As the news broke that Johnny Depp had been cast in J.K. Rowling's eagerly awaited 'Fantastic Beasts', despite Depp being accused of domestic abuse earlier this year, I couldn't help but think that the title could be an oxymoron for summarizing celebrities who rape. 'Beasts' for their violence and abuse, and 'fantastic' for their talents as actors and directors.
As depressing as it is, earlier this year I published my analysis of the Roman Polanski case which has carried over several decades without closure. Despite its impact on discussions of rape, consent, and abuses of power from the 1970s onwards on a wide range of media and academic stages, it has not stopped the stream of victims (or rape apologists) coming out of Hollywood. Hugely successful men continue to be accused of rape, domestic abuse, and violence. However, as fans are increasingly protesting, the stories of women describing their pain and fear have not stopped these 'fantastic beasts' from continuing to win impressive contracts or opportunities.
We can worry about what kind of message that sends about masculinity and relationships to the many Harry Potter fans who are also survivors, as well as young men reading the books - but isn't this lost in a tsunami of powerful, successful men who have hurt women with no consequence? I write this post the day before the U.S. election - where Donald Trump has admitted to grabbing women by their 'pussies' and has been accused of multiple counts of rape and sexual assault - and he's still in the running. How do you explain to victims of sexual violence that their pain matters, when abusers go on to win big movie contracts, and surveys show that a man who declares such behaviour so proudly, could be the next president (if media predictions are to be believed)?
How can we believe that the trauma experienced by survivors (of all genders) is acknowledged and important, when abusive men continue to be celebrated for their success? When will we give the attention due to their beastliness (i.e. their violence, abusive behaviour, and/or misogyny) that we do to their 'fantastic' talents?
'Fantastic beasts' also has the wonderful interpretation of fantastical as 'unreal' - a fantasy. It explains why we have this difficulty - that it is simply easier to ignore the violence and cast it aside as 'unreal' or a lie, because we like to think of rapists and violent men as 'beastly' strangers, hiding down a dark alley with no family or friends. Someone who is probably 'crazy' (you can thank over a century of problematic psychological theories for that one...). Blaming some 'madman' is easier than acknowledging the violence by fathers, brothers, partners, friends and colleagues that feminists have been documenting for decades. We assume that violence and success are incompatible, thus these 'beasts' are relegated to the realm of fantasy as 'monsters' far removed from the men we know and admire. But for survivors and those who know and love them, the violence is all too real, and unfortunately, so too is the celebration of abusive men deemed 'successful' or 'fantastic'.