Last week, we told you what was problematic about the media response to Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s engagement. In short, people have a problem with Amber Heard’s bisexuality. Last night, on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Johnny Depp kissed the host, Kimmel, after a great deal of performative foreplay. This is hardly news – it’s not even the first time the pair have pulled the stunt. But it’s still worth remarking on.
On the one hand, you could call it a positive sign of the times that the two men felt comfortable enough to do this. One of my first thoughts watching it was that this would never have happened in the nineties. And it’s not exactly homophobic – they certainly don’t express discomfort at the act.
But is there actually anything progressive about it? Or does it expose the privileges of straight white men once again? Avowedly straight men in the liberal media gaze are at licence these days to perform any sexuality they choose, in character and out, and that’s more than used to be the case. But can you imagine the fuss if Amber Heard had done the same with a female talk show host? (And snark alert: her first problem would be finding one amid the sausage fest of late night TV…). You might say that’s a different scenario, given that she’s openly expressed attraction to the opposite sex in the past. But that doesn’t mean she can’t distinguish between performing sexual attraction and feeling it sincerely. She’s a performer by trade! Yet you just know what the media reaction would be if she went near another woman in this way, even if it was done in jest beyond a shadow of a doubt. And that remains a shame.
Watch Depp and Kimmel do their thing here: