wife, was cast for the role of Grindelwald. You claimed that you understood people’s apprehensions when they came to know who would play Grindelwald, and you said since the two people concerned – Amber Heard and Johnny Depp have moved on, so should we.
I grew up reading Harry Potter, much like most people my age and my perception and understanding of the world was largely shaped by the politics you articulated in the series. Though Harry Potter was very idealistic in its narration I carried those ideals to my adulthood and in the current world of BJP regime in India, Brexit and Trump and the rise of the worst kind of populism I translated Harry Potter politics to my understanding on who should be a part of Order of the Phoenix and who would be a part of Voldemort’s army. That sounds juvenile, I know. But Harry Potter’s politics was deeply ingrained in my brain, and I happen to be quite proud of that.
You have been vocal about politics in your social media, and you have largely used your influence to make this world a better place. You have always, at least almost always sided with stories of the marginalized and celebrated inclusivity. You have called Trump and his disgusting politics that largely capitalized fear on Twitter – several times. You stood by your politics even when it cost you some fans (though Harry potter is far too popular to be destabilised by some xenophobic fans on Twitter). But I am not going to pretend to know you better than you know yourself, because that is bullshit.
When you expressed your happiness in your statement about the casting of Johnny Depp my first thought was – this is very unlike you. Because you are known for preaching empathy and compassion and have actively worked towards it. The other thought was something sinister, that much like Lena Dunham you played your politics to your convenience.
Do you not know the stories of female celebrities who were abused and were made to apologize for having a problem in the first place? Post the New York times expose of the Harvey Weinstien scandal everyone is essentially forced to acknowledge that women have been trying to talk about male entitlement and sexual harassment for years, but their voices were stifled by those in power i.e. cis heterosexual men. The institutional sexism made it difficult for women to come out with their stories. This sounds banal even as I write it, so I am sure you were wary of institutional sexism and the sexism actresses endure on a daily basis. Bernando Bertolucci and Woody Allen are still working in Hollywood, and that is a testament to cis hetero-male supremacy and the kind of shit men in power can get away with. If you think the case of Johnny Depp is an exception to this, either you are ignorant, or profoundly narcissistic.
In August 2016, when Johnny Depp and Amber Heard were in the midst of their divorce settlements, Heard claimed there was never an ‘intent’ to harm, but did say the relationship even if bound by love was volatile. She had earlier accused him of being physically and emotionally abusive and there are videos and testimonies to substantiate that claim. However, people despite the evidence hurled derogatory insults towards her. They called her a ‘gold digger’ and ‘attention seeker’ who was trying to capitalize on Johnny Depp’s fame. They also said the ‘stunt’ was to further her career, without comprehending the logical fallacy of that statement.
Amber Heard had to endure physical and emotional abuse from her then husband, and then she was abused for pinning allegations against him for the same.
You are asking your fans not to treat the case of Johnny Depp along the same line as Weinstein, Spacey and Louis C.K. I am here to tell you that cannot be done.
The reason Depp gets to get away with this is because of the same reason these men had been getting away with it all these years without a blotch on their careers. Can you tell us otherwise? Can you explain and reason it differently?
In this culture of silence where we actively make it difficult to share their stories of oppression you chose to side with a man who abused his wife. When a fan called you out on Twitter and questioned you regarding the casting of Grindelwald you blocked that fan. What exactly are we to make of your politics after this supremely juvenile and arrogant move? That fan if you should know respectfully concluded from this encounter that even though she would always love Harry Potter, she couldn’t possibly extend the same courtesy to you. I do not blame her for taking that stance.
The director of your movie David Yates said in a statement the man he knows on set is “Full of decency and kindness” and the man possibly couldn’t be capable of committing something he has been accused of. This is textbook bro culture, and I think in the Post-Weinstein era we can understand how men behave with men is very different from how men behave with women. Also, there is a chance the director of your movie might be factually wrong considering Amber Heard presented evidence of the abuse. So, are we to understand that despite the factual evidence presented the director chose to not acknowledge the abuse? Do you condone that?
I cannot hold you responsible for the actions of David Yates, but that doesn’t mean I can’t hold you responsible for being complicit in the perpetuation of culture of silence.
The Harry Potter fandom cannot reconcile with a domestic abuser being glorified and not being held accountable for his actions. There seems to be cognitive dissonance from what we have learned in Harry Potter and what the casting of Depp as Grindelwald essentially implies. How do we address this cognitive dissonance? Your solution to this cognitive dissonance is that their divorce is a private matter and the matter should left at that. But men abusing women is not a private matter, its a systemic problem. Your solution does not go along the line of what action must be taken in the Post #MeToo movement.
I, personally, am not going to watch Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. It was not an easy decision considering I am very fond of Eddie Redmayne and Ezra Miller, and how close this franchise is to my heart, but considering and weighing my options where I perpetuate a culture of silence by giving men a leeway or take a stand and not keep up with this shit anymore I am proud to say I chose the latter.
Your disappointed fan
Featured Image Credit: Business Insider