[Ed. – There’s some generational separation that’s complete here. Unlike the genteelly horrified Ms. Zimmerman, my first reaction to seeing the aging Depp with his carefully arranged floppy locks, bracelets, and multiple finger rings was, “Seriously? Is that supposed to be ‘sauvage’?”]
In his most ill-advised performance since Tonto, the alleged abuser has become the ubiquitous face of a product whose tagline boasts “Wild at heart.” TVs, stores, and fashion magazines have been flooded with images of a goateed Depp staring into the distance and rolling up his shirtsleeves, knuckles adorned with heavy metal rings. In any context, this combination of facial hair and single-hoop earring would be suspect. But given the campaign’s proximity to Amber Heard’s claims of domestic abuse, Dior’s Sauvage takes on a whole new level of meaning.
Like a particularly strong top note, the memory of Heard’s allegations against Depp linger, rendering Dior’s silly, hypermasculine ad strangely sinister. The problem isn’t with the campaign itself—as stupid as “wild at heart” may sound to some of us, cologne ads often pander to consumers’ inner cavemen. The notion that smearing synthetic scent on their pulse points will somehow make users manly, buff, and irresistible to the opposite sex isn’t what’s off about this campaign. What’s disturbing about Depp’s ads is the inadvertent marriage of virility and violence, with an alleged domestic abuser playing the role of “real man.”