I have a problem with Johnny Depp.
Now, before you lynch me, I should point out that my problem isn’t actually Johnny Depp. Just like this quote, which has been circulating around Facebook often enough to make me homicidal, also has little to do with Johnny Depp.
I have nothing against Johnny. I’ve quite enjoyed him, from Scissorhands to Sleepy Hollow (although his Wonka was a little too psychopathic-pedophile for my tastes). It’s just that this type of misattribution drives me absolutely around the bend, which is why despite the fact that most people probably never get tired of looking at Johnny Depp, I have grown so annoyed just by the sight of his face that I want to punch someone. This is just another reason why I shouldn’t be on Facebook at all, I guess, but I am, so rather than froth at the mouth and post gentle correction after gentle correction on my long-suffering friends’ walls, I thought I should just blog about it.
You see, that quote up there, the very lovely and profound quote about that most fascinating emotion, isn’t Johnny Depp’s. They’re actually lines he spoke, in character, for the film Don Juan DeMarco. As such, they probably shouldn’t be attributed to Depp but rather to the character, since it’s screenwriter Jeremy Leven’s Don Juan and not, in fact, Johnny Depp who has so eloquently waxed poetic about life and love. You savvy? (Heh, see what I did there?)
By way of illustration, allow me to demonstrate how easy it is to make Johnny Depp look like a complete idiot and/or psychopath by attributing to him some other lines from his characters.
You see my point, I’m sure. Of course, Johnny isn’t the only person to suffer from this misattribution malady. (According to my spell check I just made up the word “misattribution.” Screw you, spellcheck.) Every line ever uttered by any character in any play written by Shakespeare tends to be attributed as simply, “-Shakespeare.” By this logic, Shakespeare must’ve been a Danish prince stranded on an island while trying to murder his Moorish rival while going mad and wandering the wilderness with his fool, and a lot more besides. He was a very busy man. A similar conundrum makes crediting the screenwriter or author for a character’s quote problematic; writers do not necessarily share their characters’ opinions, though they do put words in their mouths. The safest bet then, if you’re looking to attribute a quotation for a character, is to attribute the quote to the character by name, and also cite the work in which that character utters the line. That way everything’s nice and simple, and people who are intrigued by the sexual shenanigans of polar bears even know where to find more information on the subject! It’s a win-win!
So, just in case you’ve found yourself to be terribly inspired by that slightly abridged opening quote — you know, the one from Don Juan DeMarco? — and you want to share it on your Facebook wall, I want you to know that because I’m such a giver, I’ve made a new version of it for you. You’re welcome. I’ll be posting it on my page if you’d care to share it and help me stamp out rampant misattribution on Facebook. I won’t even ask you to change your profile picture to a cartoon character or post that you’re going on a vacation you aren’t actually going on. Sometimes it’s super-easy to do the right thing.