John Waters Doesn’t Seem Too Concerned About Johnny Depp’s Domestic Violence Allegations

Reminder: you don't personally need to witness abuse for it to be real

John Waters attends the red carpet of the movie "Soul" during the 15th Rome Film Festival on October 15, 2020 in Rome, Italy.
John Waters attends the red carpet of the movie "Soul" during the 15th Rome Film Festival on October 15, 2020 in Rome, Italy.
Getty Images for RFF

John Waters spoke to the New York Times recently, and the legendary director weighed in on everything from the state of moviegoing (people these days, he asserts, “want to go to a mall”) to the way mainstream audiences have finally begun to accept him. Naturally, as all interviews nowadays seem to, the conversation eventually veered into the subject of cancel culture.

“It’s a good thing we are not going retroactive here because practically every artist would be canceled,” Waters told the publication. “I have a thing about who I would cancel: J.K. Rowling. Give her some Preparation H for that transphobia. What’s the matter with her?”

That’s a good start — we can all agree that the Harry Potter author should probably just be quiet already — but things took a turn when Waters mentioned Johnny Depp, who starred in his 1990 film Cry-Baby and has been accused of domestic violence by his ex-wife Amber Heard.

“There are people I would like to cancel, but at the same time I’m saying it humorously,” Waters continued. “I’m not going to go through each person who’s been canceled and say what I think, but I never saw Johnny Depp act negatively to a woman in my entire life — and I did drugs and got drunk with him.”

It should go without saying, but that sort of apologist nonsense is exactly why so many women have a hard time being believed when they speak out about abuse or sexual harassment. Just because you personally never witnessed someone hurt a woman doesn’t mean he’s never done it. Waters obviously has no idea what went on behind closed doors between Depp and Heard during their marriage. So what if he never saw Depp be brazen enough to “act negatively to a woman” in public? Are we supposed to just take his word for it and accept that that means he never did when there were no witnesses around to see it and report it?

It’s understandable that people want to believe that no one in their inner circle could ever be capable of such horrific behavior; we all tend to fancy ourselves pretty good judges of character, and to allow ourselves to believe someone we were once close to committed violence against women requires us to go back and question what warning signs we missed and wonder whether we ever really knew the person at all. It’s tough. But we have a responsibility to hold our friends and family accountable, and to just blindly dismiss a woman’s claims of abuse because you didn’t see it with your own eyes is unacceptable.

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