There were several surprises at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards, but none generated as much controversy as the bizarre cameo from Johnny Depp.
Fresh from his legal victory against ex-wife Amber Heard, Depp “appeared” on stage in the form of a digital projection on the mask of the network’s iconic Moonman mascot.
The cameo was supposed to be a surprise, but reports about Depp’s appearance leaked several days before Sunday’s broadcast.
“You know what? I needed the work,” Depp quipped during his first appearance at the beginning of the night.
“Hey VMAs, let’s get back to the f—ing music, shall we?” the actor later joked as the show came back from commercial.
Depp returned to the “out of work actor” schtick later in the evening, with a joke about how he’s available for private events.
“I just want you guys to know I’m available for birthdays, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, weddings, wakes… Any old thing you need, you name it,” Depp joked, adding:
“Oh — and I’m also a dentist.”
Depp’s appearance was met with applause by the audience at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
On social media, however, the reaction was considerably more mixed.
Many viewers spoke out against MTV’s decision to involve Depp in the broadcast despite the allegations of physical and emotional abuse that Heard made against him during the trial.
One of the most vocal critics was Amber’s sister, Whitney Henriquez.
“@MTV YOU’RE DISGUSTING AND CLEARLY DESPERATE! I REALLY HOPE THAT NONE OF THE PEOPLE THAT MADE THIS CALL HAVE DAUGHTERS… #DVMAS #ISTANDWITHAMBERHEARD,” Henriquez wrote on Instagram, along with a poignantly altered version of the VMAs promotional art.
Whitney referred to the show as the “#DVMAS” with the “DV” seemingly standing for domestic violence.
Henriquez was not alone in her criticism, with many Twitter and Instagram users speaking out in Amber’s defense.
“Honestly f-ck the VMA’s for including Johnny Depp. the entire crowd of Amber’s industry peers are cheering for her abuser. it makes me sick. the industry hasn’t changed at all,” one person tweeted.
“Not surprised, but still so disappointed.”
“It is disgusting that the VMAs included an abuser and the whole audience clapped while his victim was globally humiliated and now has to see that her former friends and coworkers are cheering for her abuser,” another user wrote.
During the defamation trial, Whitney testified that she had witnessed Depp become abusive with Heard on numerous occasions.
Henriquez also alleged that Depp once struck her while she was trying to protect Heard.
Amber has yet to speak out on Johnny’s inclusion in the VMAs broadcast, and she might choose to keep mum for legal reasons.
Heard’s first appeal petition was rejected, but insiders say the actress plans to continue fighting for a second trial.
We’ll have further updates on this story as more information becomes available.