It’s hard to tell the origin of accounts such as these two — if and how they may be connected to Mr. Depp’s defense and public relations teams — but it seems clear that for many of Mr. Depp’s fans, the actor’s physical appeal offered an external manifestation of inner worth. On Twitter, hundreds of accounts, many with names like “Justice Served for Johnny Depp” (with 40,800 followers), focused on Mr. Depp’s physical beauty, assuring us, for example, that Mr. Depp “is just as beautiful in real life,” or calling him a “king,” or a “god.”
It’s rare to see male beauty inspiring such moral conclusions. Beauty remains a subject reserved largely for and about women. It’s typically women whose appearances are dissected into countless parts to be assessed or embellished — eyes, lips, skin, hair. It’s mostly women whose beauty is scrutinized constantly for signs of perceived decay or mishap, attributed to aging, weight gain, inadequate (or even excessive) maintenance or other potential crimes.
Women, metaphorically, occupy the realm of faces and bodies. Men are presumed to live in the realm of ideas and action. So, according to conventional thinking, to focus on a man’s beauty (as opposed to, say, his virility), or use it to adjudge his character, risks emasculating him, depriving him of his inner value, his spirit, strength or accomplishments. And so we shy away from mentioning male beauty very much.
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Mr. Depp proves an exception to this rule. In his middle age, he still possesses an unusual, arresting facial beauty. A beauty that exceeds conventional handsomeness, and — especially in his youth — wandered into a kind of feline, even feminine territory: a symmetrical face with large, dark, almond-shaped eyes; a small chiseled nose; the highest, sharpest cheekbones imaginable; abundant, wavy hair.