Unless you have been hibernating in the wilds of Ladakh, by now you will have heard about the messy breakdown of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s marriage. If, like me, you are something of a news junkie, you will have the details of their marital meltdown coming out of your ears.
To recap very briefly, it happened thus: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard met on the sets of the movie, The Rum Diary, and fell in love. Johnny broke up with his partner of 14 years, the French actress Vanessa Paradis, who is the mother of his two children, and moved in with Amber. Fifteen months ago, Depp and Heard got married in a spectacular beach ceremony in the Bahamas.
And a couple of weeks ago, just days after the death of Johnny’s beloved 81-year-old mother, Betty Sue Palmer, Amber sued her husband for divorce and obtained a temporary restraining order against him on the grounds that he had been physically abusive towards her through the course of their short-lived (but clearly stormy) marriage. To prove her case, Amber produced pictures of her battered face, with bruises around her eyes and a fat lip.
The Depp camp responded with denials and statements from Depp’s ex-partner, Paradis, and his daughter, Lily-Rose, about what a lovely and loving man he was, and how it was impossible that he would hit a woman. Heard hit back by leaking an exchange of messages she had had with Depp’s assistant a few years ago, which seemed to acknowledge a history of abuse from Depp over a period of time. The assistant responded by saying the messages were fabricated. And so it went, on and on and on.
No break-up is ever pleasant but there is something particularly nasty about celebrity break-ups. It’s not just that the world’s attention is focused on the private lives of strangers, but that everyone has an opinion on stuff that they couldn’t possibly have any knowledge of. And before you know it, fans of both parties have come down on one side or another, sticking by their respective idols with a resolution matched only by their ignorance.
So, we have Camp Depp, which insists that there is no way that Johnny could have been abusive towards Amber. He is such a splendid, stand-up guy! Didn’t you see what a marvellous job he did as Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean? Not to mention his performance in Alice In Wonderland. She is just making up all this stuff to get a bigger divorce settlement.
Ranged against Camp Depp is Camp Heard, which is considerably smaller but makes up for it by being a bit shriller. Their view seems to be that women who claim to be victims of domestic abuse should be believed – or else other women will be too afraid to come forward and report their abusive partners. And why would Amber be making this stuff up anyway? It is not in the interest of a small-time actress like her to take on the might of a Hollywood megastar like Johnny Depp.
And thus it goes. Emotions run high. Arguments break out, both in real life and on social media. For some reason, people seem to take this stuff personally even though they don’t know the persons involved.
I don’t know about you, but what this reminds me of is the time when Brad Pitt broke up with Jennifer Aniston and went off to play happy families with Angelina Jolie. Even then, the world seemed to be divided into Team Aniston and Team Jolie; for some reason, no one thought it fit to create a Team Pitt.
But while every celebrity break-up is unique in its own way – certainly, there were no accusations of domestic violence against Pitt – they do teach us the same lessons. Here, in no particular order of importance, are the top three:
If you have a fortune to protect, whether you are a man or a woman, always get a pre-nuptial agreement signed before you sign on the marriage certificate. Yes, I know, it is not terribly romantic to foresee what may happen in the case of a divorce even before the wedding. But it is the best way to ensure that you are not risking the assets you spent years building up; and, more to the point, that your prospective spouse is marrying you for the right reasons.
Try your damnedest to keep the media out of your business. Work out all your issues – alimony, divorce settlements, child custody arrangements – in private with your lawyers. Once you have negotiated all these tricky bits, release a joint statement to the media. Follow the example of those ‘conscious uncouplers’, Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow, or nearer home, Hrithik Roshan and Sussanne Khan, who have remained publicly supportive of each other even after their divorce.
There is a thin line between love and hate, and it is all too easy to tip over to the other side when your relationship is disintegrating. But no matter how bitter and angry you are with your soon-to-be ex-partner, try and remember that this is a person you once loved and wanted to spend your life with. Respect and civility goes a long way. And even if it isn’t reciprocated, in the long run you will be happy that you, at least, did the right thing.
From HT Brunch, June 12, 2016
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