Many otherwise vocally feminist stars were notably quiet during Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s stomach-churning defamation trial earlier this year. Some took sides in other ways—namely, liking social media posts from Depp as he declared victory after the verdict in his favor. But the one star who especially frustrated Depp fans was his daughter, Lily-Rose Depp, who didn’t appear to acknowledge the trial at all.
In a new interview with Elle this week, Lily-Rose broke her silence on the matter—or, rather, explained her choice to be silent. She previously spoke in support of her dad when Heard first alleged Depp had abused her in 2016; at the time, Lily-Rose was 15-years-old. In an Instagram post, she called Depp “the sweetest, most loving person I know.”
The young Depp notably didn’t offer the same glowing words in her interview with Elle published Wednesday. “When it’s something that’s so private and so personal that all of a sudden becomes not so personal…I feel really entitled to my secret garden of thoughts,” she told the magazine of recent ~headlines~ about her dad. “I also think that I’m not here to answer for anybody, and I feel like for a lot of my career, people have really wanted to define me by the men in my life, whether that’s my family members or my boyfriends, whatever. And I’m really ready to be defined for the things that I put out there.”
Lily-Rose emphasized that she was taught growing up to value her privacy and set firm boundaries. “I know my childhood didn’t look like everybody’s childhood, and it’s a very particular thing to deal with, but it’s also the only thing that I know,” Lily-Rose said. “My parents protected my brother, [Jack], and me from it as much as possible. I’ve just been raised in a manner that has taught me that privacy is something that’s important to protect.”
Throughout the spring, Depp and Heard battled in court over whether an op ed Heard wrote in the Washington Post in 2018 had defamed Depp—despite not even naming him—because Heard alluded to surviving intimate partner violence. Amid their trial, Heard produced damning evidence of a sustained pattern of violence and abuse from Depp, and notably, a U.K. ruling years earlier had recognized Depp as a “wife-beater.” But in the U.S., Heard became the subject of a massive, coordinated harassment campaign painting her as a liar and Depp as a victim, as Depp’s legal team argued the relationship had been “mutually abusive” because Heard had fought back against him and, as a result, wasn’t a perfect victim.
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Watching the spectacle of their trial throughout the spring, I wished more celebrities and influential people would use their platforms to defend Heard and abuse victims from the vicious online attacks, all while social media platforms profited. It was frustrating, instead, to see ostensibly feminist stars like Billie Eilish who did speak up essentially shrug off the trial: “Who fucking gives a fuck? Women are losing rights for their bodies, so why are we talking about celebrities’ divorce trials? Who gives a shit? Let them figure it out on their own,” she said of the trial at the time.
In contrast, Lily-Rose’s silence makes sense on some level. There’s a tendency for family members—especially female family members—or close female friends to publicly support famous men who are accused of abuse. It’s pretty normal to feel like your positive experience with a loved one is universal, despite how all people contain multitudes and a man doesn’t have to assault every woman in his life to have abused someone. Too often, celebrities don’t seem to realize that they can both recognize a loved one has harmed others, still love them, and not publicly call those who have accused them liars.
I don’t know how Lily-Rose feels about her father. But I don’t need to know, and honestly, we’re allowed to have complicated feelings about family members. I do think it speaks volumes that, despite her father’s significant mainstream popularity (the man quite literally appeared in Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty fashion show earlier this month), as an adult, Lily-Rose has made a pointed choice to not publicly defend or side with him.
More recently, however, more visible public figures like Phoebe Bridgers have spoken out in support of Heard and recognized the damage that her trial—and the misogynist circle that engulfed it—inflicted on all victims, and especially those with less privilege. Bridgers argued that because Heard, who’s bisexual, and also resisted Depp’s abuse, she wasn’t a “perfect victim” and was excoriated for this. Constance Wu and Emily Ratajkowski, who have both detailed past experiences with sexual violence, have publicly stood with Heard too.
And on the same day that Lily-Rose’s interview with Elle published, top national feminist organizations and activists like Gloria Steinem signed an open letter supporting Heard. The letter expressed concern about growing anti-feminist backlash and the weaponization of costly defamation suits against victims who come forward and said the trial had been “fueled by disinformation, misogyny, biphobia, and a monetized social media environment where a woman’s allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault were mocked for entertainment.”
Some of the organizations, like Know Your IX and the Women’s March, have publicly supported Heard before. Others, I’d argue, probably could have spoken up earlier, while Depp—whose legal team consulted with a top Trump aide to rehab his image—and his supporters ran away with the public narrative. In many regards, Depp has never been more popular. But his own daughter’s hesitation to publicly support him suggests the tide might be turning.