In this episode, Pete Watt and Fred Weibull submit Johnny Depp to a cultural analysis. They begin by unpacking Depp’s haunting mystique, assumed authenticity and extensive curriculum vitae through a series of questions related to his career and celebrity.


The seminar uncovers a key aspect of Depp’s character and cultural significance, which appears to be a curiously conspicuous expression of his relationship and commitment to the legacy of the late Dr Hunter S Thompson. For reasons discussed, this relationship explicates Depp’s propensity and desire to move beyond his craft of acting to other ventures. They discuss how this desire constitutes a will pervasive in contemporary Hollywood for actors to be and appear more than a mediation of their craft: actors in and outside Hollywood increasingly appear to want to be more than humble servants of the film-maker and script-writer, but place an increasing emphasis on backing political and philanthropic causes, become moral figureheads, and/or artists in their own right. Conclusions are drawn around the nature of Depp’s reliance on Hunter S Thompson’s own personal and literary genius, leading us to describe a pervasive conundrum faced by actors to seek association, support and recognition from individuals outside their domain. In the final segment, we consider whether this trend in Hollywood for its actors to seek success and impact beyond the virtue of their craft speaks to a pervasive vice in contemporary celebrity culture.

Top 5 Takeaways:

  • Depp should be recognized for the great cultural deed of bringing the personal and literary genius of Hunter S. Thompson to the popular imagination.
  • Ironically, this deed undermines Depp’s own talent and cultural contribution as an actor and opens him up to the accusation of charlatanry.
  • There is a trend among the Hollywood elite to seek association, acclaim, and role models outside of their craft.
  • This imperative for actors to reach outside of their craft towards political, philanthropic and entrepreneurial endeavours is a vice which undermines the virtue of their craft and personal talent.
  • The fact the Hunter S. Thompson creates monsters out of all those he touches is testament to his power and genius.

References / Topics of Discussion / Further Watching/Reading

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) –

Breakfast with Hunter (2003)

For No Good Reason (2012)

 Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride: Hunter S. Thompson on Film (2006)

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson (2008)

The Rum Diary (2011)

Doug Stanhope’s guest column in support of Johnny Depp:

More on this:

Where the Buffalo Roam (1980)


  • Stanhope published his letter in The Wrap, not The Wire.
  • The film-adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was released in 1998 not 1993
  • The myth of the figure that flew too close to the sun was Icarus, as represented in Pieter Bruegel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (1558). Ovid’s treatment in his Metamorphosis can be found in Book VIII: 183-235, ‘Daedalus and Icarus.’

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