Johnny Depp: a Retrospective on Late Stage Capitalism
- Gareth K Vile
- 13 August 2019
Film star behaves like a knob shock
Before Johnny Depp himself bowls up on stage, ties up the presenters and reminds the audience how amazing he is, the academic intentions of this lecture-performance are clearly established. Depp began his career as a heart-throb, negotiated this into relevance and box office star-power, before becoming a dumpster fire of toxic masculinity: how did this happen, and why is he a lesbian icon? Neither question is answered, but the trawl through Depp's catalogue of films and shenanigans is amusing and details a slice of pop-cultural history.
With most of his films mentioned, it is surprising both how ubiquitous Depp has been, the range of his roles and how many absolute stinkers he has taken the money for and ran. His behaviour, meanwhile, is a boorish reiteration of rock'n'roll clichés: adolescent pledges of love to Winona Ryder, hotel rooms smashed, excessive expenditure on drink and drugs and Hunter S Thompson's cremation, threatening the POTUS. His grand finale – spousal abuse – is the point when his antics become expressive of their fundamentally ugly values. Yet despite the criticism of his cavalier attitude to cash, Depp doesn't come across as especially wicked.
And perhaps that is late capitalism's identity: not evil but thoughtless, privileged and desperate to please and appear cool. Depp doesn't come well out of the presentation, but the political force of the arguments about how his fortune could be used to benefit society is lost in the jokes, rendering the show entertaining, toothless but suggestive of a sharper critique to come.
Laughing Horse @ The Place, run ended.