Content note: This post discusses domestic violence, VAW and sexual harassment
JK Rowling has finally addressed the elephant in the room: that the kids’ movies going out in her name star a domestic abuser. And her response isn’t good. In fact, it’s the very opposite of good.
Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.
Rowling says. “Genuinely happy”.
However, the agreements that have been put in place to protect the privacy of two people, both of whom have expressed a desire to get on with their lives, must be respected.
Take the words Amber Heard said about wanting to put the violence she experienced out of your mouth, JK. A survivor wants to move on. And that’s what Amber Heard is: she documented the violence she experienced, and was dragged through the mud for it. Is it any wonder she wants it behind her? Meanwhile, let’s think about the motivations for a man who has been physically and verbally violent towards a woman might want to put it behind him. It’s a little different, isn’t it?
I accept that there will be those who are not satisfied with our choice of actor in the title role. However, conscience isn’t governable by committee.
This is a line as old as time. The mob! The mob!
Meanwhile, David Yates, who Rowling name-checks in her article, and seems to imply agreement with, said this:
With Johnny, it seems to me there was one person who took a pop at him and claimed something. I can only tell you about the man I see every day: He’s full of decency and kindness, and that’s all I see. Whatever accusation was out there doesn’t tally with the kind of human being I’ve been working with.
“Took a pop”. Well, that’s not feeding “lying bitch” narratives at all. And nice that a man thinks an abuser is all sweetness and light, that’s something we’ve never seen before.
JK Rowling is complicit in domestic violence. There, I said it.
I am not alleging she has personally been violent. I am alleging that her choices and her words will, at best, not reduce any violence against women. At worst, they may perhaps expose more women to violence.
See, JK Rowling is in a position of great power. She has an army of young people following her, young people who listen to her views, and young people who will be influenced by these views. The message that we need to send to young people is that domestic violence, and violence against women on the whole, is completely unacceptable.
That message was finally starting to come out, as women speaking out against gendered abuse is becoming more and more visible. The #MeToo movement opened up an unprecedented door for abusers to finally face consequences for their actions. Those speaking out against abuse have been named Time’s Person Of The Year. Finally, is the tide turning?
Of course it isn’t. With movement comes utterly predictable backlash, from perpetrators and those who enable them. There’s been rather a lot of pearl-clutching over those poor abusers who have lost jobs. JK Rowling has nailed her colours to the mast and become part of this backlash, telling young people that actually, she’s “genuinely happy” to have a wife-beater starring in her cash cow. That she doesn’t think abusers should have to face consequences, and it’s all gone a little too far.
Rowling likes to pretend that she’s objective, that the truth lies somewhere in the middle: this pervades much of the politics she has communicated. In reality, you’re always picking a side. And in this instance, the side she’s picked is the side of the abusers. She can use all of the excuses in the world, but this is the meat of it. With her weasel words, she’s laid it all out, that she believes domestic violence to be acceptable under certain circumstances.
I cannot emphasise enough how potentially dangerous this message is to send to her young audience, just beginning to see that domestic violence is unacceptable, and then seeing a person they respect saying “actually, no, it isn’t.”
I hope this film is a fucking flop. I really do. I hope audiences are wiser than JK Rowling, and will not accept a film showcasing a washed-up perpetrator of domestic violence. I hope that Johnny Depp becomes the cinematic equivalent of the coconut Quality Street. I hope that JK Rowling is wrong, and that all the fuss about him isn’t a gobby few spoilsports, and that more of us think his casting is inappropriate than I fear.
Sadly, we’re up against a lot. We’re up against power, and had a brief little window in which to speak truth to it. I believe that JK Rowling, in her “I hear your concerns and I couldn’t give a shit” statement, may have kicked that window shut, and all who speak with it.
I don’t doubt that by writing this piece I will draw the ire of the “women are lying bitches” crowd. I accept that, because I know that they’re afraid that one day, they’ll feel the consequences of violence against women becoming unacceptable, too.