- Just Cancel the Fantastic Beasts Franchise Already
- Criticism from the moment of inception
- Depp remains cast despite allegations against him
- Allegations against Ezra Miller are followed by J.K. Rowling’s transphobic comments
- J.K. Rowling is “genuinely happy” Johnny Depp is in the Fantastic Beasts films. Fans are not
- Support of Depp indicates willingness to disbelieve an abuse victim
- Grindelwald was already complicated character. Depp’s casting furthers those complications
Just Cancel the Fantastic Beasts Franchise Already
Johnny Depp has finally stepped down from the Fantastic Beasts franchise after being dogged by allegations of abuse for years. Warner Bros. should seize the opportunity to cancel a franchise plagued by scandal.
On Nov. 2, a judge in the U.K. found that The Sun could legally call Johnny Depp a “wife beater” without defaming him, saying evidence indicated Depp put his ex-wife Amber Heard “in fear of her life.” According to Depp, Warner Bros.
asked him to step down from his role in the Fantastic Beasts movies following the ruling, even as Depp maintained his innocence. “The surreal judgement of the court in the UK will not change my fight to tell the truth, and I confirm that I plan to appeal,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
Depp starred in two of the five planned Fantastic Beasts films.
A Warner Bros. spokesperson said in a statement to TIME: “Johnny Depp will depart the Fantastic Beasts franchise. We thank Johnny for his work on the films to date. Fantastic Beasts 3 is currently in production, and the role of Gellert Grindelwald will be recast.”
It’s astounding in a post-#MeToo world that a major studio Warner Bros. would continue to film with Depp even as he was accused of assault in the courts. But seemingly nothing could deter the studio from releasing this Harry Potter prequel series.
The franchise has endured a minefield of scandals, even beyond Depp’s alleged bad behavior, including a viral video of star Ezra Miller appearing to choke a woman in a bar, and J.K. Rowling’s anti-trans comments. Many devout Harry Potter fans have called to cancel Rowling and boycott all her future work.
Even Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint have spoken out against Rowling’s transphobic comments. And yet this franchise soldiers on.
Criticism from the moment of inception
Fantastic Beasts announced itself as one of the most problematic franchises in Hollywood from the get-go. Rowling, who wrote all the Harry Potter books but none of the film adaptions, earned the position of sole screenwriter and producer of the Fantastic Beasts series.
Early on, she signaled that the prequel franchise would cover the conflict between the noble wizard Albus Dumbledore and his Hitler-esque enemy Gellert Grindelwald.
The prospect excited fans: After the original Harry Potter series was published, Rowling told fans that Dumbledore and Grindelwald were in love as teenagers.
Many critics had taken issue with Rowling’s refusal to include Dumebldore and Grindelwald’s relationship in the text itself but rather announce that Dumbledore was gay ex post facto. They believed she was trying to claim the mantel of liberalism without alienating more conservative fans.
The pattern continued in the summer of 2016 with the release of another chapter in the Harry Potter saga, the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
The production of that screenplay heavily implied an attraction between Harry’s son Albus and Malfoy’s son Scorpius, but the possible romantic link never manifests in a relationship or even a kiss.
Instead the two boys find themselves—seemingly reluctantly, in the version I saw onstage—in straight relationships in the very last minutes of the play. Again, fans expressed their disappointment, accusing the Harry Potter universe of queerbaiting its audience.
Once more, those same fans were disheartened by the two entries in the Fantastic Beasts franchise that have debuted so far. Crimes of Grindelwald, especially, subtly advertised itself as revolutionary—the first major film franchise with a gay protagonist. But no character utters a word about Dumbledore’s love life in the script.
Depp remains cast despite allegations against him
Of course, the problems were compounded by Depp’s casting. Heard levied her accusations against Depp in 2016 when she filed for divorce from the actor and then filed for a restraining order.
Depp appeared as Grindelwald for a few minutes at the end of 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but could easily have been recast by the time the 2018 sequel, Crimes of Grindelwald, began production.
(Some tomfoolery involving polyjuice potion actually offered Rowling an easy way to transform Grindelwald’s appearance in future films.)
But in 2017, Rowling defended Depp’s casting in the role, implying that she knew information about Heard’s allegations that the public did not. She wrote she could not share those details because of “agreements that have been put in place to protect the privacy of the two people.
” She added: “ 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.” Overall, the defense reads a “he said, she said” dismissal of the events.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Crimes of Grindelwald director David Yates dismissed Heard’s claims as “one person who took a pop at [Depp] and claimed something…Whatever accusation was out there doesn’t tally with the kind of human being I’ve been working with.
” Remember, this was in November of 2017, the absolute height of the #MeToo movement. Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and dozens more women came forward with accusations of harassment, assault and rape against powerful producer Harvey Weinstein just weeks prior.
Weinstein’s downfall led to a cascade of revelations of abuse in Hollywood.
And studios were responding: A day before Rowling put out her statement defending Depp, the trailer dropped for All the Money in the World, a movie that reshot in order to entirely cut out its star Kevin Spacey, following allegations of assault, and replace him with Christopher Plummer.
Even then, many balked at Rowling’s defense of Depp. News outlets labeled these defenses “truly gross,” and a “betrayal” of millions of fans.
The Sun published the column Depp eventually sued over in April of 2018. It was titled “Gone Potty: How Can J.K.
Rowling Be ‘Genuinely Happy’ Casting Wife Beater Johnny Depp in the New Fantastic Beasts Film?” and urged Rowling to use her power to push Depp the role.
The lurid details of the alleged abuse were aired in the libel case against The Sun over the summer.
Any media-literate outside observer could have told Warner Bros. that removing Depp was inevitable. And yet he made two movies for the franchise and was set to star in three more before this week’s ruling.
Allegations against Ezra Miller are followed by J.K. Rowling’s transphobic comments
Warner Bros.’ long refusal to deal with the Depp allegations presaged their lack of action after a disturbing video of Miller went viral in April.
The clip appears to show Miller choking a woman and throwing her to the ground n a bar in Iceland. At the time, Variety spoke to someone at the bar who confirmed Miller’s identity in the video.
But in light of other news that has since emerged, the incident has largely faded from the conversation.
One of the debates that has overtaken the Miller news centered on Rowling herself.
Earlier this year, Rowling hinted several times at anti-trans sentiment before eventually dropping a 3,700-word essay that made her position clear: “I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators.
” She implied that trans people are confused about their identity and even engaged with the unsupported and fear-mongering theory that opening women’s bathrooms to trans women would lead to an uptick in assaults. Rowling went on to publish a book this fall that included a character that was offensive to trans and non-binary people.
Many Harry Potter fans believe Rowling has betrayed the values she long espoused. Millennials and Gen-Zers were weaned on the tale of how Harry Potter conquered hate with love, bigotry with acceptance.
Her most loyal readers used these stories as a guidebook for how to resist hate, racism and xenophobia in their own lives. They carried her works as a symbol of the resistance.
To have the women who taught them those values then advocate for curtailing the rights of trans people broke the hearts of some of her most fervent fans.
The backlash was swift and loud. Many Harry Potter fans are simply writing J.K. Rowling the narrative. “I don’t want to give J.K.
Rowling the satisfaction of taking away from me something that I loved as a kid,” one fan told the New York Times this summer.
Now even the most mild Rowling-adjacent events, London’s Natural History Museum announcing an exhibition on the Fantastic Beasts from Rowling’s imagination, draw ire on .
The franchise was going to lose fans anyway: The last installment got terrible reviews. But with the ghost of Depp haunting the movies, Rowling still at the helm and Miller in place as the franchise’s emerging star, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which Harry Potter’s most devoted fans want to continue to give money to this franchise.
The Fantastic Beasts team has yet to prove that they care deeply about the message of Rowling’s original story, so precious to her fans, that empathy is the most powerful force in the world.
It’s time for those associated with this movie to demonstrate empathy—to victims of abuse, to trans and nonbinary folks, to the fans that are desperate for hope and kindness.
Write to Eliana Dockterman at email@example.com.
J.K. Rowling is “genuinely happy” Johnny Depp is in the Fantastic Beasts films. Fans are not
Warner Bros./J.K. Rowling
After weeks of backlash over Warner Bros.’ confirmation that it had cast Johnny Depp in the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, J.K. Rowling has issued a statement defending the move, writing in a note to fans posted on her website that she is “genuinely happy” to have Depp in the role.
Controversy over the choice to cast Depp in the role of villainous wizard supremacist Gellert Grindelwald began to brew last month, in response to an Entertainment Weekly spread previewing Depp’s Grindelwald opposite co-star Jude Law as Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the upcoming continuation of the Harry Potter prequel series. Depp was initially revealed as Grindelwald at the end of 2016’s Fantastic Beasts, but many fans had hoped Warner Bros. would recast the role in light of renewed cultural conversations about sexual assault and violence against women.
honestly never thought i'd be disappointed in my childhood idol but here we are.
— SaiℓorByun ♡ ELECTRIC KISS ♡ Praise 4 Seyoon Kink (@niyoonie) December 7, 2017
Last year, actress Amber Heard filed for divorce from and a restraining order against Depp, documenting numerous incidents of physical, verbal, and emotional abuse throughout their marriage.
Still, despite the serious and public nature of Heard’s accusations, Depp has continued to star and be cast in major films the Fantastic Beasts sequel — a trend that’s led to growing frustration within a cultural conversation that’s actively questioning how Hollywood and other industries protect abusers.
Support of Depp indicates willingness to disbelieve an abuse victim
In her note about the casting, Rowling stated that while she understood why fans were upset, she and the filmmakers were positive about bringing Depp back on board.
Harry Potter fans had legitimate questions and concerns about our choice to continue with Johnny Depp in the role. As David Yates, long-time Potter director, has already said, we naturally considered the possibility of recasting. I understand why some have been confused and angry about why that didn’t happen.
The huge, mutually supportive community that has grown up around Harry Potter is one of the greatest joys of my life. For me personally, the inability to speak openly to fans about this issue has been difficult, frustrating and at times painful.
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.
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’s note refers to Fantastic Beasts director David Yates’s November 28 defense of Depp’s casting to EW, which characterizes Heard’s allegations of assault as “one person who took a pop at him.”
“With Johnny, it seems to me there was one person who took a pop at him and claimed something,” Yates said. “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.”
In fact, Heard’s allegations against Depp, most of which are heavily documented, span about two years and cover a range of serious claims, including physical assault with a cell phone, which left Heard visibly bruised and filing a restraining order; texts detailing alleged physical abuse; a leaked video of Depp smashing a wine bottle in front of Heard; photographs implying that Depp physically assaulted her; and photographs of Depp allegedly cutting off part of his finger to spite Heard.
In court documents last year, Depp’s former managers confirmed many details of these allegations. Multiple people witnessed Depp abusing Heard, including a friend, iO Tillett Wright, who called 911 and later described Heard’s account of the incident as a “195-pound man throwing the full weight of his body into head-butting his 120-pound wife in the face in a fit of rage.”
The 2016 divorce settlement between Heard and Depp ultimately involved a joint statement saying “our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love …
There was never an intent of physical or emotional harm.
” Lest this be interpreted as a negation of Heard’s claims, however, the statement goes on to clarify, “Neither party has made false accusations for financial gains.”
This statement seems to be Rowling’s main rationale for embracing Depp in the role.
However, given the totality and corroborations of Heard’s allegations, Rowling’s support of Depp indicates a disappointing willingness to disbelieve the victim.
(It should be noted that Rowling herself is believed to be a victim of domestic abuse, who once had to file for a restraining order against her ex-husband. She also supports charities which give aid to women dealing with domestic violence.)
Heard rereleased the statement Thursday night on with a telling note of caution:
For the record, this was our FULL joint statement.To pick&choose certain lines & quote them context, is not right.Women, stay strong. pic..com/W7Tt6A3ROj
— Amber Heard (@realamberheard) December 8, 2017
Fans were divided on Rowling’s statement, with many choosing to take Rowling’s support of Depp, coupled with her insinuation of inside knowledge of the situation between Depp and Heard, as an indication of his innocence. Others were clearly not happy:
» your understanding of the circumstances» you let the monster in for a lot of people who felt safe in your universe. You owe them more than you owe Depp, and that's what this should've been all about.
— Dovaogēdys (@TomasNahuel_) December 7, 2017
«There will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.»
I've carried this quote deep in my heart ever since I first read it. I am so sad to see that you chose what is easy.
— kathleen quinlan (@kathleenq) December 7, 2017
unpopular opinion: we should've stopped listening to JK Rowling a long time ago
— Anne Helen Petersen (@annehelen) December 7, 2017
Grindelwald was already complicated character. Depp’s casting furthers those complications
The casting of Grindelwald is a complicated issue for multiple reasons.
For starters, he is a fundamentally evil character who occupies a role within the Harry Potter universe that’s analogous to that of Hitler.
Depp’s bleached hair and military-style costume make this connection clear — and in 2018, Nazi analogues in a series as influential as Harry Potter will be extremely culturally significant.
But there’s also the possibility that Grindelwald might be gay. Most fans are expecting future installments of the series to explore the complicated relationship between Grindelwald and his former best friend, Albus Dumbledore.
Rowling has hinted broadly that the films will deal with Dumbledore’s identity as a gay man, leading many fans to believe that the Dumbledore/Grindelwald relationship will be a romantic one.
Having an onscreen queer relationship would be a major first for the Harry Potter universe, but having one member of the series’ first canonically gay relationship be an archvillain would also be a fraught narrative choice — even without invoking Nazis.
Finally, Depp is an actor accused of domestic violence in a moment of huge cultural reckoning with sexual assault, as well as with the way Hollywood’s power structure frequently works to silence victims.
Allowing him to continue in the role is a controversial step knowingly taken within the framework of this larger discussion — and this is clearly what motivated Rowling to address the casting with her fans.
However, it’s also clear from the response to Rowling’s note that casting a controversial actor in a controversial role amid an intensely controversial cultural context could be a long-term issue for Rowling’s “mutually supportive” Harry Potter community.
«,»author»:»Aja Romano»,»date_published»:»2017-12-08T15:30:02.000Z»,»lead_image_url»:»https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/1SgHmQvTDvtVctoWEkl5ZVZ4Vms=/0x17:670×368/fit-in/1200×630/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/9834199/rowlingdepp.jpg»,»dek»:»Depp, whoâs been accused of domestic abuse, plays the villain Grindelwald â but his casting and the role are complicated.