Johnny Depp through the looking glass

In his middle age, Johnny Depp still possesses an unusual, arresting facial beauty. A beauty that exceeds conventional handsomeness, and — especially in his youth — wandered into a kind of feline, even feminine territory.

Written by Rhonda Garelick
We know, of course, that men can be beautiful, but rarely do we acknowledge, let alone analyse, the powerful influence male beauty wields.
That power was a central, yet singularly unacknowledged, element in the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial, which wrapped up this month. Depp, like many Hollywood megastars, has long benefited from his striking good looks, which clearly played a role in the enormous social media support he garnered during the trial (of which it seems hard to imagine that the unsequestered jury was unaware).
But Depp is not your standard American handsome actor. He is “a man who still carries the reputation for being one of the most beautiful men in Hollywood,” as Katie Edwards wrote in The Independent. Instagram and Twitter accounts devoted to the trial amassed followers in the tens of thousands and routinely posted hundreds of close-up photographs of him.
One Instagram page, depp_perfection, had nearly 40,000 followers. Another account, had more than 30,000 followers and used the tagline “He’s just like a dream.”
It’s hard to tell the origin of accounts such as these two — if and how they may be connected to Depp’s defense and public relations teams — but it seems clear that for many of Depp’s fans, the actor’s physical appeal offered an external manifestation of inner worth. On Twitter, hundreds of accounts, many with names that include phrases like Justice Served for Johnny Depp (with over 41,000 followers), focused on Depp’s physical beauty, assuring us, for example, that Depp “is just as beautiful in real life,” or calling him a “king” or a “god.”
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It’s rare to see male beauty inspiring such moral conclusions. Beauty remains a subject reserved largely for and about women. It’s typically women whose appearances are dissected into countless parts to be assessed or embellished — eyes, lips, skin, hair. It’s mostly women whose beauty is scrutinised constantly for signs of perceived decay or mishap, attributed to aging, weight gain, inadequate (or even excessive) maintenance or other potential crimes.
Women, metaphorically, occupy the realm of faces and bodies. Men are presumed to live in the realm of ideas and action. So, according to conventional thinking, to focus on a man’s beauty (as opposed to, say, his virility), or use it to adjudge his character, risks emasculating him, depriving him of his inner value, his spirit, strength or accomplishments. And so we shy away from mentioning male beauty very much.