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