Johnny Depp's cachet comeback with Savage X Fenty: A disheartening sign of #MeToo backlash

The disgraced actor will be the first man in Rihanna's lingerie show's history to have a featured “star” moment

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published November 4, 2022 9:59AM (EDT)

Rihanna and Johnny Depp (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Rihanna and Johnny Depp (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Savage X Fenty, Rihanna's acclaimed lingerie brand, has some explaining to do. 

The brand's upcoming "Savage X Fenty Vol. 4" fashion show is spotlighting Johnny Depp, who will make a "cool and chic" cameo on the runway along with a star-studded guest list that includes "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" actor Winston Duke, "Abbott Elementary" Emmy winner Sheryl Lee Ralph and Marvel's "Shang-Chi" star Simu Liu.

Per IndieWire, the disgraced actor will be the first male celebrity in Savage X Fenty history to be a featured "star" modeling the brand's men's collection in an event that will be streamed on Prime Video on November 9.

Enlisting Depp for a prestige spot like this was bound to be controversial, given his recent legal troubles. It appears to run contradictory to the ethos of the brand, which has long promoted diversity, inclusivity and female empowerment. To celebrate Depp — accused of domestic violence by his ex-wife Amber Heard, and having lost a libel suit over being labeled a "wife beater" (the article in the British tabloid The Sun was deemed "substantially true" by a UK court) — with such a prominent role in the Savage X Fenty show feels off. It's also left some fans wondering why Rihanna — whose ex-boyfriend Chris Brown pleaded guilty to assaulting her in 2009 — would look to align her brand so prominently with an alleged abuser. 

By choosing to work with Depp, the brand is contributing to a disheartening wave of backlash to the #MeToo movement, essentially raising a middle finger to survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Time and time again, we've seen powerful, problematic men in entertainment continue to be rewarded by their industries with little regard for those harmed. It's an all-too-familiar tale at this point

Earlier this year, Depp got off easy in his six-week-long defamation trial with Heard. A seven-person jury ultimately determined that Heard had acted with "malice" in a 2018 op-ed for The Washington Post, in which she details personal accounts of abuse but refrains from explicitly naming Depp as her abuser. Heard was awarded $2 million in compensatory damages for her counterclaim of defamation, while Depp was awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages for his.

Regarding his professional life, Depp previously explained how the former couple's history of legal battles has impacted — and continues to impact — his career, and testified that it was practically "done" from "the second the allegations were made against me." In December 2018, Depp was dropped from the sixth installment of "Pirates of the Caribbean." Two years later, he was forced to exit the "Fantastic Beasts" movies and was replaced by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen.

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Despite the blows, Depp's public acclaim, ardent fanbase and stacked résumé have all afforded him some comfort and stability. That wasn't the case for Heard, who is much younger and less established in Hollywood than her former partner. And now, months after the trial, that still holds true as Depp furthers his comeback while Heard is left to struggle with the professional and financial burden their court case dropped into her lap. 

Not too long after the conclusion of the Depp/Heard trial, the actor was back at work. In August, Depp made a brief yet bizarre cameo at the MTV Video Music Awards as the MoonPerson, the show's official mascot. He also toured alongside musician Jeff Beck prior to releasing their joint-album "18" in the summer. And there is a string of projects lined up for the future as well, including the directing of a biographical drama about Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani and a return to the big screen in 2023 with the French biographical film "La Favorite," in which he plays King Louis XV.

Given all of this, Depp's involvement with the "Savage X Fenty Vol. 4" fashion show isn't so much surprising as it is infuriating. 

By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon, covering Culture and Food. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Commentary Johnny Depp #metoo Rihanna Savage X Fenty