14 November 2020 1776 Views

Sean Connery. Johnny Depp. Donald Trump: what is the connection?

by James Murphy

There is NO Connection. But, got your attention, right?

And, THAT, such as it is? Constitutes a KIND of contrived thread between these 3 figures. 1 dead so cannot defend himself and did not care much for doing so, anyway. 1 MIGHT be your sort of not President or just go build his own media empire. And 1 is Johnny Depp.

Each said and did some bad stuff. Trump harnessed divisive rhetoric and won yuge power doing so. Connery implied that in certain relationships, a ‘schmack’ was quite ok with a woman (it isn’t..but..). Depp got involved in a destructive, abusive relationship and it destroyed him.

Thing is, though? We have forgotten to distinguish any kind of grey area in morality. On the one hand, anything goes. You can be anything. Anyone. Identify as whatever. Great! You just cannot be human. Flawed. Erratic.

Connery did NOT go around slapping women. He was not a poster boy for violence against the fairer sex and made that clear ‘no, I don’t think it’s good to hit women’. Frequently misquoted and maligned.

On his (first) wedding night, Connery was arrested. True. WITH his wife. Because they were beating up EACH OTHER in a tempestuous fight. Does it make the action ‘right’? No. Course not. But it is a shade of grey. Literally.

Oh and incidentally, while using that phrase? That very character, Mr Grey? Promoted as a female and male fantasy, right? Despite his whole gimmick being a love of S n M. Oh the double 0 standards. 

Does Connery’s 007 hit women? Yes. In Russia with Love, he thinks Tatiana is an assassin double agent. Clock ticking, attempts on his life, mission compromised, his friend, dead. So yes, he slaps her. But NOT with any relish or sadism.

By contrast, Diamonds are Forever does indeed see a gratuitous and disgusting act, whereby Connery’s Bond uses a bra as a kind of torture instrument to extract information. Not acceptable then, or now. Lazy, repellent and distasteful in a movie where Sean phoned it in, anyway. If you want his real Bond swansong? See The Rock (1996); 007 in all but name.

I digress. My point is that when the fans mourned Sir Sean’s passing; it was not so much the man as the movie mythology. Rightly so. End of an era in art, all the more poignant because much of his bes(h)t work came later in life, thereby giving him a sheen of immortality.

But nobody wants him sainted, surely? Indeed some opposed his even being Knighted a few years back. The man is not the movie. We are not, as one harsh critic claimed ‘man babies, crying over a wife beater’.

The fact remains that Connery left a legacy of decent and charitable work for educational causes. And created a body of aesthetic distinction across multiple Hollywood classics.

He is a part of Cinema and its cultural history. That cannot and indeed must not be stricken from record. 

Johnny Depp has a similar impact, visually. When I taught English as a foreign language once, all the kids knew the Jack Sparrow gestures.

It was instant.’ahhhh, zat is jacques sparrrrowww!’. Etc. Movies and their stars, at their best, transcend linguistic barriers and thereby, smash them down. That’s how you know a great actor has given us all a truly timeless charm of an onscreen hero.

The Depp/Sparrow character choreography is a work of genius. It was rightly nominated for Oscars and formed a welcome foundation for a franchise that, though very varied in quality, nonetheless entertains anytime Depp is onscreen.

Rebooting without him is pointless.

Johnny is also a distinguished character actor of Brando level talent. Sadly, the man was also prone to drug and alcohol indulgence.

And that, in turn, created a toxic marriage to Amber Heard.

The ensuing court case where he lost the claim for libel to a paper dubbing him a ‘wife beater’ will indeed face an appeal. ‘Beater’ implies something habitual; a defining trait rather than aberrant mistake.

Does it make him ‘right’? No. And he will atone, for sure.

Stint in rehab, mea culpa charity work, play a few baddies, own the narrative. Or at least, that might have been enough, but for Warner Bros firing him from their already overstretched Harrrryyyy Pottttter prequel spin off thingie.

They don’t seem to ‘get’ that he has not been convicted of a crime so much as he has simply lost a libel case. The standard of proof is civil and therefore, lower than its criminal counterpart.

Sacking Depp now? It sends a mixed moral message, especially when little if anything has changed since the allegations first surfaced and he was retained back then. Kick a man while he is down.

Depp used to pack his Jack Sparrow costume anywhere he travelled in the world. Just in case a local hospital had sick kids who needed a visit from their favourite film pirate. I know. What a terrible man, right? WRONG. That’s decency, right there. Tragic.

Speaking of which, along those very Shakespearean lines..tragic/tragedy? Fatal flaws etc..

..That brings us to Donald Trump. Thing is, like it or not? He is still your President. For now. He might not be by January and that’s also fine. And end to the poisonous volatility and Twitter based hysteria.

I get it. Except that Trump did not cause the climate of toxicity alone, anymore than the (now also leaving, UK boo hiss baddie political counterpart) Dominic Cummings crafted the Brexit phenomenon, single handed.

The social divisions are all still ‘there’. Trump and any other figures of controversies du jour, simply traded off that energy. As indeed, did their opposition. It’s a dangerous trend: failing to divorce myth from man; policy from the rhetoric, symptom from cause. This feeds rather than abates populist power-bases.

The fact that your media news networks called the election result on their terms? Ought to be every bit as scary as the Donalds of this world. Equally, if you do fear a Trump ‘coup’ or some quasi-fascistic grip on power?

Ironically enough, the best way to retain a calm, focused upper hand is to ALLOW all democratic and processes to take their course. INCLUDING, yes, however drawn out or uncomfortable, a legal challenge by Trump. It’s happened before. There is historical, legal and moral precedent.

THEN you might just find things quieten down a bit with lessons learned, ‘on both sides’. Because there will be fewer hiding places; reduced theatre. A return to forensic examination of POLICY and the FACTS of its success or failure or somewhere in between.

The connection? NOBODY is perfect. Veneration / Cult like sycophancy? Crying over a lost hero you had a vicarious interest in? Not good. Our heroes are never perfect.

But an equal narrative against one’s idols can be destructive too; not necessarily in our best interests as consumers of media and citizens with respect for law and justice.

Here endeth the lesson..


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