In February of this year, actress Charisma Carpenter released a statement on Instagram that sent shockwaves through numerous fandoms. She detailed the abuse and bullying that she suffered at the hands of Joss Whedon during her time on the set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Her statement came after an investigation into Whedon by WarnerMedia following the accusations made by Ray Fisher of “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable” behaviour by Whedon on the set of the 2017 Justice League movie. Other stars of Buffy backed up her claims, including Amber Benson and Michelle Trachtenberg (who was just a teenager when she was on set– and there was a rule in place that Whedon was not allowed to be in a room alone with her). Stars Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanez have also offered their support to Carpenter. Recently, further accusations have been made against Whedon by actress Gal Gadot. It’s alleged that while filming Justice League he threatened to ruin her career if she didn’t read lines that she was uncomfortable with.
Joss Whedon began his career writing for a number of TV shows before being nominated for an Academy Award in 1995 for Toy Story. Two years later he created his first TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy has become an important part of pop culture since it’s debut. She wasn’t the first female superhero, but she was the first to front her own TV show. The character of Buffy is still today considered a feminist icon, the relationship between Willow and Tara is also a significant part of the show. I’ve been rewatching Buffy since lockdown began and I’m happy to say that Buffy is still the powerful, fun superhero I remember. That’s not to say that the show is without its flaws: the death of Tara seems unnecessarily cruel and the character of Xander has not aged well at all.
Xander is the quintessential “nice guy” who thinks that because he’s such a great guy you should obviously fall in love with him. He repeatedly ignores Buffy when she tells him that she just wants to be friends, he is cruel to Angel purely because Buffy is in love with him (he even lets Buffy kill him at the end of season 2). Willow had been in love with him for years but he only wanted her when she started dating Oz. And he treated Cordelia dreadfully before, during and after their relationship. Whedon has confirmed in interviews that Xander is based on him so it’s not a huge leap to assume what Whedon thinks of women.
Men in Hollywood abusing their power and bullying actors is nothing new. However, there seems to be a stronger sense of disappointment in Whedon as for years he has vocally proclaimed himself to be a feminist. It has been jarring for some fans that a man who has made a career on writing strong, female characters seems to have a complete lack of respect for women in real life.
The question that has plagued fans for decades is ‘can you separate the art from the artist?’ There seems to be the same discussion everytime we learn more about the creators that we admired. Some fans have stated online that they won’t watch the show anymore and that is understandable. It can be very difficult to support the work of someone who has harassed and bullied people.
If you are a fan of Buffy who is disgusted by Joss Whedon’s actions then I would encourage you to remember that while he created the show, it isn’t just his show. Sarah Michelle Gellar is the person who brought her to life. Alyson Hannigan and Amber Benson brought to life a couple that helped so many young people accept their sexuality. Jane Espenson and Marti Noxin are just two of the team of writers who helped to create the stories that we still love today.
Girl Museum Inc.