Johnny Depp is in the news again–but this time, it has nothing to do with his messy split from Amber Heard. This time, it’s because his latest fragrance ad for Dior has been scraped from the internet after a major backlash.
Johnny Depp has been the face of Dior Sauvage since 2015. In case you don’t speak French, “sauvage” roughly translates to “savage.” And given that the fashion house described their latest campaign as “an authentic journey deep into the Native American soul in a sacred, founding, and secular territory,” you can see why there’s some controversy.
The ad–which you can still find on YouTube, because the internet is forever–shows Depp wandering through the Utah desert, shredding on a classic Gibson Les Paul guitar and dressed vaguely like Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
Incidentally, the guitar riff he’s playing was originally written by Native American rocker Link Wray, a hugely influential guitarist. Not that you’d know that from Dior’s ad!
Meanwhile, a Native American man named Canku Thomas One Star (a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe of South Dakota) performs a traditional dance in full regalia. Elsewhere, a beautiful young woman wearing a wolf-skin hood watches Depp like a frightened deer.
According to the press release from Dior, the company worked closely with a variety of Native American consultants to ensure that they did not offend anyone. Dior claims that these consultants were there to help fight cultural appropriation and promote “authentic inclusion.”
Unfortunately, that plan backfired. The ad sparked an immediate backlash from Native American and First Nations critics online. The word “savage” is especially racially charged. Other social media posts called into question the use of traditional sacred costumes, as well as Depp’s contentious history with claiming Native American heritage.
Although he once claimed to have Cherokee or Creek heritage through his mother, Depp himself is not Native American. (And to be honest, the guy looks like he’s in need of a shower and the best deodorant on the market rather than some pricey cologne.) He was, however, adopted by the Comanche Nation prior to his role as Tonto in The Lone Ranger.
Following the public outrage, Dior quietly scrapped the entire campaign.
Tanaya Beatty has spoken out about her role as “the maiden” in the fragrance ad. Beatty–a Canadian actress descended from the Da’naxda’xw tribe–described in a series of Instagram posts about how she felt conflicted about being involved in the ad to begin with. She plans to make a donation to a non-profit that benefits Native peoples.
“And… perhaps I’d even encourage a certain perfume company and a certain beloved pirate to make a donation as well. Just sayin’,” Beatty wrote.
To be fair, Dior already made a donation to the Americans for Indian Opportunity advocacy group, but they might want to examine their marketing ideas in the future.