After social justice warriors forced Dior into pulling a Native American-themed “Sauvage” cologne ad starring Johnny Depp, the actor has now stepped up to defend the ad campaign amid accusations of racism.
Late last month, Dior dropped teaser ads for the $150 cologne “Sauvage” on a Friday night and pulled it less than 24 hours later after the company faced significant backlash online. Much of the ad featured Johnny Depp, who has repped Dior since 2015, wandering across an Arizona wilderness intercut between shots of a Native American woman wearing a wolf skin suit and a man dancing in a traditional headdress. As the ad concludes, Depp intones, “We are the land. The new ‘Sauvage.’ Le Parfum.'” See the ad below:
The use of the word “Sauvage” (meaning savage) in association with Native American imagery did not sit well with many folks on Instagram and Twitter, and the ad quickly fell subject to an onslaught of angry attacks.
“How did this make it all the way through production without someone informing the creators of the utter racism and continuation of colonial attitudes with this. Sickening,” said one Twitter user at the time.
Others were supportive of the ad, saying it highlighted the ethereal beauty of Native American culture and that the ad fairly represented Native Americans.
“[Dior] & Jean-Baptiste Mondino along with Johnny Depp created such of a beautiful and meaningful campaign. The Dior Sauvage films are to be cherished. The Native American culture is very spiritual and traditional. Dior captured this essence with sauvage and Johnny Depp,” tweeted one user.
This week, Johnny Depp told The Hollywood Reporter (THR) that the ad never meant to disrespect Native American people and that he wished Dior had not jumped the gun.
“There was never — and how could there be or how would there be — any dishonorable [intent],” Depp told THR. “The film was made with a great respect for the indigenous people not just of North America, but all over the world. It’s a pity that people jumped the gun and made these objections. However, their objections are their objections.”
“I can assure you that no one has any reason to go out to try to exploit,” he continued. “It was a film made out of great respect and with great respect and love for the Native American peoples to bring light to them. They haven’t had the greatest amount of help out of the United States government. The idea is as pure as it ever was, so we will come to an agreement so that everyone is happy.”
In a statement to Fox Business at the time, Dior said that the ad actually stemmed from the Advance Indigeneity Campaign associated with the group Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO).
“The Parfums Christian Dior project is a part of AIO’s Advance Indigeneity Campaign to change the misperceptions about Native Americans, to share accurate American history, to build awareness about Native Americans as contemporary peoples and to promote Indigenous worldviews,” the statement said.
“AIO supports Native American art, films, books, and other forms of Indigenous pop culture. Through the Advance Indigeneity Campaign, AIO continues to work at an international level with schools and universities to build innovative curriculum for and by Native peoples,” the statement continued. “We are very proud of this collaboration with AIO on the new ad campaign for Sauvage.”