There’s no doubt Joss Whedon has made a major mark in entertainment with TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Agents of SHIELD, Firefly and Dollhouse and movies like Cabin in the Woods, The Avengers and Serenity. Their influence has been felt for years and still is.
With some artists, though, there is a dark side that people struggle with despite of the creations they make.
This may apply to Joss after Charisma Carpenter’s revealing tweet this past Wednesday. In it, she alleges several examples of alleged abuse by him while she was on Buffy and Angel.
The entire tweet is on this link, but here is part of the tweet:
“Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working on the sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. While he found his misconduct amusing, it only served to intensify my performance anxiety, disempower me and alienate me from my peers. The disturbing incidents triggered a chronic physical condition from which I still suffer. It is with a beating, heavy heart that I say I coped in isolation and, at times, destructively.”
Charisma said she had to discuss this after actor Ray Fisher complained about how Joss treated him while he filled in for Zach Snyder during production of Justice League. Charisma said Joss was allegedly passive-aggressive toward her, even while she was pregnant and had gotten a tattoo. Charisma says that Joss allegedly refused to take calls from her agent about the news of her pregnancy. When they did meet, she claims Joss accused her of sabotaging the show and attacked her character.
This part may be difficult for some. This was when she had to do a late-night shoot on Angel, despite the fact she was six months pregnant at the time:
“Back them I felt powerless and alone. With no other option, I swallowed the mistreatment and carried on. After all, I had a baby on the way, and I was the primary breadwinner of my growing family. Unfortunately, all this was happening during one of the most wonderful time in new motherhood. All that promise and joy sucked right out. And Joss was the vampire.”
Charisma said in the tweet that years of therapy and the Time’s Up movement have helped her in her healing. She also said she was part of the investigation of Fisher’s claims in the Warner Brothers investigation. When Fisher lost his job as Cyborg in The Flash that was the last straw for her. “It troubles and saddens me,” she says, “that in 2021 professionals STILL have to choose between whistleblowing in the workplace and job security.”
That’s a situation that is not limited to show biz.
The tweet closes with these words: “Despite my fear about its impact on my future, I can no longer remain silent. This is overdue and necessary. It is time.”
This tweet comes a few weeks after Whedon announced he was leaving the HBO show The Nevers after making several episodes because of the “challenges” of the past year.
So far, Charisma is getting widespread support for her tweet from Fisher, and fellow Buffy actresses Clare Kramer and Amber Benson, who both supported her (their tweets on the subject are linked on their names). Even Sarah Michelle Gellar, Buffy herself, released a response. The statement is linked here, (from the Hollywood Reporter):
“While I am proud to have my name associated with Buffy Summers, I don’t want to be forever associated with the name Joss Whedon. I am more focused on raising my family and surviving a pandemic currently, so I will not be making any further statements at this time. But I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out.”
Of course, there are those who either doubt Charisma’s claims, or say that sometimes making movies or TV has to be done under difficult situations. There are always defenders, but Charisma’s comments have been widely embraced.
There’s also this from SlayerLit from Facebook.
So what can Whedon fans say?
For now, we are hoping he will give his side of the story. So far, he has not.
This is also going to affect anyone who worked with Joss. They’re likely to be asked about Charisma’s tweet, and recall how they were treated.
That doesn’t mean we should throw away our Buffy, Angel, Firefly or Dollhouse DVDs. We should respect, honor and enjoy the shows and movies Whedon was associated with.
After all, people like Charlie Chaplin, John Ford or Alfred Hitchcock weren’t always nice when they made their movies, yet their fans still see them.
We just have to point out examples where abuse or lack of empathy exist. Sure, Whedon was under a lot of pressure when he made his shows and movies. That pressure can make anyone forget basic manners, common sense or just decent treatment. Whedon should have paid a little bit more attention and care towards his actors, rather than sacrifice them to make entertainment. A lot of producers and directors do that because it helps them make the best product.
Hopefully, Joss Whedon can admit that, too, and the sooner the better.
A lot of people wanted him to come back after his Avengers movies, and had high hopes for his return on HBO. They wanted the magic again, as they experienced it the first time when he decided a teenage girl who fights demons can inspire others (and she still does).
Maybe the magic can come back for him by looking at a mirror.
Maybe Joss can learn something from his greatest creation, admit his flaws, and fix them.
As for Charisma Carpenter, who is still beloved as the snarky but caring Cordelia Chase, let’s support her and root for her at this trying time.
Oh, and follow her on Twitter (@AllCharisma).