Dior's Sauvage perfume ad featuring Johnny Depp under fire for 'offensive' Native American cultural appropriation

Johnny Depp for Dior's Sauvage fragrance line.
Johnny Depp for Dior's Sauvage fragrance line. Photo credit: Instagram/Dior

Dior is facing intense backlash after promoting its Sauvage perfume line with an advertisement featuring Johnny Depp and "offensive" Native American imagery.

The luxury French fashion brand posted a teaser of the new ad to Twitter on Friday (local time). The since-deleted tweet promoted the Sauvage campaign as "an authentic journey deep into the Native American soul in a sacred, founding and secular territory". 

The extended video, filmed as part of the campaign for the US$120 (NZ$190) fragrance, shows Depp walking through Utah's red rocks, marking his path as a young woman follows him. The actress, Tanaya Beatty, is a Canadian of First Nations descent, the Guardian reports.

The video also captures Native American dancer Canku One Star, a Rosebud Sioux member, performing a war dance on a cliff. Depp is also filmed strumming a famous guitar riff by Shawnee guitarist Link Wray.

The advertisement has received intense backlash, with many critics labelling the promotional video as an example of racism and cultural appropriation - despite Dior claiming they took care to be culturally sensitive.

"It is so deeply offensive and racist," said Crystal Echo Hawk, CEO of IllumiNative, a media watchdog group.

"I don't know how anyone in 2019 can think a campaign like this can go down well."

All references to the new campaign have since been deleted from Dior's social media.

The Sauvage fragrance was first launched in 1966, but has continually drawn criticism for using Native American imagery alongside its "insensitive" brand name. The French word Sauvage translates to "savage" in English - long used as a racial slur against Native people.

Dallas Goldtooth, an organiser for the Indigenous Environmental Network, has called the campaign "absurd" on Twitter.

"[It] says it is helping Native folk, but invokes stupid and ignorant "Indian" tropes... Just adding a letter to a racial slur [doesn't] make it right," he wrote.

According to the Guardian, Dior's press release says the film was created alongside Native American consultants and Americans for Indian Opportunity, an advocacy group founded in 1970. 

The collaboration was intended to move away "from cliches in order to avoid the cultural appropriation and subversion that so often taints images representing Native peoples", claims the press release.

Depp, 56, came under fire for his portrayal of the Native American character Tonto in Disney's 2013 live-action remake of The Lone Ranger.

The actor has previously claimed he is of Native American ancestry, despite having no documented proof. He has referred to his great-grandmother as Cherokee or Creek Indian.

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