Why the Engagement of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Is Important to Our Cultural Narrative

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Why the Engagement of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Is Important to Our Cultural Narrative

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | January 21, 2014 | Comments ()


Johnny Depp, a once great film actor who gave that up to be a great film star after the success of his Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, has had a long and storied romantic life. He was married to a woman named Lori Anne Allison in the early 80s, and he’s been engaged to the likes of Jennifer Grey, Sherilyn Fenn, Winona Ryder, and he even had a four-year relationship with supermodel Kate Moss. Between 1998 and 2012 — a period of 14 years — Johnny Depp was in a committed relationship to French actress and singer Vanessa Paradis, with whom he has two children and what was once considered a very sturdy relationship that weathered several rough patches, including the near death of their daughter to an E. Coli infection.

Depp, who will turn 51 this year, and Paradis, who will turn 42, separated in 2012, and since then, Depp has been dating his Rum Diary co-star, Amber Heard, who is 27. This is not, however, just another Hollywood romance. The engagement of Depp and Heard, which was announced in People magazine this week, is important because it reinforces the social hierarchy of young, attractive blond women, who were beginning to lose favor. Indeed, as recently as just last year, the Maxim Top 100 had only 5 attractive, young blondes in their top 10, and supermodel Kate Upton had fallen all the way to number eight. (Heard, herself, had fallen to an unfathomable number 58).

Even more importantly, the engagement of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard keeps alive the trope that allows television shows like Trophy Wife, First Wives Club and the upcoming The Other Women (with Kate Upton) to continue to exist, and thrive. Were it not for older, wealthy men like Johnny Depp leaving their partners once they reached the age of 40 for younger, blonde women, that stereotype might cease to exist, and entire subgenre of comedy would lose its relevance. Fortunately, however, as long as men like Depp ditch women like Paradis for younger models like Heard, a movie like last year’s Last Vegas, will never lose its timeliness. People in 2060 will be able to understand that movie just as well as those of us who watched it in the present day (and yes, I know, Michael Douglas’ character ultimately ditched the younger woman in favor of a woman closer to his own age, but he could not have subverted the trope if the trope did not exist!).

So thank you, Johnny Depp. Not unlike those valiant men depicted in George Clooney’s Monuments Men — who saved centuries of art from Hitler and the Nazis— you have also fulfilled your small role in saving an entire subsection of our pop-culture library from irrelevance.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • I can appreciate the intent of where this piece was going, but I have to object to the characterization of Paradis as an aged cast-off AND of Heard as a trophy. Maybe I'm behind on Depp gossip, but I heard nothing to indicate Johnny and Vanessa split up over Amber, or even that it was at his instigation. Secondly, Amber Heard hasn't done or said anything vapid enough to make me think she fits the "younger easier model" stereotype of next-wives. Finally, given what the last few PoC stinkers (plus Lone Ranger of the Opera or whatever the hell that was) have done to Depp's stock, I'm not so sure about the power balance. He may have more money, but Heard isn't broke and she's on an upward trajectory. She may not be the one marrying up.

  • ryallen

    Anyone give this more than... oh I don't know... 9 months?

  • TheEmpress

    It's nice to read flat out the kinds of thoughts that are behind the looks I get when my 54 year old husband and my 30 year old self go out to dinner. PS: I'm currently pregnant with our second child. PPS: I'm actually worth more money than he is. Does that somehow change whether or not it's okay to make your blanket judgments? Two consenting adults are getting married. Why are your panties so twisted?

  • Because the balance of power with Depp/Heard is just so, so predictable and Paradis' rejection in favor of the new model so, so public.

  • Predictable. Yes, that is the word I was trying to think of. It's not like we're particularly surprised, there's just that inevitable "uuuuuugh" that comes with reading stories like this. "Oh god, more of THIS, huh?"

  • Minnow

    When I was 14 I had a plan to seduce Johnny Depp until I read things he said about Vanessa Paradis and gave up because clearly their love was eternal. Now he's marrying someone my age. IT COULD HAVE BEEN ME.

    Not that I'd want him now anyway but my inner 14 year old is furious for letting that dream die.

  • AvaLehra

    I think you got the better end of the deal. You're too good for him. I say that, and I don't even know you.

  • asherlev1

    See, I get what you're going for. Where I start getting a bad taste in my mouth is when you reduce Amber heard to an "attractive, young blonde" and ignore every other facet of her personality. I don't know what factors lead up to their engagement and I agree with you that Hollywood has a storied history of such couplings occurring, but. Amber Heard is a human being and she's made the decision to get engaged to Depp and there is more to her than just her age or her hair color. Don't treat like her a sexual object and don't objectify her the way you are criticizing Hollywood for objectifying young, blonde women. IS THIS MAKING ANY SENSE?? I feel like I'm rambling. Complain about the sexism and sexual objectification that is so rampant in Hollywood and all that other shit, but keep the judgement focused on that systematic objectification and away from the person herself? The phrase "younger models like Heard" just threw me off so much. AND URGH I know this entire thing is tongue-in-cheek; maybe I just haven't had my morning cup of tea and am thus being a bore by saying anything.

  • Bad Superman

    Men can have children later in life, that's why this happens. All that matters is what mother nature wants and what she wants is for DNA to replicate itself. Everything else is a by-product, including your 'cultural narrative' and the jealousy that fuels articles like this. Human beings live longer now, long enough for men to raise two families in one lifetime. That's okay, if you can afford it. Johnny Depp can afford it and Amber (along with many, many women), whether she's consciously aware of it or not, wants to have his babies.

  • They can father children, but (statistically) not necessarily the healthiest of children. Age does stuff to the guy half of DNA, too.

  • lukebc

    Actually in biological evolution, particularly mammalian, the older Depp-like male would have been pushed out of the mating pool by the stronger younger male that can physically overtake the now-aging-Depp-like male.

    Of course, the modern human society, with the existence of currency and material wealth, has rendered male physicality much less relevant.

  • logan

    If i for sure knew what you were saying i would punch you in the face.

  • lukebc

    I don't believe you are young and strong enough to.

  • logan

    But my comment asks WHY do they want to have his babies?

  • Ugh, not the biological imperative argument again.

    Yeah, that would hold a lot more water if we didn't have 80-year-old giving birth or elderly communities having record levels of STD breakouts.

    Your reasoning only works during a period where sex was only used for procreation (which has always been never) and there was no way to prove paternity (which is now not a problem).

  • Don't think I don't see what you are doing, Rowles.

    You only wrote this because you want to excuse your leaving us for that younger website Uproxx. What do they have that we don't, huh? We indulge your celebrity crushes, almost to the point of enabling; they dog you out and openly flirt with that Kurp guy. And it's not like we weren't willing to let you gif us. Maybe not as much as that tramp, but we were open to it.



  • pajiba

    I would NEVER leave you, Vermillion. I am faithful to the end. I only date Uproxx to make our relationship stronger! She gives me things (money) that enable me to support the kind of lifestyle that Pajiba is accustomed to. I want to buy you pretty things, so I sell myself to afford them. IT'S ALL FOR YOU.

  • Jezzer

    "She gives me things (money) that enable me to support the kind of lifestyle that Pajiba is accustomed to."

    Pretending "Girls" is a culturally relevant milestone, instead of the same old "YAY, SELF-OBSESSED WHITE PEOPLE ROCK!" crap that has been trending for as long as we've had white people?

  • Uh huh. Don't think I don't see what you are doing. I see your link to your posts over there, rubbing your picture lists in our faces. You can't fool me, Rowles.


  • Sara_Tonin00

    I cracked up on the "video ad to the face..."

  • logan

    The dark seedy side of Pajiba we rarely see.

  • John G.

    There goes my last ounce of respect for Johnny Depp. Just kidding, that's been gone since Pirates2.

  • AvaLehra

    After reading this, I am filled with love for Dustin Rowles this morning -- but seeing that I am over 40 and not blonde, it probably won't matter.

  • kinoumenthe

    I'm over forty and blonde, so I guess it matters like… 15% ?

  • Sara_Tonin00

    can we get a metric? If I'm under 40 and not blonde, do I rank higher because I could at least bleach my hair?

  • logan

    you could bleach your hair but how are you going to drop your IQ 50 points?

    Kidding! Kidding! There is no scientific evidence blondes are less intelligent than brunettes. Or at least any that the blondes would understand!

  • Mrs. Julien

    19.6 % ,or more depending in the shade of blonde.

  • Guest

    So you're telling me that in this situation Johnny Depp is seen as the power player?
    The hell??
    I see a dynamic woman who chose never married her long time lover and father of her children because he is a man child and she is smart and self aware. Then, after the breakup (most likely because Vanessa Paradis is OVER IT! Right?) he gets engaged to a beautiful woman. A beautiful woman who is nearly half his age, trying to make a name for herself in the bizzzzzzzz and... an out lesbian.
    Or am I reading this wrong. Are you saying that Johnny Depp is making an ass of himself. Everyone can see that Johnny Depp is an asshole, right?

  • So you think Vanessa stayed with Johnny for 14 years and bore his two children because she did NOT want to be in a committed relationship with him? Alrighty then.

  • emmalita

    I thought Heard always identified as bisexual. But other than that, spot on, you.

  • iamuhura

    I've always been Team Vanessa Paradis and I don't see that changing anytime soon. Have you seen her latest haircut? She is undoubtedly and completely out of fucks to give about Johnny Depp.

  • JJ

    Applicable yesterday and still applicable today:

  • logan

    Frankly I dont get it. Not the old rich guys buying younger women thing thats been going on forever. The Johnny Depp great actor/lady killer thing. As an actor he's won one Golden Globe. He pretty much just makes weird Tim Burton movies with Burtons wife. Which seems kinda kinky when you think about it.

    As for his appeal to the ladies i just dont get it. He's short, not built at all, cant grow a decent stache and mumbles a lot. He also seems somewhere between fey and gay all the time.
    I say the Emperor has no clothes.

  • I think for a while he had the "indie darling" thing going for him? This would be pre-Pirates more than anything, but some of that European sensibility, fancy independent movie flair follows him even as he does his umpteenth bad Burton role.

  • Jezzer

    Also, he looks like he uses patchouli instead of bathing. I defy you to find a picture of him that doesn't look like it's a scratch n' sniff.

  • Holly Martins

    I'm quite glad he finally let the deep-tortured-soul thing go and just embraced his shallowness.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I could not love this comment more.

  • Meg

    I don't know, he really did have a pretty interesting and diverse output in the early years. I think in like a 10 year span we had Platoon, Edward Scissorhands, Cry-Baby, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Fear and Loathing, Dead Man. Everything kind of went to shit post-Pirates, and the years between the two phases were pretty middling. But there was promise once before he became a caricature of himself.

  • logan

    Platoon was a major picture but Depp had a small role at best. Berenger and Defoe got the most acclaim. The rest of those movies were much smaller and yes Depp was good in them but
    other than scissorhands i would not call them classics.

  • barlowjk

    I will always have a soft spot for Dead Man.

  • John W

    I thought Heard was gay? Didn't she announce her undying love to a photographer she was dating?

  • Eva

    I thought she came out as bisexual, not exclusively lesbian. One of those "I don't care about their gender, I only care about the person" outings.

  • Only interview I saw of her was on Top Gear when she blew Jeremy Clarkson's mind by talking about her girlfriend, her muscle car and her firearms. But I think she hinted at being bi, not lesbian-specific.

  • Eva

    Okay, Celebitchy posted the original quote of hers that I read: “In the past I’ve had successful relationships with men, and now I’m in this successful relationship with a woman. When it comes to love I am totally open,” she told Playboy in 2011.

  • Al Borland's Beard

    Maybe she's been mistaking Depp for a middle aged lesbian, like I have for the past couple years.

  • VonnegutSlut

    Don Imus, Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, James Cameron With Long Hair & Bruce Jenner would like to formally extend him an invitation to the Men Who Look Like Middle Aged Lesbians Club.

  • Or as a friend of mine who loves Tom Leykis is quick to say: "Women's stock is great through the 20s and early 30s, but once it gets past 35 it goes down while men's only goes up."

    Trust me, he loved this story as it reinforced all his beliefs.

  • Now, me, I just think this reinforces the stereotype that rich, handsome, famous and popular guys like Johnny Depp tend to have a natural gravitational pull from all women aged 18-99 and it's all a question of which one they like at that moment.

    I'm more surprised he's willing to get married as opposed to going through the Leo DiCaprio "Pick your VS model of the month" strategy.

  • Meg

    Actually Depp is a serial proposer. If I'm counting correctly this is his fifth or sixth engagement (I can't remember if he was actually engaged to Kate Moss or not.) But seriously, he proposes to all his girlfriends, and supposedly the reason he and Vanessa never married was because SHE didn't want to.

    He seems like one of those guys who's superficially obsessed with the idea of love/marriage.

  • cruzzercruz

    I think it's even more relevant that she used to exclusively date women, until Johnny Depp stepped onto the scene. Not only does he get them young and blonde but he converts them back to heterosexuality?

    This feels like a whole new stereotype being formed.

  • ryallen

    The anti - Costanza.

  • iamuhura

    My guess is that she's still bisexual, she's just engaged to a dude right now. She may also be still dating women. Whooo!

  • Pants-are-a-must

    No woman deserves to be the bit on the side of someone fucking Johnny Depp, kissing Johnny Depp, or doing anything vaguely sexual with Johnny Depp.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    I know a woman who still would do all kinds of nasty things to and with Johnny Depp, although her judgment might be clouded by 21 Jump Street nostalgia.

  • Pants-are-a-must

    Johnny Depp nostalgia is starting to be as pathetic as Leonardo Dicaprio nostalgia.

  • mzblackwidow

    I just don't get the Depp and Leo hate. Not talking about him marrying the blonde bimbo, he ain't alone there. It seems everyone is currently piling on to shit on Depp and Leo's acting cred. Between the two, they have played a greater variety of interesting roles (and played them to perfection) than most other actors.
    I think one Pirates was plenty. I haven't much liked one or 2 of Leo's efforts. But man, I would rather watch either/both of them acting in any piece of shit & at least bringing their extreme A grade chops to the table than watch your Coopers, Bales etc etc play most any character, ever :P

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Well, I don't judge. We all have our weak spots.

  • Mrs. Julien

    This certainly does feed into the whole "older male celebrities who look like your Aunt Muriel' notion.

  • zeke_the_pig

    My Aunt Muriel's engaged to Amber Heard?!
    Looks like I'm finally gonna have to respond to one those pillow party invites she keeps sending

  • BWeaves

    Snort, bwa-hahahaha, inhales tea down breathing tube, choke, cough, cough, Bwa-hahahhaha!

  • Dammit Julien be more careful! We are still cleaning up after the last involuntary manslaughter by laughing fit!

  • "And yes, I know, Michael Douglas’ character ultimately ditched the younger woman in favor of a woman closer to his own age"

    I love that you assume anyone here has seen Last Vegas, remembered - or even cared about - the plot, or felt passionately enough about that cinematic hate crime to correct your statement. You didn't cut corners, even though you could have. It's that attention to detail that keeps me coming back.

  • It's really the reason why we let him have his crush posts. He comes up with stuff like this and the Bradley Cooper interview.

  • iamuhura

    I logged in just so I could upvote this twice. This is how I feel about Pajiba in a nutshell.

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  • Jezzer

    What the hell is a step-c unt?

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